February 26, 2008

“Shame on you, Barack Obama!” Hillary Clinton has angrily declared in response to some hostile campaign mail on health care and NAFTA his campaign sent out against her. And then there was that picture a campaign aide released to Drudge.


Hillary’s statements of how proud she was to compete alongside Obama seem to come from another century, even though she made them just days before. In her closing, teary-eyed address to the Austin debate audience, Hillary Clinton had given many people the impression that she was accepting her defeat in the Democratic nomination contest. This all made sense, except that she doesn’t seem to think that she has given up. With Romney-like determination, she has declared her intention to fight on through Texas and Ohio on March 4, and now she seems driven to drag Obama down with her. “Enough with the speeches, enough with the big rallies,” she said, as if to underscore her own inability to make compelling speeches and draw large crowds.


Watching these closing moments of the debate, I thought at first that she was cynically trying to recapture the moment that supposedly turned around her campaign’s fortunes in New Hampshire, and then, as she continued, I began to wonder whether she had actually accomplished the seemingly impossible of reviving her electoral chances. For perhaps the first time since she started running, she gave something like an explanation for why she was running for office that did not involve mentioning the elaborate hoax of her “35 years of experience,” and she won a standing ovation from the crowd. In any case, her moment came about three weeks too late. She cannot realistically match or overcome Obama’s delegate count in the major contests in the coming months, and the longer she prolongs the formal contest, the less likely it is that she will have any chance of being part of the final Democratic ticket.


Judging from her campaign’s release of the “€œBarack as Muslim”€ photo, Clinton may have decided to poison the Democratic well and tear into Obama as much as she possibly can before she finally yields. For a moment, the Clintons gave the impression that they were going to bow out gracefully. But, like everything else they have done, it was a momentary maneuever, a trick to distract the opposition. Having spread distortions and rumors about Obama for a year, they are outraged that someone might apply the same tactics to them. Meanwhile, Obama has demonstrated here the first indications that he is perfectly willing to play the double game of preaching holier-than-thou political reformism while driving the shiv into his opponent’s side, which is the first sign we have seen that he is prepared for a general election campaign.


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