The Des Moines Register Endorsement: A Fisking

Long story short:  Terrible editorial, would work great for an endorsement of Biden, Dodd, or Richardson, but doesn't explain at all why to pick Clinton.  My guess is it was based on gender.

A deep, talented field in the Democratic caucus race offers both good and difficult choices.

No fewer than three candidates would, by their very identity, usher the nation to the doorstep of history. Should the party offer the nation the chance to choose its first woman president? Or its first black president? Or its first Latino president?

Or should the party place its trust in two senators, Joe Biden or Chris Dodd, who have served their nation with distinction for more than 30 years each? Or should it heed John Edwards' clarion call to restore opportunity for all Americans?

Beyond their personal appeal, the candidates have outlined ambitious policy proposals on health care, education and rural policy. Yet these proposals do little to help separate the field. Their plans are similar, reflecting a growing consensus in the party about how to approach priority issues.

Their plans on Iraq are not at all similar, no matter how often Clinton claims she will "end" the Iraq war.  Did anyone at the Register even consider this issue?  I personally think it is kind of an important one.

The choice, then, comes down to preparedness: Who is best prepared to confront the enormous challenges the nation faces - from ending the Iraq war to shoring up America's middle class to confronting global climate change?

The job requires a president who not only understands the changes needed to move the country forward but also possesses the discipline and skill to navigate the reality of the resistant Washington power structure to get things done.

That candidate is New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

From working for children's rights as a young lawyer, to meeting with leaders around the world as first lady, to emerging as an effective legislator in her service as a senator, every stage of her life has prepared her for the presidency.

That covers three years, eight years, and seven years of her life - a total of 18 years, or 30%.  For some reason the register doesn't think childhood, early adulthood, and middle-age don't count as stages of your life.  Clinton herself obviously does, since she has attacked Obama for both a kindergarten essay and his time in Indonesia as a 10-year-old.

That readiness to lead sets her apart from a constellation of possible stars in her party, particularly Barack Obama, who also demonstrates the potential to be a fine president. When Obama speaks before a crowd, he can be more inspirational than Clinton. Yet, with his relative inexperience, it's hard to feel as confident he could accomplish the daunting agenda that lies ahead.

Hard for you, maybe.  He has had mostly success in his endeavors at bringing people together to pass legislation, whereas Clinton has one huge failure and then a bunch of throwaway bills.  I don't think reaching across the aisle counts for much when she is reaching across the do things like ban flag-burning.

And that's just the comparison for Obama.  Clinton unquestioningly loses when compared to Richardson, Dodd, and Biden, who all have real accomplishments to their name.

Edwards was our pick for the 2004 nomination. But this is a different race, with different candidates. We too seldom saw the "positive, optimistic" campaign we found appealing in 2004. His harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change.

Earth to Register:  The business community isn't going to work with anyone to enact policies that cut into profits.  Edwards deserves credit for recognizing this, not attacks for telling the truth.  Not taking the opposition of business groups seriously is something that leads to legislative defeats.  Like, say, health care.

Unfortunately, for many Americans, perceptions of Clinton, now 60, remain stuck in a 1990s time warp. She's regarded as the one who fumbled health-care reform as a key policy adviser to her husband, President Bill Clinton, or as a driving force in the bitter standoff between the "Clinton machine" and the "vast right-wing conspiracy."

Her record in the Senate belies those images. Today, she's widely praised for working across the aisle with Sam Brownback, Lindsey Graham and other Republicans.

Widely praised for what?  As far as I can tell she wrote a letter with Brownback, and I can't think of any major legislation she has even fought for as a Senator.  Is it too much to ask the register what makes her such a great Senator, other than making friends with members of the former majority?

Determination to succeed and learning from her mistakes have been hallmarks of Clinton's life. She grew up in Park Ridge, Ill., graduated from Wellesley College and earned a law degree from Yale. As first lady in Arkansas, she was both strategist and idealist, borne out by her commitment to children and families. As the nation's first lady, she in essence spent eight years as a diplomat, traveling to more than 80 countries and advocating for human rights.

Right, learning from her mistakes.  Iran, meet Iraq.  And Bill Richardson actually spent time as a diplomat, as well as a Governor, Congressman, and energy secretary.  And in terms of the advantages that diplomatic experience brings, does anyone really believe that electing Clinton would do more good to our world image than Obama?

In the Senate, she has earned a reputation as a workhorse who does not seek the limelight. She honed knowledge of defense on the Senate Armed Services Committee. She has proactively served rural and urban New York and worked in the national interest, strengthening the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Clinton is tough. Tested by rough politics and personal trials, she's demonstrated strength, resolve and resilience.

Translation:  She brings home the pork and votes like a hawk.  I don't consider either of these admirable traits.  Apparently the Register does.

Can she inspire the nation? Clinton is still criticized in some quarters as being too guarded and calculating. (As president, when she makes a mistake, she should just say so.)

Of course she won't, since she won't admit to making a mistake on Iraq now.

Indeed, Obama, her chief rival, inspired our imaginations. But it was Clinton who inspired our confidence. Each time we met, she impressed us with her knowledge and her competence.

Once again, Dodd, Biden, Richardson?  Are they ignorant or incompetent in the Register's eyes?

The times demand results. We believe as president she'll do what she's always done in her life: Throw herself into the job and work hard. We believe Hillary Rodham Clinton can do great things for our country.

So basically the entire endorsement is a paean to competence and experience, yet it is in support of the fourth (and arguably fifth) most experienced candidate.  It talks about her bipartisanship, but all of the three or four more experienced candidates also have worked in bipartisan ways during their careers.

In other words, the editorial just does not explain any actual reason they could have used to pick Clinton.  It comes down to the fact that Laura, Carolyn, Carol, Linda, Rox, and Andie liked Hillary better than all the other candidates.  How about that.

And yes, I do anticipate getting flamed for insinuating that the decision was based on gender.  Maybe next time the editorial board can try writing an endorsement that actually explains why they picked the candidate they did so we out here in the blogs won't have to guess at it.  And it doesn't help when they bring up the issue themselves and then don't address it:

Some had already speculated that we would endorse Clinton because the editor, publisher and I are women. We didn't begin with Clinton. Like many others, we were skeptical, and, even at the end, not all the women leaned toward Clinton. But she won us over, particularly in the editorial board meetings and debates. And we take our responsibility to Iowa and the nation too seriously to make a decision based on just gender or race or one issue.

So, basically, they can't explain why they liked her, they just liked her.  I guess that's not any different than how most Iowans pick their candidate, but one would expect better from Iowa's paper of record.

  • entertaining piece--thanks for posting

    I don't agree with you that they picked Hillary mainly because of gender, though.

    If the majority of the Des Moines business elite were behind someone else, and/or if Hillary were the candidate talking tough against corporations, they would never have endorsed her.

    I was surprised by how easily they seemed to dismiss Richardson. If you read that companion piece on rating the candidates, which I linked to in the post below yours, they liked Biden but thought his experience solely in the Senate was too narrow. Then there's Richardson, who has been in the legislative and executive branches and has substantial diplomatic experience, but they thought he wasn't "fluid" enough on some issues.

    Give me a break.

  • Disgraceful

    This makes me sick. Why does this blog need to turn into some kind of Hillary hunt? Shouldn't we be bigger than that?

    I, too, think the endorsement was not backed up well. But it's their paper. They can endorse someone because they brought donuts to the meeting if they want to. They don't have to prove anything if they so choose.

    I've really enjoyed the discussion that's been taking place on the other endorsement pieces where people debate with civility, class and insight. But this kind of foaming-at-the mouth, knee jerk anger is disgusting.

    • It's their paper

      But if they put something stupid out then they deserve to be called on it.  If they admitted that they just liked Clinton better then that would be one thing.  When they emphasize all the thought and research that went into their decision without showing any sign at all of any of it, it is not incumbent on me to be civil.

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