Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Hillary is becoming the George Bush and Joe Lieberman of the Democratic Party.
Huffington Post March 31, 2008
For politicians who see campaigns as a war for personal gain, truth is always the first casualty. Reality is nothing but a tool to be bent and distorted to the candidate's will, regardless of the long-term costs to that candidate's party, her nation, or the values she claims to represent.
But the fact that truth is the first casualty doesn't make it the last. The Clinton campaign, reeling from the disclosure of lies about Bosnia and Northern Ireland, is pressing on with arguments for her nomination -- arguments that are not only illogical, but are likely to cause further lasting harm to the Party's prospects in November.
How illogical are those arguments? Well, let's see ... Sen. Clinton was quoted this weekend saying that it would be profoundly antidemocratic to resolve the nomination fight before the last primaries are conducted. She used language that suggested that accepting the numerical inevitability of the process beforehand would be downright un-American. She said that "some folks" want to "stop these elections," adding:
"I thought we of all people knew how important it was to give everybody a chance to have their voices heard and their votes counted."
And yet most nomination battles are resolved well before the last set of primaries is held. That's why Michigan and Florida broke party rules and jumped the line, an action that threatened to disenfranchise voters in late primaries whose states had abided by the rules. If Sen. Clinton is so intent on being fair to late-primary voters, she should be condemning the rule-breakers who tried to prevent them from "having their voices heard and their votes counted" -- especially since she herself agreed, along with Sen. Obama, not to participate in their primaries.
But no. Instead, says Sen. Clinton, "We cannot go forward until Florida and Michigan are taken care of, otherwise the eventual nominee will not have the legitimacy that I think will haunt us," said the senator from New York. "I can imagine the ads the Republican Party and John McCain will run if we don't figure out how we can count the votes in Michigan and Florida."
What do those comments, so contradictory to one another, have in common? Only two things: They are in Sen. Clinton's self-interest, and they are profoundly damaging to the party's chances of winning the presidency. She has exercised the "nuclear option": She's saying that a process that isn't retrofitted to maximize her chances isn't valid or legitimate. She even invites the Republicans to make ads around that theme. And her refrain that "we" must "count the votes" is specifically designed to evoke memories of the stolen 2000 election, a sore subject that is likely to alienate Florida voters in November.
The surreal thing about all of this is that Sen. Clinton and her staff would be making the exact opposite argument if it helped her chances. Everybody knows that. Others have had the same reaction to her campaign's phone-in press conferences that I have: They're exercises in politics as virtual reality. Her staffers make arguments they don't believe. What's more, you know they know you know they don't believe it.
One pill makes you larger ...
That's why the Bosnia and Northern Ireland whoppers shouldn't have been a surprise. A campaign that views the truth in such elastic terms -- extreme even by the standards of American politics -- is capable of saying pretty much anything. That's why the candidate who claimed she was best-qualified to answer a 3 AM phone call tried to excuse her misstatements with the explanation that she was sleep-deprived -- even though that's a common condition when receiving 3 AM phone calls. (And even though she repeated this particular "misspeaking" several times, embellishing as she went along.)
And yet, in the middle of the flaps over her truthfulness, her campaign went after Obama over the supposedly false claim that Obama was a University professor. In claiming he was merely a "lecturer" (it turns out he's been a Senior Lecturer, which equates to professorship), they actually used the phrase "details matter."
Gotta give 'em credit for nerve, if nothing else. A candidate who's been padding her resume since the get-go, with the willing cooperation of the media she claims is an enemy, now says that "details matter." And we're not talking about the harmless fibs all candidates tell -- that she's named after Sir Edmund Hillary or that Barack's parents met at the Selma march -- but tall tales that make more of her claims of experience than are reasonable.
She repeated the Bosnia fable, elaborating with each re-telling, even after Sinbad and others have challenged her version of it. Commenters from Frank Rich to Nora Ephron have asked why. The answer to that is simple: Because it serves her self-interest, and until now the press let her get away with it.
Oh ... and so much for being "fully vetted." How many more Tuzlas are waiting to appear in her carefully crafted story? (And we haven't even seen those tax returns yet ...)
After pumping up her Ohio numbers with tales of her opposition to NAFTA -- and a lie about Obama and the Canadians -- it turns out that she campaigned for NAFTA's passage. She says she privately opposed it. Even if that's true -- which we can't know -- this is the candidate who says people should be judged on their "deeds," not their "words."
She turned a social visit to a women's center in Northern Ireland into a watershed moment that brought peace to a warring people - a total falsehood that denigrates the hard work of Northern Ireland's woman peacemakers.
Josh Marshall and others have commented on the increasingly tortured logic used to support her claims of legitimacy. The ritual recitation of her advisors' byzantine logic is becomingly increasingly meaningless. If the only way to consider her the "winner" was to count the votes of anemic Virgos who cast their ballots by the light of the full moon, that's the argument they'd be making.
She really only has -- or had -- one valid reason to stay in the race: To be the solid, reliable alternative should scandal or missteps seriously threaten Obama's viability in November. The problem is, she's made so many missteps of her own that she's no longer a good alternative should the front-runner stumble. She undercuts her own arguments that the race should go on by behaving in a reckless fashion that wounds the party itself. What's more, she has undiplomatically trampled sensitivities in both Bosnia and Northern Ireland (Clinton advisor jamie Rubin offended Protestant leaders in Northern Ireland defending her tall tales, while Bosnians -- including the little girl who read her a poem -- expressed outrage at her exploitation of their suffering).
In short, the Clinton campaign's reckless spree is damaging their party, and even the nation's diplomacy. That's why so many party elders are asking her to step down.
In typical Clinton fashion, she and Bill may rant and rage that this situation is the result of an unfair press, "Judases" insufficiently grateful for their (tax-funded) largesse, or a world that's insufficiently responsive to their desires and whims. But the real truth behind her candidacy's implosion is much simpler:Details matter.