March 11, 2008

Hillary's Pyrrhic Victory Strategy Endorsed by New York Times

After the American Century

Hillary Clinton has been attacking Obama in the last week, saying that he is not qualified to be commander in chief. At the same time, she has said that he would be a suitable running mate, as her vice-president. This is self-contradictory nonsense, because the chief qualification for being vice president is being able to take over as president in what may well be a severe crisis upon the death or severe impairment of the President. Clinton cannot have it both ways. If having Obama as her running mate would be a "dream ticket" that is unstoppable, as her husband says, then he must by defnition be qualified for President.

Now the New York Times, which earlier endorsed Mrs. Clinton, has published an article saying that these attacks and others that I will not give more currency by repeating them here, are realistically her only option. According to Adam Nagoruney in today's paper, Clinton must pursue this option because she cannot hope to win enough pledged delegates in the primaries and caucuses, and therefore has to spend her time calling Obama unqualified, rather than presenting her program. Rubbish. Nonsense.

First of all, on the question of qualifications and experience, what Clinton has been saying about experience is nonsense. Abraham Lincoln had less Washington experience than Obama, but somehow managed to be the greatest president in the most dire crisis of the Civil War. Woodrow Wilson had very little Washington experience, having been a college professor and administrator at Princeton. Yet he somehow managed to be a rather impressive president as well. One the other hand, there are many examples of peole with lots of Washington experience being unsucessful presidents, for example Van Buren, Taft, and Bush I. There is no necessary correlation between time spent in Washington and being able to get your agenda through Congress, either. Ronald Reagan had been a governor, never a Senator or a Congressman in Washington, and therefore, by Hillary Clinton's logic, he was not qualified to be president, and certainly had no claim on being commander in chief. I am not particularly a fan of Reagan, but he certainly was effective at getting his agenda through Congress.

So, if Hillary is spouting nonsense about experience, what should we be looking at? How about the ability to run a political campaign? Here the candidate has far more control than when dealing with Congress or foreign nations. A candidate should be able to organize and control an effective campaign, as a test to see how well he or she might manage the large staff at the White House. By this test, Hillary is not ready to be president. She mismanaged her money, her staff is often at odds, she had to reorganize after Feburary 5, and she has been unable to present a consistent, positive message to the American people. Instead, she has resorted to whining, negative campagining, and destructive behavior that all admit is helping the Republicans. Is this the behavior of someone ready to be president? Obama came in as the underdog, scracely known to most Americans, and created a tremendously effective campaign, whether measured in terms of its fund raising, fiscal discipline, or organization. He also looks like someone who can inspire loyality, while Clinton is spreading discord. As president, confronting the Republicans and an unpredictable international scene, with her we could expect negativity, self-dramatizaton as the "victim", poor coordination, or loss of control over the budget. Who will vote for that?

If Hillary Clinton has reached the point where she thinks the only way to become president is to launch the negative attacks one expects from the Republicans, perhaps she should consider joining that party. She could be Senator McCain's running mate. After all, she has already developed the negative arguments, and he could take the high road, letting her throw the mud. And given his age, she might be able to take over during his second term.

Shame on the New York Times for publishing and condoning an analysis of such monstruous stupidity. Shame on you Hillary Clinton for spreading it around in the first place. Until a few weeks ago, I was ready to support Clinton if she won over Obama fair and square. No more. The best the Clinton can achieve with her new strategy is a pyrrhic victory. The phrase is an allusion to how King Pyrrhus defeated the Romans twice, in 280 and 279 BC, but lost so much strength in the process that he lost the war. If Clinton wins such a victory over Obama through negative attacks, with the assistance of the New York Times, the Democrats will risk defeat rather than the massive victory that once was possible in November.