The Clinton campaign has been negative since Senator Obama won the Iowa caucus with the obvious goal of Senator Clinton capturing the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. But as the nomination has become less attainable, her campaign’s actions have been designed to achieve a second goal, at least since the days leading to the March 4 primaries, at that is to increase the chances that Senator Obama will lose the presidential race to Senator McCain if the Illinois senator does clinch the Democratic nomination as now seems likely. (Full disclosure: I worked on the Obama campaign for a few weeks block walking before the March 4th primary and have no affiliation with the campaign currently).
The Clinton campaign has played racial politics by trying to identify Obama as the “black candidate” so as to scare off white voters and to falsely claim that Hispanic voters historically don’t support African-American candidates. (Gergory Rodriquez of The Los Angelos Times blew apart that twisted yarn showing how Hispanics supported Dinkins in New York City, Kirk in Dallas and black congressmen from Los Angelos itself for example).
Senator Clinton has declared repeatedly that she and Senator McCain are ready to handle the responsibilities of the presidency “from Day One”, conveniently omitting her fellow Democrat from this elite list although she professes to believe that Obama would make a great vice-president. Further, Mr. Clinton questioned Senator Obama’s patriotism by saying “it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country.” This drew the ire of retired Air Force general Merrill A. McPeak who, when endorsing Senator Obama, compared Mr. Clinton to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.
Finally, Geraldine Ferraro, again playing in the mire of racial politics said “If Obama was a white man he would not be in this position.” The identity politics pot is calling another political kettle black.
The question is why? Why would the Clinton campaign want Obama, if he receives the nomination, to lose in November? The Clinton campaign knows that if Obama wins the nomination and the general election in 2008, the odds are great that he will be his party’s nominee in 2012. No twentieth century president who wanted his party’s nomination has failed to get it no matter how vehement the opposition. The list is long. Taft (1912), Truman (1948), Ford (1976), and Carter (1980) all received their party’s nomination. If Obama wins both nomination and election in 2008 and gets his party’s nomination in 2012, the next opening for Senator Clinton will be in 2016 when she will be 68 years old and her husband out of office for sixteen years. The unstated assumption of the Clinton camp is that voters will consider her too old then and that the political chits owed the Clinton’s will no longer be valid having passed their expiration date.
Yet, the Clinton machine also knows that if Obama obtains his party’s nomination and then loses this November, the odds are against him getting his nomination a second time. The last time the Democratic Party nominated a presidential candidate who had already lost a presidential race was in 1956 when Adlai Stevenson was nominated a second time.Since then, the Democratic Party is littered with one time presidential nominees: Humphrey (1968), McGovern (1972), Mondale (1984), Dukakis (1988), Gore (2000), and Kerry (2004).
For the Clinton gang, 2008 is not her first and last hurrah for her presidential hopes if she fails to get the nomination only if Obama loses in November. That reality is why her campaign has been so harsh since the first days of March.
And that is what her campaign for at least the last seven weeks has eerily been channeling the ghost of the national campaigns of George Wallace. Before many were Reagan Democrats they were Wallace Democrats – blue collar, white ethnics in small industrial cities who felt squeezed on all sides. Wallace’s and Clinton’s campaigns are campaigns of negativity, of attack, of pain. Theirs is the politics of resentment.
So Senator Clinton’s campaign does not care if it’s actions will lead to democratic defeat in November if Obama is the party’s nominee. As Gerald F. Sieb observed, Senator Clinton has drilled “home the idea that he [Obama] isn’t seasoned or tough enough in dealing with world leaders and national security issues. That plays straight into the coming McCain strategy if Sen. Obama is the nominee.” And as Peggy Noonan has said, the Clinton campaign has “has always been more vicious than clever.” The highest loyalty of the Clinton’s has always been the Clintons.
By ED MIHALKANIN, Ph.D