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Hillary Clinton is an amazing woman, undoubtedly both smarter and stronger than me. So how does one explain why she, a smart, decent person, is doing self-destructive things and party-destructive things to win the nomination?

To the supporters of Hillary Clinton: Be her best and fairest critics, and encourage her to understand the consequences of her actions. Get her to see the bigger picture before her mistakes permanently damage her, our party, or women trying to break the political glass ceiling. I am selfish in that I want her to maintain the credibility and the power to promote the progressive agenda, not divide the people. She will not listen to her current critics, no matter how right they are, or how much they are trying to help her. It is up to you.

For some thoughts on why smart people do stupid things and the definition of irony, more below:

There are many reasons why people, including politicians, end up making mistakes that hurt themselves and others. A few are listed below:

A sense of entitlement (all about me):
Yes, you need a strong ego to run for president. The problem is when that suddenly appears to become the top reason you’re running for president – people who don’t support me are stupid uninformed cult members. I started out giving Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt. I assumed that she understood she was qualified, but did not have some kind of god-given right (woman or not) to be president. I assumed that she didn’t have a sense of entitlement, and therefore when people perceived that she did, they were being unfair. Now I just don’t know. Does she not understand that the majority of the American people assume politicians are arrogant, and that when her campaign insults whole states and their voters, this is seen as arrogance? Is it real arrogance? Does she not understand that there is Clinton fatigue, and you don’t permanently win hearts and minds using discoverable lies – I have always been against NAFTA? Could she have overcome the high negatives she has with more effective strategies, like keeping to the high road? Clearly now we will never know. Expect the Clinton negatives in the public as a whole to rise.

Failure to recognize that things have changed (let’s do the 90s again):
Having many of the same political advisors that Bill Clinton had was a mistake from the start. They won his campaigns, so they assumed that similar strategies would succeed. They seem to believe strongly that negative campaigning will win them both the nomination and the general election. If they are half right, we will suffer four more years of Republican rule, and have a draconian Supreme Court for a generation. If they are right on both counts, we will have a president who won on blatant hypocrisy [Day 1 - I am honored to share the stage with Senator Obama ... Day 2 - Shame on you Barack Obama!], and on lack of integrity [subtext - John McCain would make a better president than Barack Obama]. Search the internet using the search term "Hillary Clinton and negative campaigning". You will not like what you find. Does she not understand how people are feeling? Does she believe that it is OK to use deception, play the race card, or suggest John McCain would make a better president than Senator Obama just to win a short-term victory? Does she not understand that every word is documented and will come back to haunt her again and again? And if she does not understand those things, is she fooling herself about what she is doing? Most importantly, can we afford another president who believes that you can bully others to change the rules to benefit yourself, and that the end justifies the means, just as long as you win? Is that the Hillary Clinton who would show up at the White House?

Failure to listen to valid criticism (living in a bubble):
There is a fascinating book called "Criticism in Your Life" written by Dr. Deborah Bright. I highly recommend it for people who deal with criticism on the job. Oh wait! That’s everybody. As a scientist, I have to deal with reviewers and rejection all the time, and have learned some valuable lessons. It’s easy to listen to friends, but friends will more often than not try to spare your feelings or defend you even when you’re wrong. I know which of my friends and colleagues will give me honest criticism, and so I listen to them most carefully, and never respond dismissively or angrily. It’s better to get criticism from friends, and use it to do better, than to get hit upside the head by outside critics. Since I am not privy to the inside circle of the Clinton campaign, I can only conjecture. I would guess that her supporters have put more effort into excusing her mistakes than into helping her learn from them. And I would guess that people in her campaign have been filtering out the valid parts of inside and outside criticism. Dr. Bright’s book talks about how to recognize valid criticism, and recommends that you use it no matter the source.

Finding excuses (It’s because I’m a woman):
Some people are arguing that gender bias has nothing to do with the problems in the Clinton campaign; others are arguing it’s the whole of the problem. The truth lies somewhere in between. If we are to have more women in positions of power, we as a society must come to grips with the insidious nature of gender bias. While it is not the only problem a particular woman candidate may face, it is always there. So defend Hillary Clinton and other women when the bias is obvious; but don’t let them hide behind it as an excuse when their mistakes have a different basis.

Remember that promise of the definition of irony?

Eleanor Roosevelt understood that every one of us every day has choices to make about the kind of person we are and what we wish to become. You can decide to be someone who brings people together, or you can fall prey to those who wish to divide us. You can be someone who educates yourself, or you can believe that being negative is clever and being cynical is fashionable. You have a choice. - Hillary Rodham Clinton

Originally posted to scifiowa on Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 11:08 AM PST.

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