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The Evolution of Obama's Thoughts on Clinton
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Does time really change people?
Folks older and, presumably, wiser than myself have claimed as much. This idea sure sounds nice; like the sort of thing one might expect to find on a greeting card from disowned family, the type of sermon which can be anticipated from the pastor who wants to please his flock (donations do not pay themselves, you know), or the kind of shtick a forsaken housewife believes when her unfaithful husband claims that -- this time -- he really has turned a new leaf.
Color me unconvinced.
I believe that people have a certain personality type, determined mainly by genetic factors, and this is set in stone at a young age. My perspective is not based on sentiment, but the cold, hard facts of cognitive science.
Unlike personality, situations may change rapidly. As the tide turns, different sides of the same individual are unveiled. This creates the illusion that someone really has altered his or her life in a meaningful way. In reality, however, it is nothing more than situational adaptation.
How does political science play into this? Allow Barack Obama to explain.
“If you want somebody that has a lifelong track record of fighting for higher wages, and better benefits, and a fairer tax code, and a bigger voice for workers, and stronger regulations on Wall Street, then you should vote for Hillary Clinton,” the President declared in his keynote speech during this summer’s Democratic National Convention.
Roughly eight years before, he had something different to say -- concerning the same subject.
“I just have to remind people of the track record,” Obama mentioned at one of his primary rallies. “Now this is -- Senator Clinton -- this is the same person who has taken more money from lobbyists than any other candidate; Democratic or Republican. This is the same person who took money from financial folks on Wall Street and then voted for a bankruptcy bill that makes it harder for folks right here in Pennsylvania to get a fair shake.
“This -- this is the same person who spent a decade with her husband campaigning for NAFTA and now goes around saying how she was opposed to NAFTA.”
Fast forward to July 2016.
“She’s got specific ideas to invest in new jobs, to help workers share in their company’s profits,” Obama claimed.
Rewind to early 2008.
Clinton is “the same person who says she’s voting for the Colombia trade deal. Turns out that her top advisor -- her top strategist -- was working for the Colombian government to get the bill passed,” Obama pointed out.
Fast forward to July 2016.
“I can say with confidence that there has never been a man or a woman -- not me, not Bill, nobody -- more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” Obama proclaimed.
Rewind to early 2008.
The audience cheered Obama as he detailed Clinton’s real record and her efforts to broom it under the rug. Those men and women firmly believed what was being told them. Why not? Obama merely related his opponent’s actual doings.
Fast forward to July 2016.
Obama’s audience latched on each word, reveling in the man, his moment, and their shared experience. For this audience, Obama’s statements from 2008 are not even a distant memory -- out of replay, out of mind. Ignorance is bliss.
Fortunately, not everyone is ignorant. A new NBC News/Survey Monkey poll found that only 11 percent of Americans deem Clinton “honest” and “trustworthy”.
On a recent episode of his show, progressive talk radio host Jimmy Dore described Clinton’s campaign as “window dressing on s--t...We know who Hillary Clinton is. Everybody does. That’s why she can’t beat -- she can’t get past 50 percent -- she can’t beat Donald Trump...The Democrats should be ashamed of themselves, but they’re not because it’s all about money. They don’t care.”
Dore also noted that Clinton is “not a liberal, she’s not a progressive. You know what she is? She’s a neocon war hawk in bed with corporations, the pharmaceutical industry, and Wall Street.”
So, are you, as Clinton’s team would say, “Ready for Hillary”?
Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at