Yale vs. Harvard, 1973 vs. 1991, Clinton vs. Obama
What can the law school experiences of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tell us about the kinds of candidates they are and the kinds of presidents they'd be? In New York magazine, John Heilemann looks back at Clinton's Yale years and Obama's Harvard years and concludes:
"What Yale taught Clinton was the limits of radicalism, the necessity of working inside the system, the legitimacy of seeking and wielding power. The experience hardened her, disabused her of the lure of utopianism, made her conscious of the inevitability of compromise—both personal and political. But it also fired her ambition and enflamed her hubris. She left Yale more dedicated than ever to the cause of societal change, and confident of her own ability to direct it. For Obama, Harvard had almost precisely the opposite effect. It deepened his sense of skepticism and already considerable self-containment, and buttressed his almost Burkean view that institutions are only changed very slowly. . . . His wariness toward identity politics was reinforced. And so was his belief that the old ideological divisions and polarities were irrelevant and counterproductive. That progress would require dealing with, not demonizing, conservatives. That conciliation isn’t tantamount to mealymouthed accommodation—it’s the highest of civic virtues."
Heilemann adds: "The divergences of style have also marked their performance as candidates, and here it is Obama who has suffered by comparison. At Yale, Clinton learned that politics is a fight, not a mediation or a seminar or a campfire sing-along of 'Kumbaya.' And this seems to be a rudimentary insight that Obama has yet to grok. The historian John Milton Cooper once described the campaign that pitted Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as a contest between a warrior and a priest—and this dichotomy has recurred all throughout the history of Democratic primaries, as the journalist Ron Brownstein has argued. In 1968, Hubert Humphrey was the warrior, Eugene McCarthy the priest. In 1984, Walter Mondale was the soldier, Gary Hart the prelate. And now Clinton and Obama are enacting these archetypes all over again, with the former promising to fight on behalf of America’s 'invisibles,' offering strength and battle-testedness more than eloquence, and the latter remaining detached and professorial, offering vaguely to change our politics but failing to explain how."
UPDATE: In today's Washington Post, Monitor alum Alec MacGillis observes: "Obama faults a broken system in Washington for failures that many Democratic voters attribute simply to having the other side in power. By contrast, Clinton more directly exploits Democrats' feelings of resentment."