Monday, August 04, 2008

A Nasty Two-Way Street

One thing that continues to hurt the Democratic party, and results in an absurd number of self-described Democrats to say they're "undecided" or inclined to vote for McCain,1 is the party's tendency to devour itself. You saw the same thing going on during the Republican primaries but, now that they have their candidate, for the most part they're pulling themselves together and presenting a unified front. The Dems have never been that disciplined.

Making it worse, of course, is the continued tension between the Clintons and their supporters and the Obama team. You'll still find Clinton dead-ender sites saying it's Obama's fault that race is presently an issue in the campaign, or that picking Hillary Clinton as a Vice Presidential candidate would be a magic cure-all for Obama's campaign, but portending disaster if he picks somebody else. Meanwhile, this type of conduct is also blamed on Obama:
Snow asked Clinton, "Do you personally have any regrets about what you did campaigning for your wife?"

With his arms folded and looking a bit tense, Clinton replied, "Yes, but not the ones you think. And it would be counterproductive for me to talk about it."

Barely pausing for a breath, he added, "There are things I wish I'd urged her to do, things I wish I had said, things I wish I hadn't said. But I am not a racist, I never made a racist comment, and I didn't attack him personally," a clear allusion to Sen. Barack Obama.
So he won't go into the mistakes that he regrets, but he'll stick in something he wasn't asked about - something that as being "counterproductive" goes can only help McCain - the implication that Obama or Obama's supporters wrongly branded him as a racist.

Seriously, folks, other than some poor choices of words that one would not expect from a politician of Clinton's skill, has anybody said, "Bill Clinton's a racist"? Does anybody believe that Bill Clinton's a racist? If so, I'd like to meet this person. There is a population that views some of the Clinton team's comments as having been intended to draw attention to Obama's race, and imply the rhetorical question, "Can a black candidate win the election", but there's a world of difference between believing the Clintons engaged in some low road politics and believing that they're racist. (And no, I don't care if their perception is entirely fair, entirely unfair, or somewhere in between - it exists, and thus it's something that must be dealt with.)

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman asks why the Obama camp isn't engaged in rapprochement. And he raises a valid point. Obama is too slow to credit Clinton, either individually or as a Democratic President, when contrasting the 90's to the Bush II years. And perhaps as the nominee, Obama should take the initiative.

But at the same time, unless they've been secretly told with 100% certainty that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee, I think it would do wonders if the Clinton camp would stop playing up Hillary Clinton as the best, perhaps only, V.P. choice, and start campaigning unreservedly for Obama. And if they have been told that Hillary Clinton will be the V.P. choice, they should already be doing just that.

As it stands, there's something to the Hillary Clinton dead-enders' claim - which to me comes across as a gloat - that Obama will be harmed by any choice of V.P. other than Clinton. If he picks a woman, "Why is she more qualified than Clinton?" If he picks a man, "Why not a woman?" But you know what? If the "white voter" concerns Hillary Clinton raised are as pressing as she suggested at the time - and pretty much everybody concedes that there is a block of voters that is unlikely or unwilling to vote for a black man - I don't think that his picking her will help him with that block. I'm not sure that any pick will, but unfortunately I suspect that the type of voter at issue would be most influenced by the presence of a white man on the ticket.

Meanwhile, something brooding , negative comments don't help overcome are the Clinton's negatives with large numbers of voters. Sure, they're mostly Republicans, but some are independents or "swing" voters. Clinton's negatives raise valid concerns for the Obama team that adding her to the ticket could hurt him in the polls. A cheery, enthusiastic Clinton team pressing right now for Obama's victory (whatever their personal feelings may be) could help demonstrate both that the Clintons can help Obama win and that concerns about Hillary Clinton's negatives are overblown. A sulking, half-hearted "he's the candidate"-type endorsement, accompanied by the reciprocal nursing of grudges over a hard-fought primary? The Clintons are more than smart enough to know where that leads. Here's an idea: no more of the childish refusal to endorse Obama as qualified to be President.

I guess this goes out to Obama and both Clintons: You need to be in this to win, and to the extent that it means you have to "get over yourselves", do it.
1. I think there's an inherent absurdity for any person, after proclaiming ideological alignment with one political party, to then say, "But I'm going to vote for the other party's presidential candidate." If your party affiliation is that tenuous, why claim it in the first place?

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