Saturday, March 8, 2008

Clinton Press Treatment Unfair? Hardly

The following is a response to yesterday's commentary - "Press' Treatment of Clintons Fuels Obama; Hillary's "Unelectability" -- Don't Buy It". - SC

Posted by Ken Hart

Lots of anger here. More than that, lots of name-calling of other Democrats, as though anyone who thinks ill of the Clintons is being "ridiculous" or "naive." I don't understand the almost-Pavlovian rage that sparks in some people when the Clintons' tactics are challenged. Sure, many good things happened during Bill Clinton's administration ... but Bill isn't running. I know that Bill himself needs a reminder of this from time to time, but he's not running. And that makes a big difference.

And what about the "who do want answering that phone call at 3 a.m." nonsense? Think about this logically: If sharing a bed with the President of the United States for eight years makes you a foreign policy expert -- even though you didn't have the security clearance to sit in any of Bill's important meetings -- then hell, why hasn't the GOP nominated Laura Bush? This is the bind that Hillary has put herself in with this attack on Obama's credentials. Because now that she has set this standard for what makes someone more qualified to be President, then on every single score -- from Senate experience to foreign travel to life experiences -- John McCain beats her. Hands down.

Clearly, she didn't envision that when she launched the attack, but her campaign has been pretty shortsighted from the get-go, never thinking in the long term.

For instance, what could have possibly been thinking when she --not once but twice this week -- strongly implied that the GOP candidate is better qualified to be President than her fellow Democrat?

That's not the action of a "progressive" Democrat. That's the sort of party betrayal I expect from Joe Lieberman. If Obama had been playing footsie with his GOP opponent as much as Clinton has done this week, you'd be outraged. And rightfully so.

So again, what's with the blinders on the Clintons? You praise them for their tough, do-what-it-takes-to-win attitude ... but then you don't think they would ever play the race card? Bill knew what he was saying with the Jesse Jackson comment. He could've picked from a number of Democratic candidates who scored early victories, but he reached back 20 years ago to pick ... the black guy. By deliberately choosing to equate Obama with Jackson, Bill wanted to portray Obama as a fringe, black candidate with little hope of winning over the white voter ... and until this week, Obama has done pretty well on that score. (I believe he still scored about half of the white male vote in Ohio, which considering the lousy PR week he had, ain't too shabby.)

As for the press, they've played games with both sides for the sake of a good story. Obama was new and fresh; Hillary was a known quantity. And as a newspaper guy yourself, you know that the new stuff always makes for the better copy. Frankly, Hillary got a pretty cushy treatment during the month of February. Think about it: She lost 11 straight contests. Had she been, say, Rudy Giuliani, she would have been openly mocked in the press for refusing to get out of the race.

As for the right-wing religious nutjobs getting their minions to march in lockstep vs. Obama, two points: 1) They weren't successful in getting their followers to vote for GOP choice #1, Rudy. They hate McCain! 2) What, they would attack Obama ... but somehow go easier on Hillary? At best, this is a wash. There's no way most of those fanatics would vote for any Democrat.

In general, with regard to Hillary's electability, she probably would beat McCain -- and she should, especially if John "W." McCain continues to let Bush portray him as the candidate who will Stay The Course. But I'll say again that the GOP would love to run against her. Sure, Gore was a dope in 2000, but again, Bill Clinton isn't running. People, even Republicans, get weak at the knees around the Schmoozer-in-Chief (and that's a compliment -- he's damn talented), but I know quite a few moderate Republicans who are sane, rational people ... yet they go absolutely apeshit when Hillary's name is mentioned. And it seems the one thing that could unite a dispirited GOP votership is having their Antichrist, Hillary, as the opponent. Inexplicable.

Now is that rational? Is it fair to Hillary? No. But that's the way it is. People don't have the warm fuzzies for her like they do for Bill.

The best outcome that could come out of this tussle is that Obama gets to hone his "rapid response" team (which has been weak) and that any skeletons in Clinton's and Obama's closets come out now, rather than in August or September (which is why I'm concerned that Clinton seems to keep pushing off the release of her tax returns -- first, after Ohio & Texas, and now "mid-April," presumably after the Pennsylvania primary).
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Ken Burch said...

One note -- that the press declined to "mock" Hillary for not dropping out of the race after losing 11 states in a row hardly seems to constitute "cushy treatment" of her. She was still mathematically very much in the race, still neck and neck, with good prospects looming in Ohio and Texas and now Pennsylvania. And to suggest that the press treated her differently than they would've treated, say, Rudy Giuliani in the same situation, well, I don't know where you're coming from on that. Rudy was never in a similar situation.

Ken Hart said...


From a mathematical standpoint, she's been in a deep, deep hole for weeks. After Obama's string of victories, the math indicated that Clinton would need a 60 percent margin of victory in each of the following contests to catch up in the delegate count. Even a 10-point win (as was the case in Ohio) doesn't help her, and Obama gained delegates in Texas, so now her mathematical climb becomes even steeper. At this point, she knows she can't catch up, so her current strategy is to score wins in as many of the remaining primaries as she can, and then say to the superdelegates, "I've got the momentum. Obama isn't strong enough in a broad campaign. You need to pick me." And it could work.

Rudy Giuliani ignored any early contest that didn't guarantee him an easy victory. He chose to let his rivals build up momentum with victories in these "less important" states while he established a "firewall" state as his contest. With each primary that his rivals won, their image grew as his lessened. He was roundly mocked for his strategy. The only difference with Hillary Clinton is that she had won something (N.H.) and her firewall strategy was reported with only moderate criticism, mostly from those who questioned her decision to let Obama rack up a couple of hundred delegates (and the resulting surge in fundraising).

If she had made more of a challenge in at least of two or three of the February contests, she'd likely be in a much stronger position.