The Plank

Relevant Job Experience

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I'm hardly the first to point this out--see, for example, E.J. Dionne's column today--but the extent to which Hillary Clinton has turned a perceived liability (health care) into an asset is pretty remarkable. It reminds me a bit of a diarist Jon Chait wrote several years ago on an unrelated subject:

I received a phone message the other day from someone who wanted my help in getting an article he'd written published in TNR. We had not spoken since we worked together on the college newspaper and had taken opposite sides in a political dispute. The dispute centered on whether I was a racist, sexist, right-wing bigot unfit for journalism; his side claimed I was, while I maintained, unpersuasively, that I was not. Suffice it to say I had not spent the intervening years trying to think up ways I could help this fellow, and his phone message reflected some acknowledgment of this. "We haven't spoken in a while," he observed, his flinty voice sounding uncharacteristically timid. "I know you're not my biggest fan." With that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, he immediately launched into his article pitch. It seems he has picked up one of the mores of Washington: The distinction between your friends and your enemies is less important than the distinction between people you know and people you don't. By this reasoning, the two of us have a connection. That the connection consists of his having viciously denounced me years ago no doubt struck him as beside the point. ...

I think there's something analogous going on in the presidential primaries: The distinction between your successes and your failures is less important than the distinction between stuff you've done and stuff you haven't done. I'm not sure how broadly this applies--something tells me Mike Brown's disaster-relief experience isn't going to make him the GOP front-runner in 2012--but I suspect it applies more broadly than the Obama and Edwards people would have anticipated several months ago.

P.S. I thought I saw Matt Yglesias make a similar point recently, but now I can't find it.

--Noam Scheiber

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