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My Inner Dick.

To put it in Republican terms: Richard Nixon vs. Ronald Reagan.

On the one hand you have the smart guy, the experienced guy, the tough-as-nails guy. On the other hand the charismatic dreamer, the guy with big ambitions, the guy with the romantic narrative.

That's where we are now with Hillary and Obama. Hillary is the Democrat's Nixon. Obama may be our Ronald Reagan.

Hillary, we think, won't screw up. Or at least she won't screw up through ignorance or lack of planning. Hillary won't crumble. Hillary won't stand there and take it, like Jimmy Carter did. Her enemies will have reason to fear her. Our first ever serious female candidate is no pussy.

Hillary knows Washington like Nixon knew Washington. She knows where all the levers are. She knows where they bury the bodies. Hillary has one big-ass Rolodex.

Obama seems riskier. We don't know if he's tough. We don't know if he'll keep his nerve when the whole world seems to be coming down around him in flames. We don't know if he can fall down seven times, stand up eight. Like Hillary can.

And Obama would be a babe in the woods in Washington. Just like Reagan was. And yet, it seems Reagan may have accomplished one or two things. And in the end it was Reagan waving jauntily as he rode off into the sunset, a big dumb goof who bent Washington over, rode Washington all around the Oval Office, and made Washington love it.

Richard Nixon, you may recall, left town under somewhat different circumstances.

And yet, the smart money would have picked Nixon in a head-to-head with Reagan. Just like the smart money -- including the money of yours truly -- is on Hillary.

We don't know if Obama will launch the bombers and cruise missiles during an international crisis. Hillary? No one doubts she can drop the hammer. And you need a president who will do that, who will send men to kill other men.

But we like Obama's narrative. We want it to be him. Into Obama we can pour our hopes. Nothing gets poured into Hillary.

Obama can tell the world that we're back. We are the Americans again. Just when they were writing off the American "empire," just when we were looking like a spent force, boom! We relaunch the brand.

I lived in France when JFK was president. The French loved Kennedy. The day he was murdered the French cried like we did. Obama could be that guy. He could be the American president that the whole free world -- and some of the not-free -- adopt as their own. Don't sneer at that. A big part of our power derives from the fact that the world only hates us because they love us.

Shhh. Don't tell anyone, but we have a secret cheering section of billions around the world. We are still the great hope of the human race, and Americans may forget it, but for much of the world we remain the shining city on a hill. A bit tattered, lately, yeah. But we could fix that.

President Barack Hussein Obama, by way of Kenya, Indonesia and Chicago. Only one country can tell that kind of story. That's right, world, we just handed the button to a black guy with the middle name of Hussein. Why? Because we are the United States of America, and just when you think you've got us pegged, just when you think we're ready to crawl into a corner, just when you think we've lost our mojo, boom! Instant mojo.

Back, baby. Back with Barack.

Will Hillary send the CIA to waterboard bad guys? Yes. In a heartbeat. Will Barack? No.

Question: would Obama's reluctance to sanction torture be a sign of squeamishness or a sign of confidence in the deeper meaning of this country?

I kind of think the latter.

My inner Nixon and my inner Reagan vie for dominance. Darkness and Light. Paranoia and Optimism. Ruthlessness and . . . and what? Hope? That's not really a pairing, is it? Ruthlessness and hope?

I voted for Dick Nixon in 1968. (I confess that frequently, like the Ancient Mariner explaining his albatross.) The Dick Force is strong within me. (I may want to rewrite that phrase later.) I mistrust hope the way only a covert optimist can. I hate being played for a sucker. I hate getting my hopes up only to have the inevitable guillotine of mocking reality come rushing down and . . . well, okay, we'll drop that metaphor now. You get the point. It's safer to be the smart guy making the smart bet, so that later, when despite myself I'm as disappointed as any giddy nitwit college kid, I can say, "Toldja so."

But you know, a month after my smart vote for clever Dick, there I was, out in front of the White House waving a "Honk for Impeachment" sign. So. So much for smart.

I'm on the bubble. I support Hillary Clinton for president. But I want Obama to sell me. I have the feeling, based on nothing but a hunch, that most Democrats feel the same.

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“My Inner Dick.”

  1. Blogger amba Says:

    I lived in France when JFK was president. The French loved Kennedy. The day he was murdered the French cried like we did. Obama could be that guy.

    Michael, you don't know what you're saying. But hell, you were just a kid.

    To have been burned by those times is to flinch whenever you feel a stirring of enthusiasm for a leader because those are the people who attract the assassins. Losing JFK, Martin, Bobby, and Malcolm was traumatic in the full sense of the word. I can't hear your words without wanting to crawl under my desk.

  2. Blogger Ruth Anne Adams Says:

    I hate getting my hopes up only to have the inevitable guillotine of mocking reality come rushing down and . . . well, okay, we'll drop that metaphor now.

    When the guillotine comes to a screeching halt a mere inch from one's neck, the optimist does not suggest to the executioner to put a little WD-40 on the skids. The optimist happily walks away.

  3. Blogger Dave Schuler Says:

    Hillary, we think, won't screw up. Or at least she won't screw up through ignorance or lack of planning.

    No, she'll screw up due to the lack of core values other than the urge to power. I think anybody, which doesn't necessarily include you, Michael, who votes for Sen. Clinton out of a desire for a return to the halcyon days of the W. Clinton Administration has bathed those days in a glow of nostalgia they don't deserve.

    Bill Clinton's presidency had almost no accomplishments, foreign or domestic. Yes, the economy is good and people had a sense of well-being. As Alan Greenspan reminded us not long ago, things were different then. The economy was good for a once-in-a-lifetime (or longer) reason: a remarkable confluence of technology, Y2K and its preparations, and no disasters.

    HRC doesn't have the political or people skills her husband does. Her hectoring, imperious style won't convey the same feeling of well-being that Bill's “I feel your pain” one did.

    Among the present crowd of candidates, Republican and Democrat, only one has the power to transform the political landscape: Barack Obama. If that's what you you think is needed, he's the only game in town.

  4. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:


    I may have written that badly.

    I was hoping Obama might be the kind of president that, if he were ever assassinated, the rest of the world would actually care.

  5. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    Ruth Anne:
    Yeah, but the defiant optimist says, "That's all you got?"

  6. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:


    Not much nostalgia for the Clinton years per se, although I do miss the economy and the fact that life was seemingly so easy-going that we could waste our time impeaching the president for a blowjob.

    On the other hand, I don't blame Clinton for failing to achieve great things. I'm sure you know the famous Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. Clinton did not live in interesting times, he was president when not much was happening.

    I think you're right that Obama is the only potentially transformative candidate. I think there's a lot of damage that needs to be undone. And I think we need to get past 1968, finally, and past 2001 as well, and figure out a new way of being in the world. Which is why I listen when he whispers in my ear.

  7. Blogger Dave Schuler Says:

    I was past 1968 in 1969.

  8. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    So, does this mean there's a potential Oprah Book Club deal on the table?

    Sorry, I couldn't resist.

    I hear you. The Nixon/Reagan polarity is interesting, and I think, appropriate. Almost nobody who votes for Clinton will do so out of love or hope.

    I'm all for hope and optimism, but at least with Reagan you had a little more to go on than with Obama. Being twice Governor of California and having run for President previously provided some clues about the man -- whether you liked them or not.

  9. Blogger kreiz1 Says:

    The Dick Force is strong within me. LOL... betcha couldn't wait to write that one.

    Yesterday, for the first time, I sensed Barack could dethrone/defrock Hillary and her Inevitability. He's got a transcendency- it's inexplicable but real.

    I totally bought Chris Matthews' historical analysis- Idealist candidates (Dean being the last one) enthrall the party, but Establishment candidates win. I'm unsure now- especially since Barack has serious Super Tuesday cash to play with. The odds (and national polls) still favor Clinton- but hold onto your seats.... it could be a coin flip soon.

  10. Blogger kreiz1 Says:

    I also think people are tired of Bush/Clinton, and the respective derangement syndromes that accompany it. It's so 90s. This will play to Obama's freshness- the new start. It's so JFK (don't know about the Dick Force though).

  11. Blogger kreiz1 Says:

    Okay, a couple of days have past, and the fantasy of an Obama victory has danced in my head. Reality's back. Hillary wins.

  12. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    Oh, come on, Kreiz, imagine! Imagine there's no Clinton. . . it's easy if you try . . .

    Don't make me start singing.

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