Tuesday, March 11, 2008

VeepTalk; or, a Crock of Clintons

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'll let Jon Chait explain, then comment:

Hillary Clinton's main argument for the presidency is that she is ready to be commander-in-chief, and Barack Obama is not. At the same time, her campaign has repeatedly floated the prospect that she could add him to her ticket as vice-President (which her polling apparently shows might attract wavering voters who like both to vote for her.) But how could she put him a heartbeat away froma job for which he's totally unqualified?

Clinton's chief spokesman tried to square the positions thusly:


Howard Wolfson, Clinton's chief spokesman, said during a conference call with reporters that Clinton would not pick a running mate who has not met the "national security threshold" -- as Clinton's military advisers and Wolfson put it on the call -- but that it is possible Obama could meet that threshold by this summer's Democratic convention.

Wolfson repeated Clinton's weekend assertion that picking Obama is "not something she would rule out at this point," but he also repeated that Obama is not ready to be commander in chief, a key requirement to being Clinton's running mate.

When asked if Obama could do something to cross that "threshold," Wolfson said, "It's not something that I'm prepared to rule out at this time."


But wait -- if Obama could cross the threshold by this summer, why not vote for him, since he'd still have another six months before he assumed office?

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton was asked the same thing about Obama's alleged unreadiness, and replied, "That's politics." Now, there's often a lot of comedy when campaign flaks have to justify the sort of spin that always goes on in campaigns. But the claim that Obama isn't ready to be president isn't ordinary spin, it's the central rationale for Clinton's candidacy. Now her campaign is tacitly admitting it's pure bullshit, just something she has to say to get elected. [emphasis added]


Basically, the Clinton campaign is all about smearing Obama. It barely even tries to make a positive case for its candidate anymore, other than the bogus "experience" argument.

However, it is smart enough to recognize Obama's incredible appeal, and it is now trying to lure over some of Obama's softer supporters by suggesting that he would make a fine running mate for Clinton. Simultaneously, that is, the Clinton campaign is smearing and praising Obama: He's good enough (and experienced enough) to be vice president, but not good enough (or experienced enough) to be president. Or, rather, he may become good enough (and experienced enough) to be vice president, but only, as Chris Orr points out, delving into the inane Clinton mind, if he loses: "Specifically, the Clinton camp suggests that there is little chance of Obama proving himself qualified should he become the Democratic nominee, but at least a reasonable chance that he will prove himself qualified if Clinton is the nominee and wants to consider him for the v.p. slot. In other words, according to Hillaryland logic, the clearest way Barack Obama can demonstrate his foreign-policy bona fides is by losing to her."

Yes, "bullshit" is the right word for this. It is yet another desperate ploy from a campaign that has, in defeat, been trying to rebuild itself on desperate ploys -- like accusing Obama of plagiarism, complaining about the media coverage, cozying up to (and praising) McCain, attacking Obama's inspirational message of hope (and ignoring the substance of his campaign), playing the fear card (and feeding into the culture of fear), seeking to convert Obama's pledged delegates, and throwing out excuse after excuse in response to each and every loss.

Clinton isn't serious about making Obama her running mate -- and he has responded to the ploy extremely well, picking it apart brilliantly (see the video below: note that he doesn't join her in the gutter -- he doesn't smear her or attack her maliciously; rather, he expresses his respect for her, even after all this, showing remarkable magnanimity, a virtue clearly lacking in his opponent). All she wants is to convince some of Obama's supporters that a vote for her would, in effect, be a vote for him, that, as long as they like her, too, they could have it both ways, a "dream ticket" with her at the top (of course). It's politics of an especially cynical variety. She's hoping she can carve out a few extra votes here and there by duping voters into taking her seriously. As Obama put it, she's trying to "bamboozle" and "hoodwink" voters.

"You have to make a choice in this election."

That choice should be Obama.

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