Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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A hunch

My quick take on Hillary’s speech: It was a very good speech, perhaps the best she has ever given. Did it do much good for Obama? Will the speech persuade all of her supporters to go with Obama? I don’t think so. But, the speech may be very useful to her four years from now. Do note this Gallup Poll showing "conservative Democrats peeling away from Obama." If Senator Obama cannot hold the Democratic base, he cannot win. Only Hillary being on the ticket may have helped Obama hold the base.

Let me add, (especially for my friend Steve T. who disagrees with my perception of all this, see the threads) that I don’t know any more than you do about this business of politics. I’m a political scientist, so I’m guessing. This stuff isn’t science. And the kind of knowledge that is required has to do with some analysis, etc., but really is nothing more than an evaluation of public opinion; an attempt to sense (see, observe, hear) what folks in taverns think. You learn a lot by listening to people. Ordinary people, inclined to give you their opinion; it’s best if they do this when not asked, but rather, leting it come up quite naturally in conversation.

And if I say, for example, that Democratic operatives are in a panic, I mean--based on what I think I know--I would be in a panic if I were working for Obama because I wouldn’t know how to fix his problem. That is, they should be in a panic, if they aren’t.

Here is an example of a hunch based on three conversations during the last twenty-four hours, all Dems, with people I only know in passing (two in bars, one at Starbucks). All three said that Obama’s reply to the preacher’s question on what a human being is, or when is a human being a human being (abortion) pushed them away from him. They hated the "above my pay grade" (science and theology) response because they thought it was artificial, aloof, unnatural, and revealed something about Obama’s character, not just his views on abortion (one of the folks is pro-abortion.) One woman said: "This guy is like a teacher I had once. He always wanted to impress me with how difficult the subject was." Then she called him a name that clarified what she thought about that guy. My hunch is that that moment was a defining one. Perhaps picking Biden (in an attempt to place a "common" man on the ticket) was another. Both are revealing, neither helps Obama.

Discussions - 20 Comments

I think she did the minimum of what was expected of her. It was perfunctory, the part about uniting to support Obama. She was stronger about denouncing McCain (her friend and Bush's twin) than supporting Obama

ken is right: She told her supporters to vote for the cause, which is bigger than her. She said almost nothing about Obama's qualifications for the office, about his character, his experience, his inspirational rhetoric etc. It was borderline ungracious, and he shouldn't pay a dime of her debt.


If Hillary had used her time on the topics that you mention, then she would have repeated Michelle's speech of the night before, which would have been a huge waste of time and opportunity.

I would also point out that Hillary stated emphatically that Obama WILL reduce the deficit, that he WILL bring the troops home in a smart, secure manner, that he WILL make sure that all Americans have affordable health care, and that he WILL begin to reverse the damage abroad and at home that GWB has done.

I am confident that those statements imply that he CAN do those things.


I heard those points made on FOX, too.

Fung, Good point, but she didn't explain why, and it wouldn't have taken more than 30 seconds to negate what she says about his inexperience etc. on the McCain commercial.

Was Clinton speech for Obama that much less "supportive" than Reagan's impromptu speech in favor of Ford at the 1976 Republican Convention or McCain's speech on Bush at the 2000 Republican Convention? I remember that McCain said he was "proud" of Bush, but that it dripped insincerity. It was par for the course as the speech of an ambitious loser who hopes to get the party's nomination next time.

Like with Reagan in 1976, it is in Clinton's political interest for the party's nominee to lose provided she does not get the blame so that she has an open shot at the nomination in four years. So she does just enough to be able to say that she loyally backed the party nominee, but no more lest she tip the balance in Obama's favor. The Obamas know what is going on. Notice that Mrs. Obama was staring daggers for most of Clinton's speech.

I guess I was at a loss to understand in what way you are a political scientist. You say that you are one, but then say making these sorts of predictions is not science. So basically you are reporting a few people’s opinions and your own hunches, and not with the authority of a political scientist, because you have admitted that whatever it is you are saying, it is unscientific. And your explanation of one of your hunches was just odd, that since you would be in a panic if you were an Obama supporter, it follows somehow that all Obama supporters must be in a panic, or indeed are panicked. Why should your hunches, or those of the other ‘imbibers,’ have any authority at all? Why not take it as a report on your own fragile psychological state of being easily panicked? What about your hunch that Blackwell would win in Ohio?

Stertinius: Perfectly good question and point. First, I was wrong on Blackwell. Why I was wrong is another story, much longer (and may have had to do with my own "fragile" state, perhaps I was to close to the candidate, etc.). But I was exactly right in 1994! The words "political scientist" awkward, and ill-used (e.g., "social scientist"). I am a student of politics, and studying politics is a different kind of study than, say, the study of mathematics. It is not precise, and those who try to make it more precise with, say, number crunching voter analysis, etc., fall into the trap of knowing more and more about less and less. You move from opinion toward knowledge (less or more); tough work. And, you do not only observe, but participate. Passion control becomes critical. Those would be the parameters. Maybe one more. Language. Can't talk in a language that the participants (all, voters and candidates) do not understand.

I agree: her speech on the key points of her primary attacks was indeed perfunctory and minimal. Her speaking style was technically a big improvement, and that's what the blathering TV blatherers blathered about. It reads much less well, and it was way short of what she owed her party. For Hillary, it's still about her, but Greek dramatists would not blame her.


You are right, that she might have negated her previous statement in about 30 seconds, but I am certain that she would have then opened a can of worms that was best left alone.

First, critics would suggest that the second (negating) statement was no more valid than her first critical one. Second, too often, pointing out that a problem no longer exists tends to focus attention on the problem, as opposed to its absence. If she had more time, it might have been worth it to introduce the kind of explanations necessary to silence all critics, but I think she made a much smarter choice.

I watched the blatherers on ABC, and then switched to the blatherers on FOX, and I found myself (as cynical as I am) still stunned by the opposite takes on her speech. I long for the days when news reporters reported news.

I long for the days when news reporters reported news.

Indeed. This is precisely why I don't waste my time with MSNBC.

Reagan was certainly more ungracious to Ford in 1976, and he certainly contributed to that president's probably undeserved defeat. Reagan also gave a really great speech to get himself out there for "next time," and that certainly worked. Hillary's speech, in terms of substance, was a yawner. It was very confidently presented in a very loud voice. I do predict Obama will wish he picked her as VP just to really get her and her people on his side. It would also have been statesmanlike in terms of unifying the party, which is really divided only over issues of personality.

PWS - Of course political "science" has a different and more distinguished genealogy than social "science." Aristotle invented political science, which was then reinvented. Off it went in a different direction. English doesn't provide all the words we need, as you know better than I. I have never understood why we can't do what you do AND at the same time give polling its due (including the skepticism it is due). Joe K, for example, and even Peter L. are a two-gun slingers. Conclusion: we have no disagreement, you and I, though we hang out in different Ohio bars. (I wish they were closer to one another, by the way.) As I read your post, I recalled my college teacher George Lanyi, another Hungarian who knew that political science and gossip are close relatives. In any event, my point has been that it is still too early to be paying much attention to national polls.

Peter Lawler, mightn't Hillary have been promised some cabinet position she would enjoy?

There's NOTHING that would satisfy Hillary other than the Presidency. Nothing.

I appreciated the remarks on #12 and #13. Informed anecdotes trump number-crunching all the time in the realm of the political.

Supreme Court?

Kate - Is this a new scare tactic for your party to use in the upcoming campaign??? My guess is that Hillary will bide her time in the Senate, and she may become Majority (or of course Minority!) Leader before long. She might be good at it.

Kate, the Supreme Court is an interesting thought, but I don't think she would really look forward to mentally jousting with the likes of Scalia, Thomas and Roberts.

Yes, Steve Thomas, I heard someone on NPR arguing your idea more fully. She could become a beloved figure, cultural icon, etc., just like Ted Kennedy. I believe it.

Dan, then she could politically joust with those guys, figuring out how to overcome the judicial branch with the legislative. Conservatives might have to reconsider what they think about legislating from the bench, if she were successful.

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