Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Abandon All Hope

A former advisor to Bill Clinton, and business partner[1] of Mark Penn, has an op-ed in today's Washington Post that illustrates the true nature of what is left of Hillary's presidential campaign: cynicism.

Douglas Schoen presents his op-ed as a suggestion for Clinton to abandon what has supposedly been a positive campaign so far in favor of a scorched-earth assault that will render Barack Obama unelectable in the fall.

Clinton has provided a compelling case for her candidacy thus far. After all, the superdelegates have the power to end the Democratic contest now and have chosen to wait. At the very least, Clinton has created enough doubts about Obama and his electability to have earned a chance to compete in the next handful of primaries. But Clinton will almost certainly lose the pledged delegate count and the popular vote. To capture the nomination despite these facts she must convince the superdelegates that she is the only candidate who can win against John McCain in November.

As the underdog, Clinton's positive message will not work unless she is able to undermine Obama's candidacy. The Illinois senator's success has been largely built upon his claims that he is a unifier who can work above partisan politics, that he will bring change to our government and that he will bring a new style of leadership to Washington. Without bringing a strong amount of skepticism to these claims, Clinton will not be able to make significant inroads in Obama's lead and cannot persuade the superdelegates to go against the will of the American people.
The harshest fair assessment of Clinton's rationale for her candidacy has been that she wants the nomination even if she cannot earn it by winning enough votes. That rationale is laid out here in explicit terms. It is bracing to see in black and white the acknowledgement that for her to get the nomination, Clinton must convince Democratic Party elites to defy the will of the voters. And make no mistake, this has been the rationale driving her campaign, despite Schoen's conceit of presenting it as "a new strategy."

The foundation of Hillary Clinton's candidacy is the assumption that she knows better than the voters what is good for them and for their party. Stripped of the rhetoric, her core message is that the voters cannot be trusted with their votes.

And she calls Obama an out-of-touch elitist.

Schoen goes on to argue, redundantly, that in order to win the Democratic Party nomination for president, Clinton must campaign as a Republican.

Clinton needs to argue that despite what Obama has said, he has done very little to actually promote and create bipartisan solutions in Washington and that he is, in fact, probably the Senate's most liberal member. She needs to argue that his values are out of step with voters, as evidenced by his recent comments about why people are religious or seek to own guns. She also must argue that because of Obama's lack of legislative accomplishments, he is ill-equipped to achieve what he sets out to do.
Again, this is exactly what Clinton and her surrogates have been doing. Her campaign has already derided Obama supporters as latte-sipping liberals. She certainly hasn't hesitated to pander on right-wing "values" hotbuttons such as God and guns. She has even adopted the time-tested Republican technique of posing as a warrior to bolster her national security credentials.

And none of this is new. In January, during a three-way Democratic debate, she unleashed a 1980s-vintage GOP talking point against John Edwards.

Trial lawyers! I mean, what's next? Characterizing Democrats as pro-abortion baby killers?

And now this hack consultant Doug Schoen is advising Clinton to ramp up the negativity and bury her campaign even deeper in mud.

The problem is, there isn't much lower for her to go. About the only right-wing attack meme she hasn't adopted is criticizing Obama for getting oral sex from a White House intern.

But certainly, she wouldn't... I mean, you don't think...


[1] Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates

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