Tonight is the night of a Democratic Party debate that brings to mind that famous line, “Two men enter, one man leaves.” Of course, in this case, it is a matter of two formidable candidates, but make no mistake despite the gender difference: This is Thunderdome.
The fatal nature of the contest is not merely due to its date – a week before the Primaries in Texas and Ohio prove Hillary’s risky firewall strategy. It is also because, in order to marshall her base, stir up the drama of the moment and, most importantly, shred the majesty and hope her opponent inspires, Hillary has as much said she is throwing everything at Obama, kitchen sink included.
“Everything” entails hurling every sleazy insinuation, every rumor of misdeed, every accusation of falsehood, every joke and every rhetorical jab, in the hopes of tarnishing and bloodying him. I commented recently that Hillary had traded the Latino political organizer par excellance, Patti Sollis Doyle, for her hatchet woman – Maggie Williams – because she would not be basing the remainder of her campaign on grassroots organizing and groundwork, but on a relentless, lie-a-minute smear campaign. Hillary has been good enough to oblige my prediction.
She has tried sarcasm, belittling Obama’s message of hope and comity here and abroad.
She has tried sheer meaness, calling his flyers about her vocal support of NAFTA and her promise of inflicting a mandate in her Health Care plan “Rove tactics,” saying they misrepresent and lie.
And, true to form, she has tried racism and xenophobia. In anticipation of today’s debate, the Clinton camp began spreading a picture of Obama in a turban and tribal robes through its e-mail network – the same vehicle that had distributed the “Obama is a Muslim!” hoax.
Only this time, it didn’t end up with a crowd of hand-wringing white people who took it as gospel truth and fair warning of the opening salvo in a secret Islamofascist invasion. This time, Matt Drudge got ahold of it and, in a moment of typical rabble-rousing instinct, made sure it was the top headline on his Web page, the central nervous system of modern news. Hillary’s tactic went from silent sniggering behind Barack’s back to the front page of many a major newspaper today, accusing her of smearing.
Of course, she denied it. And she did so in the most perfidious manner – Ms. Maggie snarled at Obama for finding anything divisive in the first place about the photo being spread around, making it clear his campaign’s offense was what was truly offensive in her opinion. Then Hillary declared she didn’t know what the big deal was – she wears the clothes of other countries all the time, our little naif Hillary insisted – and chalked the whole hooplah up to Obama trying to distract from the issues. All this, of course, while never once denying that they distributed the picture.
On all of these points, Hillary has promised, she was going to take Obama to task tonight. She wants to have a debate to “talk about his tactics.” So, in anticipation of that debate, I thought we might go over hers.
First, the matter of the NAFTA and Health Care flyers. They don’t lie. It will be pretty hilarious to see Hillary try to prove otherwise tonight, because that will mean she will have to prove the following:
1. She did not talk up NAFTA during the early 00s, take partial credit for it in her autobiography and generally pass legislation that was in line with it. She did, and the flyer has quotes from her indicating this.
2. That the “mandate” part of her Health Care program will actually not mandate anything – it will not force you by penalizing you if you don’t comply, and it won’t garnish your wages if you can’t comply. It’ll not be a mandate at all, except that it will…except that it won’t. Or will.
Yes, Hillary is going to have to first disprove history – which, considering her history, one could see why she thinks it “unfair.” And then she will have to disprove logic and/or definition.
Next, she’s going to take him to task for inspiring people – including the media, who she criticizes for calling her out when she lies in personal attacks, but not chastizing him for telling the truth in the attacks he makes on her. I’m sure that will work famously. People always love to hear that they’re doomed, that they need to accept lies as a matter of course in politics, and that there’s no hope for changing the tone in Washington.
She’ll do this by comparing Obama to Bush, by way of noting that both were men inexperienced in direct foreign policy, and look what happened with Bush! Of course, Obama might readily point out that the only three significant acts of foreign policy Clinton has under her belt that Obama doesn’t, Clinton voted with Bush: The PATRIOT Act, the War on Terror authorization and the Iraq War. So whereas Obama theoretically has poor foreign policy experience – though, in theory, he’s excelled so far – Clinton has demonstrably proven herself to be the same as Bush.
Lastly, we can talk about his making some hay of the “dressed” picture, as Drudge called it. Obama himself said this:
“Everybody knows that whether it’s me or Senator Clinton, or Bill Clinton, that when you travel to other countries they ask you to try on traditional garb that you have been given as a gift,” he told WAOI, “The notion that the Clinton campaign would be trying to circulate this as a negative on the same day that Senator Clinton was giving a speech about how we repair our relationships around the world is sad. We are going to try to stay focused on what will make a difference in our foreign policy, including bringing the war in Iraq to an honorable end.”
Very sweet of him. David Plouffe, his campaign manager, was less gracious, sharing my sentiment when he called the distribution of the picture “shameful.” He also went on to note that it is part of a pattern by the Clinton team, one personified by the ghastly, fear-mongering lie that Obama is an American-hating terrorist.
It is a pattern. And, should Clinton continue to be a factor in modern politics, we would not see the end of the kind of tactics that are fueled by fear and doubt, thrive on our resentments and depend on our ignorance.
Fortunately, it is a pattern that leads here – to Ohio, where Clinton’s double-digit lead has shrunk to nearly smaller than the margin of poll error, and where tonight, two will enter, but only one will leave with momentum.