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Stupid, Cowardly, Incompetent or Lying? or: Being a Democrat isn't Really So Hard

chicago dyke's picture

So my job is the push the new administration "from the left," if my blogging can said to have a constructive purpose. It's always fun to read more popular bloggers when they get snarky and angry in the way I'm prone to be most of the time, as I review the proposals and behaviors of the new administration. No one here is shocked by the already numerous "disappointments" from the administration, but I do wonder how long the majority in this country is going to keep giving Obama high approval ratings. I also wonder if getting punked by Republicans is a successful strategy in the effort to keep them high.

To me, it's completely obvious: no Dem administration is ever going to get more than a handful of Republicans to go along with anything that Dems propose. Republicans oppose Democratic initiatives, always. And the rare times when they don't oppose something the Dems propose, it's because they better understand the deep strategies and gamesmanship, and how to play the 'fake' of temporary support followed by later opposition. But expecting widespread Republican support for any Democratic initiative is just plain stupid. And ignorant of recent history. And perhaps cowardly, and incompetent.

The only place that the new administration needs to focus its love of "bipartisanship" is in the Senate. And frankly, the whole "post-partisan/bi-partisan" strategy is a foolish one, even there. A smarter strategy would be to identify electorally weak Republican members of the Senate, and use executive authority to pressure them to go along with key Democratic initiatives when there is the need for the few extra votes. Really, it's quite simple.

If the new administration wants anyone intelligent to believe that they are truly members of the Democratic party, and not the "Unity" party, it's relatively straighforward, in terms of what they should do.

-ignore the media, (unless they want to bring back something like the Fairness Doctrine, which I'm all for) which at this point is a wholly-owned creature of entities completely hostile to Democratic Party platform goals and aims
-don't bother to grant all but a few of the least significant legislative compromises to Republicans in the House, perhaps a few more in the Senate
-rally and sustain liberal electoral support with progressive policies that aren't just politically smart, but good for the economy (which is true for most progressive policies)
-keep Republicans off-balance with much needed investigations and restructuring of Federal offices, which serves the health of the Constitution at the same time

I don't really expect any of this from new administration, and indeed I expect a lot of the opposite. But I just felt like expressing as simply as I can, that "it's not that hard" to be a real, liberal Democrat right now. The Administration is enjoying popularity at the polls, the party isn't doing to badly in terms of fundraising, and the nation as a whole is ready for real "change," in addition to the musical teevee kind.

One thing I'm very sure about: if the Obama administration continues to act like members of the Unity Party, it will be responsible for significant Dem losses in the House and Senate in 2010, and risk a very real chance of becoming a one-term failure by 2012. In the spirit of "it's the economy, stupid" the bi-partisan proposals that please Republicans (tax cuts, deregulation, endless military spending) are exactly what got us into the mess, and will only exacerbate our situation further if allowed to continue/be increased. Again, this isn't rocket science, it's a simple review of the recent history of economic policy and the results.

Update: No lesser a light than former Obama administration official Lux agrees with me:

At the end of the day, the progressive things Obama wants to do will be strongly opposed by the vast majority of Republicans. Rebuilding the economy from the bottom up, fundamentally reforming healthcare so all Americans can get reasonably priced coverage, transforming the energy economy so that we save ourselves from the worst consequences of global warming, allowing unions a fair shot at organizing, and many of the other things Obama wants to do will all be opposed by 90%+ of the Republican party and conservative movement. We already see it in the reaction from Boehner and McConnell and all of the conservative columnists Obama had dinner with the other night to his economic recovery package, even though Obama has made it smaller and put more tax cuts into it than most progressives think make sense. Making the substantive changes that actually make all of the above policy goals possible will require rejecting conservative ideas and going forward boldly where they can't follow. Key to actually achieving real healthcare reform, for example, is giving all Americans the option of joining the same public plan members of Congress get, but including that option will lose you most Republican votes. Making the massive public investments in transforming out energy economy will never be supported by most Republicans, nor will placing a tight cap on carbon emissions that isn't chock full of loopholes. 95% of Republicans will violently oppose any easing of union organizing rules. Reaching out to conservative Republicans symbolically, personally, and rhetorically can strengthen Obama for the tough political battles ahead, as long as he understands that to get the important things done that we need to achieve, they will still oppose you on virtually everything that really matters.

Again, this is just simple logic and a review of recent history.

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on

About as long, I would say, as with Bush. Three years, with the same level of effort. What Bush proved is that you can do Whatever The Fuck You Want if 28% of the population are authoritarian followers who follow you.

Maybe a bit less than three, since the Dems are not as homogenous, and even the portions of their base that they didn't throw under the bus on the way to the Starbucks next to the bank are falling into trouble.

IOW, the Village hasn't changed. So, the tactics to bring a halt to what the Village wants to do haven't changed. Now, if you want to make, er, progress, that might need something new. But that wasn't the question. If it were, the answer would be ahimsa and local-to-local structures.

Submitted by lambert on

but then that's what they would say.

Myself, I prefer the state of the Republic (not the economy) in 2009 to 2008, in 2007 to 2006, in 2006 to 2005 and all the way back to the point where 9/11 helped Bush so much. The arc of history really is bending toward justice. Just not very rapidly, and it's not an automatic process.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

[Substitute Obama for Clark Kerr, and The Village for the Board of Regents. Everything else applies, exactly. It is the same old struggle, needing the same anger and the same courage and the same actions in order to win.]

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

but not, unfortunately, what Obama is going to try. For several reasons.

One, he isn't a Progressive. He's a Centrist Conservative, and he's thinking like a Centrist Conservative. Second, he has succeeded in life by compromising, by sizing up what everyone wants and providing just enough to all concerned to keep them from open hostility while placating them with his charm. Success through compromise negotiation, satisfying no one while appearing to satisfy everyone, is a deeply ingrained pattern for him. (That must have been some kind of interesting early childhood, don't you think?)

Third, the Congress is not divided between a Regressive Republican Party and a Progressive Democratic Party; it is a three-way split. Even if Obama wanted to push Progressive policies, he faces stiff opposition not just from Republicans but also from BlueDog Democrats. Case in point, the "Cram-Down"; when Reid brought it up as an amendment to TARP last session, 11 Democrats (IIRC, and I'm pretty sure I do) voted against it even coming to the floor; they are all still sitting in their seats plus we have the gift from New York's True Progressives of yet another BlueDog so make that 12 Nays, more than enough to block anything economically Progressive and probably some social issues as well.

As a for-instance, the family planning segment of this new stimulous bill is being dumped not to bring Republicans on board but to keep the Democratic caucus intact. (AP is now a VRWC mouthpeice; they lie, get used to it and stop repeating them without critical analysis.)

The one glimmer of hope is that Obama is a fast learner. I had written earlier that his bipartisan shtick wouldn't last a year, but I was thinking there was some decent chance that Republican Senators facing re-election in 2010 would feel some sense of self-preservation and move just a little to the Center themselves, enough to make common sense government possible. Doesn't look that way, and so the bipartisanship Obama had planned on is not going to happen. Bummer. Time to try Plan B (heh) if he wants his face up on Mt. Rushmore.

He's got several unappealing options. Figure out how to either brutalize the Republicans - my first option, but not his personality - or control the Democratic caucus - good luck with that - or assume the kind of dictatorial approaches we all loathed and opposed when BushCo employed them. None of those is likely, and I have to say that I wouldn't be happy with Door #3 anyway. Rome tried that approach with Julius Gaius and look how well that worked out.

There is another option, one that Progressives can influence. Obama is no Liberal, but he does have a liberal mind; enough educational experiences like this rejection of bipartisan commity coupled with significant Progressive pressure can, I believe, change his views on where he needs to go to resolve conflict and reach compromise. He and the Dems need to feel huge amounts of unhappiness from the Progressive side of the social equation; more of this, please, and a whole lot of this.

Blogs are the right place to call for action; now is a good time to do so. That action, especially feet on the street, is what we need to make change happen. Now is a good time to act, loudly and boldly enough to dominate the news and drown out the VRWC noise machine.

koshembos's picture
Submitted by koshembos on

There is no point arguing whether Obama will become more progressive as many of the bloggers at this blog see it. He wont. The question is not one of strategy but rather one of tactics.

Obama was dragged into universal health care kicking and screaming by Hillary and Edwards. Still, Obama wants to improve the current system and cover considerably more people. Beat on him to go universal will not help much, but insisting of a vastly wider coverage and decent universal emergency coverage can be demanded.

Bipartisanship is an attempt to Rodney King: "Why Can't We All Just Get Along?" of politics; it's baseless and stupid. Obama likes it because it lets him ignore real problems such as: race, right and left, difficult issues, etc. He is not that stupid; it's just a great tool to avoid issues and boldness.

Waiting for Obama to let bipartisanship go is like waiting for Bush to get intelligent. Forget it.

Therefore, if we don't want another Carter, we better confine our demands to what we have. I never thought much of Obama, but he is all we have. Let's adapt to get the maximum out of him.

Submitted by jawbone on

who wants in and forget about calling it universal (bcz still there will be people who can't afford the monthly cost of the Fed plan). But it will help people with some money currently being bled dry by Big Insurance. Then beat on him to make it fair to all by making it universal.

None of this baby step incremental crap. And if he wants to update medical record keeping, let him do it on the IT dime, not health and welfare pennies.

Just keep on him and his crew. Abd the Dems. Add any rational Repubs in areas where they might be endangered pols.

Bipartisanship? Let him invite the Repubs for tea and crumpets, prayer breakfasts, seances with St. Ronnnie, anything but substantial moves to keep redistributing the wealth upward. But don't let him get away with breaking down the principles of the Democratic Party and the results of the New Deal, LBJ, etc. Call him on any whimping out on Constitutional rights or broken promises.

Praise any good moves, but note strongly when he falls short.

Corner Stone's picture
Submitted by Corner Stone on

Is that this is somehow a case of letting the Republicans' have enough rope to further dangle themselves. I'm too realistic to actually believe that's the case but if it is I'll be a happy camper. If it's not then I'll continue believing what IMO is the truth - there is only one party with a small vocal fringe element on both the left and right.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

because the republicans are in disarray, and no one is interested in their bullshit like "tax cuts for corporations will save you" in this particular economy:

or control the Democratic caucus - good luck with that

the republicans have long had very good and tight control over their caucus. do they use methods that are unwholesome? very likely. is that the only way to control a caucus? hell no.

let me give you an example: our leaderz have just signed off on another aircraft carrier. because the 11 we have already are doing such a bangup job fighting piracy and terrorism and the drug trade, boo ya! much of the money for the new one (and of course, we're talking billions) will go to MIC saturated states, in the south, places that didn't vote for Obama and won't vote for a Democrat until after hell freezes over.

now, in terms of budget fights, the DoD budget is so huge, and contains so much pork and conflicting interests (it's like the Pakistan of special interest groups, too many to count and they all hate each other, despite often being on "the same side") it's actually not so hard for an intelligent, bold, thoughtful Leader, someone like, say, a Democratic President, to kill a couple of big ticket DoD programs like a new and unneeded aircraft carrier, and take that money and redirect it to "weak" Dem districts with conservative Blue Dogs, who are all askeerd and worried that if they look 'too liberal,' they'll lose their seats. Just imagine how well it would go over, if Obama proposed a spending plan that takes money out of MIC Red State coffers and redirects it specifically to Blue Dog districts for things like health care and education. Everybody wins! Blue Dogs can take credit, Obama can get them to go along with various other votes that they are disinclined to support, and the actual economy actually gets better in areas that need it most. or not, but still need it.

anyway, the point i'm making is that i'm sick and tired of the excuse that what i proposed above, or something like it, is "impossible" for Dems, when recent history proves that it's not just possible, but beneficial and easy for Rethugs. it's called "leadership," and i think an intelligent Dem who wanted to keep his job would try some, right about now. for all the reasons i mentioned, if obama keeps acting like President of the Unity party, he's going down, one way or another. i know it's not popular to say here, but he's still a "black" man, and i expect various quarters to turn on him like sharks on a white woman, the minute the sheen of victory wears off and/or he stumbles with some presidential failure. then it's going to seem very lonely to him in truth, as lonely as the Unity Party convention in OK last year turned out to be.

Submitted by lambert on

that provides an excellent reason to do away with as much of the imperial infrastructure that's there as possible; "this is our due." After all, as has been pointed out ad nauseum, the Blue States have been subsidizing the Red States in that regard for many years -- and destruction of a lot we hold dear, too. Not only is the empire wrong, we can't afford it. Too bad Ron Paul is the only one that gets this. You'd think Democrats would. Of course, this is the FKD we're talking about.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on


You have a higher opinion than I do of BlueDogs. IMHO, they are in their own way just as ideologically fixated as any Republican when it comes to economic equalization and, for most of them, on "social" issues. They can't be bought, because they're fucking idiots, and they can't be intimidated because they are elected from districts and states dominated by voters who are fucking idiots. Their whole life experience has taught them, reinforced in them, their world view and until they get bounced from office there will be nothing that can be done with them.

Democrats aren't like Republicans; that is both the good news and the bad news. We have to figure out how to deal with what they are, which is weak-willed and generally too accommodating to pressure from the Right. I say give them pressure from the Left; scare them, badly, by marches and strikes and egg throwing and shoe tossing and generally raising hell until we get Obama's attention, and the sooner the better on issues that matter to everyday people like health care and jobs. Raise a ruckus, confront your representatives, clog the elevators, fill the lobbies so nobody can get in or out, show up in the dead of night and chain and padlock doors together, superglue the locks, spread 10-40 on the steps and put red dye and bubble bath in the fountains. Get in the news, and more people will join.

Do some damn thing.

pie's picture
Submitted by pie on

I'm certainly enjoying the brouhaha over Jon Favreau's new main squeeze. That cardboard cutout of Hillary prolly wasn't that satisfying to a "real" man like Jon.

I'd want him dating my daughter.


p.s. His speeches suck.

Submitted by hipparchia on

'favreau girlfriend'

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Why didn't I think of that?

Or, the person who brought the item could have provided a link from the site they were reading and then I could have just clicked on the link.



Is More Than

Just A Phrase.

That you, hipparchia, didn't provide a link to the 'favreau girlfriend' search page I'm taking as an example of your perverse sense of humor, at my expense - so I'll just ignore it.

Submitted by hipparchia on

even more so than usual. the flip side of linky goodness is linky love, and tiny and ineffectual the protest may be, but i decided that for the moment i would not link to anything mentioning either favreau or maxim.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Your misanthropia, to be clear.

I don't care what other people do in their personal lives, pretty generally. There was that Regent College grad woman who did something or other bad with regard to unfair practices in DOJ hiring, blond, can't remember her name but I do remember the True Believer stare, and she got hooked up with some tool at Politico I think it was, can't remember his name either. Their engagement photo was precious, the wide-eyed chipper-smile future Mr. and Mrs. Droid look, so that was fun.

This, wev; consenting adults, and for all we know she's into cardoard too - gets them both off the street. With Favreau presumably fully occupied now attending a 3-D experience, promotional cutout figures everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. A shallow breath, but still....

Beat. Bed. Bye.

Submitted by hipparchia on

your assumptions about my motives and who i feel ill will for are completely in error.

wrong, i say! wrong, wrong, wrong!

also, you seem to have missed the distinction between linky goodness and linky love.

pie's picture
Submitted by pie on

I'm just so happy for him that he has a warm body to grope.

He should stick to warm bodies and treat them with more respect than he treated the cutout. That includes Hillary Clinton.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Apparently these people's personal life is significant in some way I don't understand.

Hope it isn't anything anti-feminist, like suggesting this young woman isn't capable of exercising rational and reasonable judgment. That would be wrong.

cygnus's picture
Submitted by cygnus on

Why is he in the White House? What does he bring that Larry Summers or Rahm Emmanuel lacks?

Do the math--Barack won! And he wants to win again!

I'd bet that Axelrod signs off on everthing. Don't expect President Obama to rock the Republican boat too much--his campaign manager doesn't want to have to retool for 2012.

Submitted by jawbone on

lambastes Repubs and the Dems who want to suck up to them.

Also nice quote from DDay at Digby's (links at, well, link):

Obama has maintained this sugar plum fairy vision of bipartisanship, yet his bill manifestly does NOT value "what works" over ideology. Quite the opposite. It makes room for ideology, conservative ideology, and pre-empts provisions that would work much better in bringing back the economy. Despite a mandate for major new social and economic programs from the public, Obama is still playing small ball. He's responding to Republican hissy fits and teaching them that all they have to do to wring a concession is scream for a day or so and let their media allies whip up a frenzy. He's offering half-measures when they won't do the job. (My emphasis)

Submitted by jawbone on

--after the Stimulus Bill is passed? To please the Blue Dogs--and keep there votes for the Big Stim Bill? (Via comment by Ronk Seattle)

Doesn't that mean healthcare is DOA? That any necessary additional stimulus is out of the question without massive cuts elsewhere? Kinda negates all those hints of "later" he'll get to progressive programs....

Yikes! And no shrugging for me--this sounds dire. Am I reading too much into it?

Obama budget promise wins Blue Dog support
By Jared Allen, Posted: 01/27/09 07:56 PM [ET]

House Democrats won a key procedural vote Tuesday on the stimulus after a last-minute promise from the Obama administration to return to “pay-as-you-go” budget rules after the stimulus is approved.

In a 224-199 vote, the House approved a resolution allowing the stimulus bill to come to the floor for debate. Twenty-seven Democrats – 24 of them members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition – bucked their leadership and voted against the measure.

But according to Democratic leadership sources, the number was almost much higher – and could have been high enough to hand the Republicans a monumental victory – had it not been for a letter from President Obama’s budget director Peter Orszag.

The letter addressed to House Appropriations Committee Chairman David promised to return to “pay-as-you-go budgeting,” and stressed that the stimulus was an “extraordinary response to an extraordinary process” and thus subject to different rules.

“It should not be seen as an opportunity to abandon the fiscal discipline that we owe each and every taxpayer in spending their money – and that is critical to keeping the United States strong in a global, interdependent economy,” the letter stated.

Orszag also emphasized that Obama’s support for paying for any temporary tax cuts in the stimulus that he would like to make permanent. The budget director said Obama would detail those offsets in his budget. (My emphasis in first paragraph)

Oh, and thoughts that Repubs have the interests of the nation a heart and would not undermine Obama's efforts to avoid a depression? Repubs have their own intereests and need for power at heart. If they can lay the blame for a depression of the Dems, and Obama, they will do so in a New York second. They sure don't give a rat's ass about healthcare needs for all Americans--as Bill Kristol spelled out in his infamous memo saying the Repubs had an existential need to defeat any move to universal healthcare, that if the Dems achieved that under Clinton, the Repubs would be out of power for decades. No, they see an opportunity to make lemonade out of the lemons left them by BushCo--just make life miserable enough for people, ensure the Dems get the blame, and voters'll come back to the Daddy party.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Seriously, I'm asking.

Through what mechanism? By what means? What is it you would have the Dem Leadership do, keeping in mind that Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, elected by the Caucus, is a BlueDog through and through?

Without the BlueDog-Republican stranglehold on Congress, this stimulus package would look very different. Without that alliance, many Progressive initiatives including UHC and equitable taxation and dismantling of the push for Empire and a swift replacement of fossil fuels with renewables would all be doable.

How do you propose to break that alliance, to bring the BlueDogs to heel?

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

to diminish the political power of the BlueDogs? I don't see it.

In the first place, what has racism to do with economic policy or social justice in the eyes of the general public? In this country now, the consensus opinion has been for a long time that quite enough social enginering has taken place for the benefit of minorities, and has in many instances gone too far and damaged the rights of the majority.

For most Americans the charge of "racist" just runs off like water on a duck. Only Liberals are still sensitive to it, which is why it was a tool brandished during the Democratic primary - the party where Liberals still find a home. I don't recall racial equality and justice as being any part of the Republican primary conversation except insofar as who could chest-thump the loudest over how to brutalize brown people.

(To be equitable let me say that the accusation of "misogynist" was thrown around by Democrats with equal abandon, for the same purposes and without any more justification. Not wishing to segue here, just an observation. Both camps, IMHO, played dirty.)

To the extent that any BlueDogs were driven to shift camps or hold their tongues by charges of racism, they simply were exchanging one Centrist Conservative for another. From a standpoint of economic policy they could expect to influence either Obama or Clinton similarly, simply by threatening to bolt the caucus and join Republicans to block any Progressive economic or social policy with which they disagree.

Additionally, in the districts and states these people come from to be called a racist by some DFH like Pelosi (the local view) would only heighten the BlueDog's street cred. They almost universally are products of districts and states where the majority of voters are racist; knowing the BlueDog is one of them won't hurt at the polls but redound to the target's benefit.

They wouldn't be damaged at all, either in terms of being treatened with consequence for challenging the Dem congressional leaderships - what can Pelosi or Reid do, throw them out of the caucus and hand control of the chambers to the Republicans? - or at the polls where such charges will only bring them more adherents out of either identity or sympathy.

Good try. I understand the thinking, that what was hurtful to you and other Liberals might also hurt BlueDogs, but it will not. They are not Liberals, they are Conservatives, slightly Right of what passes now for the Center but is actually to the Right of any rational continuum, and adept at turning such attacks into martyrdom.

Please, though, let's continue. This is a tough nut and I have no solution short of taking to the streets and shutting down the machine, but am completely open to suggestion. Solve this problem and many good things become not just possible but probable.

Thanks for the serious reply.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

as Truman, IIRC, once said.
They may not be conscious racists, but they're definitely classists.
Now, that's not a smear. That's the truth.
This is what they want you to believe about them:

You'll notice what they DON'T want to do to stop the increase of the debt:

1. Take back the bailout money that hasn't yet gone to the banks.
2. Create a bailout for working people (aka union members).
3. Get us the hell out of Iraq now. (that's a bigger proportion of the national debt than I think anybody except maybe Obama has really been shown since the election, because of the "off-budget" nature of the Bush/Cheney "defense" expenditures.)
4. Force the banks to admit their predatory lending and outright theft (they call it a financial vehicle because they mean to use it to drive away with your money) over the past "deregulation" period instigated by Gramm & Co.

They may not care whether their nondonors are Catholic or Protestant, straight or gay, white or yellow or red or brown; they care only that they're non-donors, and hence they're not real people to be heard and spoken up for in the deliberations of the nation's government.

For shame.

In short, no, they're not really about holding up Democratic Party platform planks or principles or ideals or, all the gods forbid, the voters' interests where those voters aren't making six-figures and contributing four-figures to their re-election campaigns.

pie's picture
Submitted by pie on

I read it earlier at TPM, of all places.

*sigh* I sure don't like the way this is going, but I'm trying to have the wait-and-see attitude. It's hard work!

Submitted by jawbone on

the Obama Stimuls bill, which promises to Follow the Money. First article looks at how things got in or out of the bill (Obama's desire for "bipartisanship" and Larry Summers' belief that highway funding gets spent faster than mass transit funding [Oh, my! NY has permitted shovel ready train plans, but no funding. Not included, per show discussion]).

Good tree chart of what's getting how much..

Discussion on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show--audio available.

Correction 3:59pm: Wrong link for tree chart of where the money's going, but the link does go to intereactive chart of how the amout per capita compares to unemployment numbers, by state.

Here's the tree chart link, The Stimulus Plan-Where the Money Would Go.

Submitted by jawbone on

and their policies! Yup, heard two Repub pols, House members, on NPR this morning saying that one way or another. It was one of those head banging moments.

Really? Voters wanted to continue what they believed were failed Repub policies, so they voted for Obama, the Democratic candidate?? Yeah, right.

How many voters even remotely thought they were voting for frackin' Repub policies when they voted for Obama? (Some feared that might happen, but did not think Obama sold himself clearly as a Republican Redux candidate. There were hints, but carefully crafted to sound progressive.) But the Repubs are saying this and getting air time to get it out there. Amazing, but true.

(We do not get the MCMers* we want, but we do get the MCMers their management and media owners want. )

*MCMers--Members of the Mainstream Corporate Media

pie's picture
Submitted by pie on

Really? Voters wanted to continue what they believed were failed Repub policies, so they voted for Obama, the Democratic candidate?? Yeah, right.

I've been ranting about this all morning. If they wanted more of the same, the election would have had a different outcome. Good grief!!!!!!

I love that video of Hillary in Rhode Island. She knew.