Today, it appears that Hillary may finally have the beginnings of an argument against Obama that may stick. She is finally giving in to the notion that he may be the latest reincarnation of John F. Kennedy, but her response is that she’ll be Johnson. Her argument is that Obama may be an inspiring speaker, and may have a compelling background, but she is willing to be the grizzly well-connected and well-seasoned politician who will work behind the scenes, not always in a pretty fashion, that will thanklessly get things done. This is a strong argument, and one that she should have begun a while ago.
She may run into two problems with this argument. The first, as Matt Yglesias rightly stated recently, is that it is Kennedy who is held as our post-war president saint. Though Johnson was a far more effective president, and Kennedy did not accomplish much during his tenure, Kennedy is remembered as one of our greatest leaders, and Johnson is forgotten if not reviled.
The second problem that Hillary may face is that it may be too late for this argument. She should have been making this argument back in November. She has co-opted too much of Obama’s rhetoric and logic to now cast herself as the only one who knows how to direct the political discourse and move her position along. She should have been giving Obama his props from the beginning, while recognizing and embracing her own defects. Rather than give the (largely unconvincing) argument that she is the only one who has been vetted, she should have said from the beginning: Yes, BHO is the second-coming of JFK, but HRC is the second coming of LBJ. And, even though it is obvious which of the two had the golden face and the silver tongue, let’s not forget who did more to get us out of Vietnam and work towards healing America’s racial tensions.
Plus, if given the choice, I’d prefer another Johnson in the White House than a possible Thatcher.