Clinton, Trust and the War

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The latest poll on views of Senator Clinton are no big surprise. Her negatives are still sky-high and there's no reason to believe they will decline. But the most important aspect of the polling, I think, is the reason for her negatives. Easily the biggest reason people give for not liking her is trust. They don't trust her. The trust issue is on both right and left. Here's the right-wing distrust expressed:

"I've followed her history back to her college days, and I just don’t trust her. I think she's a socialist, and I think that's exactly where she wants to take us."

I'm not sure what she is, myself. If you peel back all the onion layers of opportunism, sound-bites on sound-bites, private promises, public compromises, spin, calculation, triangulation, reinvention and deceit, I think you get what can only be called numb. Deep beneath that numbness, somewhere in that Arctic, resentful interior of hers,I suspect she is just a congenital, well-meaning nanny. Here's the distrust many on the left nd in the center feel:

"There are certain things she has voted on since she has been in Congress that seem to me to lean more toward the Republican view of things, which doesn’t make me too happy," said Ms. Hughes, a retired newspaper columnist. "I want her to be strong and express strong feelings, not just fit her feelings to that audience at that moment," she said.

It's quite an achievement - to evoke distrust almost equally across the spectrum. And after all these years, I don't believe the American public is wrong.

This wouldn't be that big a deal if it weren't for the last seven years. We are at war; one of our deepest weaknesses is that we are divided as a country and as a civilization in a battle for our values and, perhaps, our existence. Another profound weakness is that we have lost trust - with very good reason - in the leaders of this war. Successfully prosecuting a long war requires a bond of trust between rulers and ruled. One reason why the current debate about what to do next in Iraq has become so bitter so quickly is precisely because none of us can trust what the government says or its motives.

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Replacing Bush with Clinton would, it seems to me, compound this problem. It would send a message that we are more consumed with scoring points at home than confronting a deadly foe from abroad. It would split red America from blue America just as deeply as Rove has done. Even if you like and support her, a vote for Clinton is a vote objectively to divide the nation and distract us from the real enemy. We have a chance to break out of the pattern we're in. Clinton would prevent that for a very long time.

(Photo: Mannie Garcia/Getty.)