The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.
Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.
If nothing else, self interest should push her in that direction. Mrs. Clinton did not get the big win in Pennsylvania that she needed to challenge the calculus of the Democratic race. It is true that Senator Barack Obama outspent her 2-to-1. But Mrs. Clinton and her advisers should mainly blame themselves, because, as the political operatives say, they went heavily negative and ended up squandering a good part of what was once a 20-point lead.
On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.
If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.” [complete article]
Editor’s Comment — The New York Times is clearly experiencing buyer’s remorse about its endorsement of Hillary Clinton when it says her negative campaigning “undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Mr. Obama.”
Well, the New York primary may be over and done with, but even so, if the Times wants to put its name unequivocally where it is already placing its sentiment, how about withdrawing the endorsement and switching to Obama?
Clinton threatens to ‘obliterate’ Iran
How proud the Clintonistas must be. They have learned how to rival what Hillary once termed the “vast right-wing conspiracy” in the effort to destroy a viable Democratic leader who dares to stand in the way of their ambitions. The tactics used to kneecap Barack Obama are the same as had been turned on Bill Clinton in earlier times, from radical-baiting associates to challenging his resolve in protecting the nation from foreign enemies. Sen. Clinton’s eminently sensible and centrist–to a fault–opponent is now viewed as weak and even vaguely unpatriotic because he is thoughtful. Neither Karl Rove nor Dick Morris could have done a better job.
Obama’s gloves are off — and may need to stay off
Unable once again to score a knockout, Sen. Barack Obama is likely to make his new negative tone even more negative — with a sharp eye on trying to end the Democratic presidential nomination fight after the May 6 primaries in Indiana and North Carolina.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s victory yesterday in Pennsylvania has only accentuated the quandary that Obama faces: Stay negative and he risks undermining the premise of his candidacy. Stay aloof and he underscores Clinton’s argument that he will not be able to beat a “Republican attack machine” sure to greet him this summer.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe indicated last night which of those options they would take. “We’ve done a lot of counterpunching. We’ve been swift and effective,” he said. “For Democrats judging how we’re going to perform as the nominee, we have been relentless.”
Obama himself took up the cudgel after Clinton delivered a victory speech in Philadelphia devoid of attack lines. Without naming Clinton, he suggested in Evansville, Ind., that she is a captive to the oil, pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies, that she “says and does whatever it takes to win the next election,” and that she exploits division for political gain.
Clueless in America
We don’t hear a great deal about education in the presidential campaign. It’s much too serious a topic to compete with such fun stuff as Hillary tossing back a shot of whiskey, or Barack rolling a gutter ball.
The nation’s future may depend on how well we educate the current and future generations, but (like the renovation of the nation’s infrastructure, or a serious search for better sources of energy) that can wait. At the moment, no one seems to have the will to engage any of the most serious challenges facing the U.S.
An American kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. That’s more than a million every year, a sign of big trouble for these largely clueless youngsters in an era in which a college education is crucial to maintaining a middle-class quality of life — and for the country as a whole in a world that is becoming more hotly competitive every day.
Ignorance in the United States is not just bliss, it’s widespread. A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900.
Carter spreads a new doctrine
The Arabs first heard of Jimmy Carter when he was elected president of the United States in November 1976. They were skeptical at first, thinking he would pursue Middle East policies no different from those of former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, which were very sympathetic to Israel.
Making things more worrying was that Carter confessed that prior to his election, he had never met an Arab. The new president, however, promised to be different from previous American leaders. From day one, he made it loud and clear that he did not see the world through the narrow alliances of the Cold War; the world was not “you are either with us or with the Soviet Union”.
That is why he invited Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, King Hussein of Jordan, Hafez al-Assad of Syria and Anwar Sadat of Egypt to visit him in Washington.
All of them – with the exception of Syria’s Assad – responded promptly. Rabin, himself a Washington insider for nine years, was furious at the new US president. Carter was taking Middle East initiatives without clearing them first with Israel. Even worse, he was promising statehood to the Palestinians and calling for an end to Syrian-US tension.
Our Gilded Age and theirs
Google “second Gilded Age” and you will get ferried to 7,000 possible sites where you can learn more about what you already instinctively know. That we are living through a gilded age has become a journalistic commonplace. The unmistakable drift of all the talk about it is a Yogi Berra-ism: it’s a matter of déjà vu all over again. But is it? Is turn-of-the-century America a replica of the world Mark Twain first christened “gilded” in his debut bestseller back in the 1870s?
Certainly, Twain would feel right at home today. Crony capitalism, the main object of his satirical wit in The Gilded Age, is thriving. Incestuous plots as outsized as the one in which the Union Pacific Railroad’s chief investors conspired with a wagon-load of government officials, including Ulysses S. Grant’s vice president, to loot the federal treasury once again lubricate the machinery of public policy-making. A cronyism that would have been familiar to Twain has made the wheels go round in these terminal years of the Bush administration. Even the invasion and decimation of Iraq was conceived and carried out as an exercise in grand-strategic cronyism; call it cronyism with a vengeance. All of this has been going on since Ronald Reagan brought back morning to America.
Reagan’s America was gilded by design. In 1981, when the New Rich and the New Right paraded in their sumptuous threads in Washington to celebrate at the new president’s inaugural ball, it was called a “bacchanalia of the haves.” Diana Vreeland, style guru (as well as Nancy Reagan confidante), was stylishly blunt: “Everything is power and money and how to use them both… We mustn’t be afraid of snobbism and luxury.”