A few days ago, publius wrote about some of them. I just want to expand on one of his points.
The gas tax holiday is bad policy. Clinton has to know this. If she does, then she has come out in favor of it for purely political reasons: because she thinks it will give her an edge over Obama. (Note: this is the charitable reading of her conduct. I assume she's much too smart to actually believe that this is a good idea.)
Moreover, this didn't have to be an issue in the Democratic primary. It's not as though it was already on the table and had to be discussed. Clinton made it an issue, and is running on it. Which is to say: she has not only come out in favor of a bad idea for political reasons; she has introduced a bad idea into the Democratic primary, and she is running on her willingness to embrace it.
Clinton is presently making a big deal about the fact that she is "a fighter". After this primary season, I don't think there can be any doubt about her willingness to fight. What Clinton's gas tax proposal tells me is what she's willing to fight for. She is not willing to fight for what she thinks is right in the face of public pressure. She's not even willing to restrict her compromises to cases in which public pressure to do something stupid already exists. She will sacrifice principle and the public good when it's expedient for her to do so.
Which is to say: she's a fighter, all right, but what she fights for is her own interest, not what she thinks is right.
Based on this episode, how much confidence can we have that she'll really be wiling to go to the mat to combat global warming? None at all. Based on her vote for the Iraq War Resolution -- a vote that was, at the time, seen (wrongly) as one that Democrats had to cast if they wanted to secure their own political viability -- how much confidence can we have that she'll be willing to go to the mat to protect our national interests or to prevent a pointless, stupid, destructive war? Likewise, none at all.
If there's anything we should have learned from George W. Bush, it's that generalized combativeness is not a good thing in a President. We need not just someone who's willing to fight in general, but someone who's willing to fight for the right things. If you think that the right things just are the things that advance Hillary Clinton's political interests, then there's no problem. But if you want someone who is willing to fight for good policies that are in our national interest, that actually address serious problems, then it's worth recognizing that while she is more than willing to fight, she is not willing to fight for that.
One other note:
Something about the gas tax holiday seems to make its supporters cut any ties their campaign rhetoric might have had with reality. Here's McCain:
"In Iowa, sounding more exasperated as the day went on, Mr. McCain grimaced slightly when a questioner at a town-hall-style meeting asked him about the plan.
“You’d think that I was attacking Western civilization as we know it,” Mr. McCain replied. “The special interests, ‘Oh, my God. This will destroy our transportation system in America. This will have disastrous consequences.’ Look, all I think is we ought to give low-income Americans, in particular, a little relief.”
Mr. McCain did not say which special interests he meant."
I assume that there are two reasons why McCain won't say which special interests he's talking about. First, opposition to the gas tax is not led by "special interests", but by people like economists, policy analysts, and politicians who are not running for President. Second, to my knowledge, no one is saying that the gas tax would have disastrous consequences, or destroy the transportation system. They are saying that it's a political pander that would cut revenues without delivering any meaningful benefits to taxpayers. (Real "special interests", like the oil companies, are of course another story.)
Or, in short: McCain is not taking on "special interests" by proposing a gas tax holiday.
"At an event in Jeffersonville, Ind., on Thursday evening, Mrs. Clinton amplified her frequent pledge to introduce legislation to suspend the gas tax, saying she wanted to put members of Congress on the spot on the issue.
“Do they stand with hard-pressed Americans who are trying to pay their gas bills at the gas station or do they once again stand with the big oil companies?” Mrs. Clinton, of New York, said. “That’s a vote I’m going to try to get, because I want to know where they stand, and I want them to tell us — are they with us or against us?”"
Let's pretend, for the moment, that we don't know that a gas tax holiday would simply shift revenues from the government to the oil companies, revenue that Clinton's windfall profit tax would then take back again. I'd like to know in what possible world resisting a gas tax holiday could possibly count as "standing with the oil companies". Even if a gas tax holiday meant that the price of gas would actually go down, that would presumably help the oil companies by boosting demand for oil. It wouldn't help them as much as it would in the actual world, in which the oil companies stand to pocket most of the money the government be giving up, but it would still be a net positive for them.
Does anyone think that cutting cigarette taxes would count as "taking on big tobacco"? Of course not. So why would cutting gasoline taxes count as "taking on big oil"? If anyone is "standing with big oil" at the moment, it's Clinton and McCain.
The relationship between campaign rhetoric and reality is normally pretty loose. But in this case, Clinton and McCain's rhetoric seems to have divorced itself from reality entirely. It's as though old campaign cliches -- taking on big oil, standing up to special interests -- are now just free-floating phrases that can attach themselves to anything and everything. I expect this from George "Clear Skies Initiative" Bush, and from John "I have no clue what I'm talking about" McCain. Call me naive, but while I did expect Clinton to spin things to her advantage, I didn't expect her rhetoric to have no relation to reality whatsoever. Apparently, I was wrong.