Every Sunday The Committee for a Unified Independent Party, Inc. president Jacqueline Salit and strategist and philosopher Fred Newman watch the political talk shows and discuss them. Here are excerpts from their dialogue on Sunday, January 13, 2008 after watching "The Chris Matthews Show" and "Meet the Press."
Salit: Here's one thing that I take away from Hillary Clinton's presentation on "Meet the Press." She frames the campaign between herself and Barack Obama as a choice between "rhetoric and reality." Her message, just below the surface, is you can only do so much, and you have to accept the limitations of reality. If you accept the limitations of reality, she's the better choice because she knows how to navigate ( i.e. triangulate) reality. Obama knows how to put forth rhetoric, but doesn't really have a grasp of reality. And her unstated conclusion is: Don't think that you can make any kind of dramatic changes of the sort that Obama is envisioning in his rhetoric. This is the way things are and, consequently, I'm your best bet .
Newman: I think what you're saying is surely one valid way of putting it. I might be inclined to put it a little differently. I think she's also articulating a distinction between realities and possibilities. She's suggesting – and this is somewhat similar to what you're saying – that she's better with realities and maybe he's better with possibilities. Now, if you accept that formulation, then you can go on to raise the following question. If she had been a little bit better with possibilities, she would have thought more about the possibilities of what might happen when she voted to give Bush the authorization to go to war in Iraq. She now says 'I was promised this, I was assured that by the White House and by the intelligence experts.' I don't hear her talking with any seriousness about how she considered the possibilities of what could happen if we did invade Iraq. It seems to me if you're Hillary Clinton, and you're dealing with a president, George Bush, and advisors who have great influence, the neo-cons, who were aching to go into Iraq, you would have given more thought to the possibilities that could play out. And if you had, you might have reconsidered your vote. She has a way of talking about "possibilities" which makes it seem as if considering possibilities is impractical. It's not impractical. It's perhaps the most critical and practical thing to do, given our modest capacity to read realities. So, I think that she's not being genuine. She says, That was the best we could do. We got a report. It gave us this information. The president said he was going to do only this. But then he did these other things. Okay, that's plausible. But she's left out that there were other possibilities. I'm less than inclined to be responsive to people who have a less than positive view about including possibilities. Part of what I like about Obama – I don't agree with him on everything – is that he seems to have a relationship with possibility that is more practical than Hillary's. I think her notion of possibility is that there's not very much there. In her overemphasis on reality, she gives insufficient attention to possibility.