MoDo, with dripping fangs and claws out, directs her attention to — who else?— Hillary Clinton. Apparently now both she and Bill are “propelled by Cheneyesque paranoia.” Anya Kamenetz has an op-ed piece titled “You’re 16, You’re Beautiful and You’re a Voter” advocating lowering not only the voting age but the age for marriage and obtaining credit cards to 16. I wonder what else we could then
allow encourage those 16 year old kids to do? Hmmm… let me guess… join the military? Here’s MoDo:
Hillary Clinton denounced Dick Cheney as Darth Vader, but she did not absorb the ultimate lesson of the destructive vice president:
Don’t become so paranoid that you let yourself be overwhelmed by a dark vision.
I think Hillary truly believes that she and Bill are the only ones tough enough to get to the White House. Jack Nicholson endorsed her as “the best man for the job,” and she told David Letterman that “in my White House, we’ll know who wears the pantsuits.” But her pitch is the color of pitch: Because she has absorbed all the hate and body blows from nasty Republicans over the years, she is the best person to absorb more hate and body blows from nasty Republicans.
Darkness seeking darkness. It’s an exhausting specter, and the reason that Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Claire McCaskill and so many other Democrats are dashing for daylight and trying to break away from the pathological Clinton path.
“I think we should never be derisive about somebody who has the ability to inspire,” Senator McCaskill told David Gregory on MSNBC on Tuesday. “You know, we’ve had some dark days in this democracy over the last seven years, and today the sun is out. It is shining brightly. I watch these kids, these old and young, these black and white, 20,000 of them, pour into our dome in St. Louis Saturday night, and they feel good about being an American right now. And I think that’s something that we have to capture.”
Tuesday’s voting showed only that the voters, like moviegoers, don’t want a pat ending. Even though Hillary reasserted her strength, corraling New York, California and Kennedy country Massachusetts, she and Obama will battle on in chiaroscuro. Her argument to the Democratic base has gone from a subtext of “You owe me,” or more precisely, “Bill owes me and you owe him,” to a subtext of “Obambi will fold at the first punch from the right.”
Hillary’s strategist Mark Penn argued last week that because the voters have “very limited information” about Obama, the Republican attack machine would tear him down and he would lose the support of independents. Then Penn tried to point the way to negative information on Obama, just to show that Obama wouldn’t be able to survive Republicans pointing the way to negative information.
As she talked Sunday to George Stephanopoulos, a former director of the formidable Clinton war room, Hillary’s case boiled down to the fact that she can be Trouble, as they say about hard-boiled dames in film noir, when Republicans make trouble.
“I have been through these Republican attacks over and over and over again, and I believe that I’ve demonstrated that much to the dismay of the Republicans, I not only can survive, but thrive,” she said.
And on Tuesday night she told supporters, “Let me be clear: I won’t let anyone Swift-boat this country’s future.”
Better the devil you know than the diffident debutante you don’t. Better to go with the Clintons, with all their dysfunction and chaos — the same kind that fueled the Republican hate machine — than to risk the chance that Obama would be mauled like a chew toy in the general election. Better to blow off all the inspiration and the young voters, the independents and the Republicans that Obama is attracting than to take a chance on something as ephemeral as hope. Now that’s Cheney-level paranoia.
Bill is propelled by Cheneyesque paranoia, as well. His visceral reaction to Obama — from the “fairy tale” line to the inappropriate Jesse Jackson comparison — is rooted less in his need to see his wife elected than in his need to see Obama lose, so that Bill’s legacy is protected. If Obama wins, he’ll be seen as the closest thing to J. F. K. since J. F. K. And J. F. K. is Bill’s hero.
For much of the campaign, when matched against Hillary in debates, the Illinois senator seemed out of his weight class. But he has moved up to heavyweight, even while losing five pounds as he has raced around the country. The big question is: Can he go from laconic to iconic to bionic? Will he have the muscle to take on the opposition, from Billary to the Republican hate machine to the terrorists overseas?
“I try to explain to people, I may be skinny but I’m tough,” he told a crowd of more than 15,000 in Hartford the other night, with the Kennedys looking on. “I’m from Chicago.”
The relentless Hillary has been the reticent Obama’s tutor in the Political School for Scandal. He is learning how to take a punch and give one back. When she presents her mythic narrative, the dragon she has slain is the Republican attack machine. Obama told me he doesn’t think about mythic narratives, and Tuesday night in Chicago he was reaching up for “a hymn that will heal this nation and repair the world.”
But, if he wants to be president, he will still have to slay the dragon. And his dragon is the Clinton attack machine, which emerged Tuesday night, not invincible but breathing fire.
The 2008 presidential campaign has made history in many ways, not least being the arrival of a new generation at the polls. Voters under 29 were the first to anoint Barack Obama as their candidate. Reversing a general decline that began in 1972, youth turnout leapt in 2004, and in the early contests in this primary season it was up sharply.
We should hasten the enfranchisement of this generation, born between 1980 and 1995, by lowering the voting age to 16.
Age thresholds are meant to bring an impartial data point to bear on insoluble moral questions: who can be legally executed, who can die in Iraq, who can operate the meat cutter at the local sub shop. But in a time when both youth and age are being extended, these dividing lines are increasingly inadequate.
Legal age requirements should never stand alone. They should be flexible and pragmatic and paired with educational and cognitive requirements for the exercise of legal maturity.
Driving laws provide the best model for combining early beginnings and mandatory education. Many states have had success with a gradual phasing in of driving rights over a year or more, starting with a learner’s permit at age 16. The most restrictive of these programs are associated with a 38 percent reduction in fatal crashes among the youngest drivers, according to a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Similarly, 16-year-olds who want to start voting should be able to obtain an “early voting permit” from their high schools upon passing a simple civics course similar to the citizenship test. Besides increasing voter registration, this system would reinforce the notion of voting as a privilege and duty as well as a right — without imposing any across-the-board literacy tests for those over 18.
And why stop at voting? Sixteen is a good starting point for phasing in adult rights and responsibilities, from voting to drinking to marriage. In reality, this is already when most people have their first jobs, their first drinks and their sexual initiations. The law ought to empower young people to negotiate these transitions openly, not furtively.
We know driving laws reflect reality; whoever heard of the scourge of under-age driving? On the other hand, studies have shown that three-fourths of high school seniors have drunk alcohol. Surveys show that teenagers who drink at home with their families go on to drink less than those who sneak beers with friends. Imagine 16-year-olds receiving a drinking permit upon passage of a mandatory course about alcoholism. The permit would allow a tipple only at family gatherings or school functions for two years — until you graduate or leave home.
The phasing in of credit cards at 16 could work with firm restrictions. A parental co-signer should be required until young applicants have made a year of on-time payments from their own wages. The most important requirement would be passing a mandatory financial literacy test. The applicant would define “compound interest,” correctly decipher the fine print on a credit card agreement and argue with a robotic customer service representative over a mysterious fee. Surely this graduated system would be safer than handing young people a $2,000 line of credit just as they leave home for the first time.
The more we treat teenagers as adults, the more they rise to our expectations. From a developmental and vocational point of view, the late teens are the right starting point for young people to think seriously about their futures. Government can help this process by bestowing rights along with responsibilities.
Tying adult rights to cognitive requirements could also smooth the path to dealing with a much bigger age-related social problem. Demographically, those over 85 are our fastest-growing group. By 2020, the entire nation will be about as silver-haired as Florida is today. We need to be able to test Americans of all ages, to make sure they’re still qualified to drive and to help them avoid financial scammers. From a public health point of view, the silver tsunami poses more of a threat than marauding teenagers ever did.