Taylor Marsh, taking umbrage at Obama's suggestion that nothing new can be expected of Boomers like Hillary Clinton, says Barack's remarks are as close as anyone has ever come to calling her "too old" for the job.
Implying your main opponent has a "generational" impediment is as close as I've ever heard anyone saying Clinton is too old for the tasks at hand. It's especially alarming because it's taken a long time to get a woman in position to compete equally for the top power spot in American politics. To imply she's not up for the job because she's of a generation whose time has passed shows complete disregard for equality, something Mr. Obama should understand all too well. I wonder what the average Democratic primary voter, especially those in Iowa, will think of this?
But Peggy Noonan thinks Obama's criticism goes more than wrinkle-deep. Obama's critique of the Boomers resonates with her, at least partially. Noonan writes:
I wonder if Sen. Obama, as he makes his climb, understands the kind of quiet cheering he is beginning to garner from some Republicans, and from those not affiliated with either party. They see him as a Democrat who could cure the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton sickness. ...
I am not sure of the salience of Mr. Obama's new-generational approach. Mrs. Clinton's generation, he suggests, is caught in the 1960s, fighting old battles, clinging to old divisions, frozen in time, and the way to get past it is to get past her. Maybe this will resonate. But I don't think Mrs. Clinton is the exemplar of a generation, she is the exemplar of a quadrant within a generation, and it is the quadrant the rest of us of that generation do not like. They came from comfort and stability, visited poverty as part of a college program, fashionably disliked their country, and cultivated a bitterness that was wholly unearned. They went on to become investment bankers and politicians and enjoy wealth, power or both.
Mr. Obama should go after them, not a generation but a type, the smug and entitled. No one really likes them. They showed it this week.
That might be hard to do. As Taylor Marsh says, besides chronological age there isn't a dime's worth of difference in policy positions between Obama and the Boomer generation.
Seriously, what is this "change" Obama offers? What policies are different than traditional Democratic policies? His votes on Iraq are like Clinton's. As for Iran, at least Clinton showed up for the Kyl-Lieberman vote. On illegal immigration they're also similar. Both Clinton and Obama want to expand NAFTA. What "generational" change is Obama offering beyond Clinton's? Oh right, it's his "face."
Still it's possible to give the impression of offering change. I think a lot of politics consists of repackaging ideas which were already old when the sixties rolled around in the last century as "progressive" today. Old wine into new bottles. Old bodies into spandex. Maybe the extreme premium placed on fresh faces has to do with a politics that has run out fresh ideas. And "progressive" political discourse has an unchanging quality to it: things are always about "Vietnam", sex, gender, race and going "back to the land", just like at Woodstock. When Francis Fukuyama spoke of the "end of history" I wonder whether it doesn't subconsciously reflect the Boomer idea that all change stopped with them.
It is without the slightest self-concsciousness that Marsh looks to the past in order to define the future. Defending Hillary she says:
Barack Obama is saying he represents a new generation. What he's also saying is that Clinton "and others" have been fighting since the '60s and those battles are not a badge of honor that can lead to a foundational movement for the 21st century if Clinton is nominated. Instead Mr. Obama seems to be implying it is a sign of age, not promise.
The idea of basing a "foundational movement for the 21st century" on the battles of "the '60s" summarizes the dilemma of the Boomer vision. That vision was a vista of a future glimpsed through an exhilarating moment in time; timeless and unaging. It would be ironic if history passed it by before its moment on the stage.