car·riage re·turn

n. the lever or mechanism on a typewriter that would cause the cylinder on which the paper was held (the carriage) to return to the left margin of the page

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War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Clinton Is Change.

This being the last evening before my semester starts here in Madison,part of me wonders why I wasted it watching three presidential candidates I won’t be voting for debate in South Carolina. Surely there would be much more pleasant ways to spend that last evening of peace,but,after flipping back and forth between Countdown with Keith Olbermann and the debate during Keith’s commercial breaks,in some sadistic sense I realized it was necessary for me to witness this debate.

It was necessary because,while I’ve not had my head buried in the sand for the last sixteen years,with every day and every Bush Administration policy misadventure since January 2001,it seems as though the acid-scarred side of Bill Clinton’s Two-Face’d presidency recedes into the shadows of our present catastrophe. The worse Bush 43 appears as a result for his own debacles as President,the better the nostalgia-tinged days of the Clinton Administration seem to Americans with inadequate memories.

Consider for a moment that Bill Clinton’s presidency so polluted and polarized the political environment of this country that it helped to create the festering cesspool from which George W. Bush was able to claim the Presidency,and thus wreck his own particular brand of havoc upon our nation. Essentially laying the foundational conditions for both the GOP’s “Contract with America”-fueled mid-term Congressional victory in 1994 (including a 54-seat swing in the House,passing it into Republican control for the first time since 1954) and severely damaging the chances of a Democratic successor in the White House at the end of his administration should be considered defining characteristics of Bill Clinton’s legacy.

Perhaps many of us don’t remember when Bill Clinton famously stated that electing him would get America two presidents “for the price of one.”Though at the time it appeared he was making an unprecedented statement about his wife’s role in policy-making (a role which proved disastrous for a key Clinton initiative),his words echoed in my mind while witnessing tonight’s return to the Original Recipe Clinton-era slimeball politics which ravaged our nation for eight years and helped lay the groundwork for our present crisis. Senator Obama was forced to point out in tonight’s debate “I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes”in response to the smear campaign waged against him by both Hillary and former President Clinton,and it should serve as a reminder to Americans:electing Hillary Clinton to the White House is going to bring back the caustic political climate of 1993-2001 and the revival of a political legacy which has the demonstrated potential to lead to disasters on par with –or possibly even worse than –the bottom-feeding presidency of George W. Bush.

In his live-blogging of the debate,Talking Points Memo’s Joshua Micah Marshall repeatedly referred to the signature tenacious negativity and calculated slander utilized by Hillary Clinton in her attempts to marginalize Barack Obama’s challenge to her efforts to continue the repugnant dynastification of the Oval Office. A few quotes:

8:29 PM …Man,this can degenerate pretty quickly,can’t it? Each side got in a couple really low blows there. I still think Hillary is just intentionally misrepresenting what Obama said about Reagan. It makes me cringe. As much I like her,it makes me cringe.

8:43 PM …Just when I’m seeing Hillary’s side of things,she comes back with crap like this ‘present’stuff. Anybody who’s looked into this knows the whole ‘present’thing is garbage. It’s a standard thing in the Illinois legislature.

9:00 PM …I find myself refinding my positive feelings for Hillary,my gut level support,when she talks about herself as a fighter,about her never giving up,being there today and tomorrow. And then she launches into these attacks and she starts to lose me.

9:07 PM …A somewhat contrary view from TPM Reader SM:“To the extent that her “humanizing”moment of emotion helped her win NH,I’m wondering whether Sen. Clinton’s jarring,attacking,and frankly groundless personal attacks against Sen. Obama will re-instigate the pre-NH narrative about her,namely that she is cold,calculating,triangulating,and when threatened,resorts to the politics of personal destruction. If she thinks this kind of performance is going to play well in the general election,she is wildly mistaken. This kind of performance will alienate independents,not motivate them.”

Change is a nebulous concept on which to base a presidential campaign. Though he admirably refuses to point it out (because,unlike Hillary,he appears to understand that policy is more important than one’s personal demographics),in his physical person Barack Obama represents the kind of change which represents the best of what America aspires to be. John Edwards would be a change –America’s closest semi-viable option to an outright socialist in the White House since FDR. Mitt Romney changes his policy stance so often that one suspects he might be Change Incarnate. Mike Huckabee would like to change the Constitution to reflect the tenets of Evangelical America. Ron Paul would like us to actually read the Constitution for a change.

Hillary Clinton represents change as well,for one can almost certainly foresee a change in the party occupying the White House in 2016 (and in Congress’makeup perhaps much sooner) given the national reaction to the Clintons’well-poisoning the first time they gave us a “two for the price of one”deal.

The most important thing Americans should have learned from this debate is that,despite the short-comings of Senator Obama as a candidate (and don’t get me wrong,there were a few big ones on display tonight),the price of another Clinton in power in the White House is too high.

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