Psychologically flawed?


I have to say that my sympathies are somewhat divided in the matter of Obama v Clinton.

I’ve argued from the beginning that Obama is the better candidate and would make much the better president, though not without wavering now and then on both points. Obama’s campaign has been far from flawless. Hillary has impressed me—and who could not be impressed?—with her relentless drive. And some of her complaints about her treatment in the media have been quite justified, I think.

The commentariat’s prejudices have not run entirely Obama’s way, but he has plainly had the better of it. I still don’t buy the idea that the Clintons “played the race card”, for instance; there has been a lot of sexist sneering; the shock when she said that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated at about this point in the primary race (a crass, tone-deaf comment, but one of no large significance) was exaggerated and synthetic.

At best, let’s not forget, Obama has won by the narrowest of margins. The Clinton campaign was run with operatic incompetence from start to finish, and at a chronic financial disadvantage too—yet at the end her momentum was greater than his. On most of the different ways of counting Democratic votes (including the one I would advocate as a matter of best electoral practice: one registered Democrat, one vote) she would in fact have won this race. I prefer Obama, as I say, but I think she can feel with some justification that the will of the party’s supporters has been thwarted.

Having said all this, her performance last night was stunningly ill-judged, and speaks volumes about her fitness to lead—or lack of it. Under the circumstances, one can understand, maybe, a reluctance to concede. But to declare moral victory; to insist, knowing that she had lost, that she remains the stronger candidate; to start positioning herself to demand the VP slot as of right: all this was not just remarkably ungracious, it was also patently counter-productive from a strictly selfish point of view. Can’t she see that she has made it easier, not harder, for Obama to keep her off the ticket?

One of the CNN analysts debating Hillary’s non-concession speech mentioned emails coming in which said that Tuesday “needed to be her night.” At this one of the others spluttered, “It had to be her night? Obama just won!”… before, in a valuable moment of reckless honesty, referring to “the Clintons’ deranged narcissism”. Yes, I thought (recalling, incidentally, Alistair Campbell’s comment that Gordon Brown was “psychologically flawed”). Read her speech, and compare it with Obama’s. His extravagant (and tactically shrewd) praise of her; a speech addressed not just to the whole Democratic party but to the whole country; calculated, of course, calibrated—with nothing in it that was smug or self-regarding or sectarian. Contrast that with her perfunctory acknowledgement of him, followed by a recitation of her achievements and the obstacles that had been put in her way: Enough about our nominee, this is my night and I want to talk about me.

Something tells me that she is not cut out to be Obama’s deputy. If he puts her on the ticket, I think he will be making a big mistake.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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