On the State of Things
Well, the campaign continues. Back in January, I never would have thought that the Obama-Clinton race would have gone on this long. Iowa was a mere eight weeks ago, and there are now about six and a half weeks left before the next big contest in Pennsylvania on 22 April. Seems unbelievable when it's put like that, doesn't it?
My discomfort with the Clinton campaign continues to grow more intense. Their "kitchen sink" strategy against Senator Obama is disheartening, and their particularly devious new tactics (floating the "dream ticket" idea and denigrating Obama's qualifications in very offensive ways) are extremely troubling.
This week Hillary Clinton began using a very dangerous line: "Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience, I have a lifetime of experience, Senator Obama has one speech in 2002" and various derivations of the same. Video here. She continued: "I think that since we now know Sen. (John) McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that. And I think it’s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold. I believe that I’ve done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you’ll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy."
To completely dismiss Senator Obama's entire career in that way is, frankly, beneath even the dignity of a Clinton. Somehow Hillary Clinton gets away with claiming "35 years of experience" (that's everything since she was 25 years old) when in reality she has been in the Senate since 2001 and before that spent eight years as First Lady (where her one attempt at policy-making failed in legendarily spectacular fashion). Given the choice, I would much rather have someone with Obama's life experiences and track record in the White House.
This line of attack is not only dishonest and unfair, it also doesn't jive with the "dream ticket" theory Bill and Hillary Clinton have been pushing hard in Mississippi - if they don't believe Senator Obama is qualified to be president, they certainly wouldn't (or shouldn't) want him on the ticket as vice president. And by all traditional calculations it makes no sense to put Clinton and Obama together anyway (two liberal senators, both non-white-males, both from safe Democratic states ... it's a recipe for disaster). The Clintons know this - the line is just a tactic to try and winnow off potential Obama supporters, and I hope the voters in Mississippi and other states will see right through it and vote to put Obama at the top of the ticket.
The other totally specious argument being made by the Clinton campaign and its surrogates is the "big state" line. Yes, Senator Clinton won the primaries in California, Ohio, New York (her current home state), Florida (where they didn't campaign), Michigan (where Obama's name wasn't on the ballot) and is currently ahead in Pennsylvania. But obviously Obama would be just as competitive in those states in November, and probably more so through his demonstrated ability to draw Republicans (like me) and independents who might be (also like me) disinclined to support Clinton under any circumstances.
We've got a long way to go, and there's much campaigning left to endure. But I say to all voters in states where contests have yet to be held (and, I guess, all super-delegates too), think about what you're doing. Think seriously about these questions: Which candidate will be able to bring the country together instead of ripping it apart? Who will be most able to run a respectable, honest and uplifting campaign against Senator McCain? Who will be able to make the most states competitive in the fall? Who will be able to inspire a new generation of voters and get them to the polls? Who will be able to offer a new way forward instead of the same old song?