Quicksand

With doubts about Hillary Clinton’s viability growing, the Clinton campaign appears to be mired in quicksand.  In this quicksand, Team Clinton has found themselves in a situation where their struggles to stay afloat seem to focus on everything except the actual merits of the candidate.

Part of what I’m talking about is hinted at by a recent memo that Clinton’s campaign manager Maggie Williams has set out.

2008 is shaping up to be a great year for democracy. The ride to the nomination has been competitive – I believe exactly as our founders hoped it would be.
In the Democratic Party, fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Democrats Abroad and 3 territories vote to determine who will be our party’s nominee.
As of today, the citizens of 42 states, the District of Columbia, Democrats Abroad and 2 territories have had an opportunity to vote – and they have exercised that right in overwhelming numbers. But the citizens in Pennsylvania, Guam, North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia, Oregon, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota have not yet had the opportunity to exercise that fundamental right. Together, this adds up to nearly 43 million Americans. Are their voices any less important than those of the citizens who have already voted?
Hillary Clinton respects those voters and their right to participate in this historic contest. Their votes, along with all the others, will determine when this contest is at an end. It’s the American way – everybody counts in this country.
The last time that we were told we’d better cut the process short or the sky would fall was when the Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount in 2000. But Chicken Little was wrong. What was true then is true now: there is nothing to fear – and everything to gain – from hearing from all of the voters.
The simple fact is that this election is too close to call.
After 46 primaries and caucuses, by virtually every measure, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are neck and neck – separated by roughly 130 of the more than 3,100 delegates committed thus far and less than 1% of the 27 million-plus votes cast, including Florida and Michigan. Less than 1%! With hundreds of delegates still uncommitted, neither candidate has reached the number of delegates required to secure the nomination. And either candidate can reach the required number in the coming weeks and months.
This is indisputable.
No amount of editorials, articles, blog posts, calculations, formulas or projections or friendly, but heated political conversations can change the basic fact that either candidate can win. We have all been there before when the pundits have proclaimed that Hillary had no hope of winning. Hillary Clinton has been counted out of this race three times before – and each time, with their votes, the American people asked her to stay in the race.
Elections are important because they allow voters to decide how they want the big issues confronting them addressed. Millions of voters are awaiting their turn to answer the questions:
Who is the best candidate to address the economic, health care, environmental and security issues confronting our country? Who is the best candidate to go toe to toe with John McCain? Which of the candidates is best positioned to win the 270 electoral votes needed to become the next president?
This campaign will wait to hear from all of the voters.
###

Now, one can pretty easily argue against the basic merits of Williams’ argument, but that’s not really the point.  Even more basic than the arguments that Williams puts forth is the idea that, as much as many may not really like it, as long as Hillary wants to stay in the race she has the right to.  The actual point is that this is not an argument for her candidate; it’s merely an argument for the race to go on.

Ultimately it is an appeal for the clock to keep running at least until one of the Hail Mary throws tossed up by the Clinton campaign actually connects.

Key to this is also the assurances coming from the Clinton campaign that their efforts will not tear the party apart.  Shorter: we’re going to do whatever it takes, but don’t worry, no matter how much it may seem like we’re killing the party, we really aren’t.

This was part of the point that Harold Ickes made in an interview with TPM Election Central’s Greg Sargent, but at the same time he also confirmed a thoroughly unconscionable tactic employed by the Hillary Clinton campaign; using Jeremiah Wright in an attempt to woo Super Delegates.

But in bringing up John Kerry’s swift-boating, Ickes sort of undermines his own argument.  The moral to the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth story is not to put up the most vetted and safe candidate you can find.  Indeed, it was almost a cautionary tale that warns against it.  Part of Kerry’s appeal was that he appeared unassailable given his honored service in the US Navy.  But that which was supposed to give him a strong contrast against Bush’s questionable years of service ended up being a huge part of Kerry’s downfall.

The lesson to be learned was not in providing a candidate that was free of weaknesses, but instead a candidate that can pivot and effectively campaign amid adversity.  To this degree, the Wright controversy has become something of a strength for Obama as a weakness.  Yes, he’ll get hit with it again before November, but unlike Kerry, we have also seen that he is well equipped to cope with that when it comes.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton has struggled amid her own controversial flap with the tall tale told about the snipers in Bosnia, and she has not handled it with much grace at all.  Indeed, it could hardly be considered a coincidence that voters are having a problem with Clinton’s credibility.

Which brings me back to my point.  This campaign is both desperate and flailing.  They are doing everything but making a case for their own candidate. While Barack Obama has shifted towards going after McCain, the Clinton campaign is caught in between sinking Obama and forcing the primary to go on as long as it needs to for her to win.  The whole time, what kind of narrative has she built for herself?  What kind of argument is she putting up now that she will be the stronger opponent against McCain, or even, just a better president?

If she really expects Super Delegates to overturn the pledged delegate leaders, if she really wants Democrats to be okay with that, if she really wants to follow through on the promises that her continued presence in this race won’t tear the party apart, than she absolutely must quit trying to move goal posts, quit trying to knee cap the Obama campaign, and start showing us what Hillary Clinton would do to John McCain in the fall.

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4 Responses to “Quicksand”

  1. DrGail says:

    Amen Kyle. This reminds me of someone who can’t make up their mind and so chooses to flip a coin. After the coin comes up heads, they want to go for two out of three. Of course, at this point, the person KNOWS what they want to do, so flipping a coin is irrelevant.

    In this instance, the decision appears to have already been made — Obama is our candidate — but Hillary’s campaign wants to keep flipping the coin looking for a different result.

    Unfortunately, Hillary’s opportunity to define herself as the best option to defeat McCain and lead the country has long past. Given that we all acknowledge she has the right to stay in the campaign as long as she wants, or until the requisite number of delegates has been won by someone, I think we need to start framing that as a plus for the country and for the party.

    Interestingly enough, Obama has already touched on this issue. http://tinyurl.com/3b68le (One more example of fine leadership, imho.) As a party, we believe in opportunity for all and letting anyone compete who has both the stomach and stuff for doing so, and the continued primary campaign is simply an example of that. We should support and encourage this, provided everyone plays by some reasonable rules of civility, supporting the party, and so on.

    When I look at it through this frame, I find myself getting increasingly calm and serene, so I think I’m onto something here. . .

  2. Dynamic says:

    So I just noticed a “John McCain for President” ad on the sidebar of your page.

    It says “Paid for by John McCain 2008”

    Now, I’m not as internet savvy as I could be, so correct me if I’m wrong, but does that mean if I click through on that ad that your site gets money from the McCain campaign?

    So I can help fund your site, and take money from McCain, all in one click?

    Sorry to be off topic, but I am really curious about this, because I’ve clicked it a couple times now and I’ll click it a lot more if that’s the case.

  3. Dynamic says:

    More on topic – I think this is a good point you’re making. Hillary’s campaign rarely addresses her own qualifications anymore. They only talk about the campaign, the primary, the process… it’s most assuredly a sign of desperation.

  4. Gail: Yup, that’s the tactic. While it’s going to be difficult for me personally to do so, I think we need to start slowly shifting from wishing Hillary would drop out to acting as if she already has.

    D: You know, I really don’t know. It’s somewhat annoying, though. It’s the way google ads works, I understand–they randomly put up ads based on word hits on the page. Since McCain si becoming an increasingly bigger topic around here that is my guess as to why he keeps popping up.

    Oh well.

    And you’re right, to a point. I mean, I know both candidates are on the stump touting their own virtues, but in the major narratives, we’re not even essentially talking about if she’s qualified to be the president or nominee, and now this has become a discussion about whether or not she’s qualified to be a candidate.

    God…

    I wish I could have framed it like that when I wrote the piece.

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