A strange campaign just got a little stranger. Hillary Clinton’s continued over-the-top claims about her “experience” have obviously impressed some voters while causing others to puzzle over just what the true nature of that experience is and how it relates to her run for president. In a startling moment at a campaign stop she described herself and John McCain as stalwarts in the experience game and boiled down Barack Obama’s credentials to “a speech in 2002”.
Now she may possibly have made a few points courting some cross-over Republican votes and she may also have succeeded in dimming some of Obama’s luster. But in what has become a cringe-producing campaign effort she also reinvigorated a lot of those unfortunate feelings about the “politics of personal destruction” so often associated with the Clintons. When was the last time a candidate from one party praised an opposing party’s candidate in an attempt to denigrate an opponent in their own party – – and did so, it should be added, with such questionable tactics.
The fact is that Obama has an outstanding educational background – – was elected president of Harvard’s Law Review and taught constitutional law at The University of Chicago. As for hands-on experience he went back to Illinois to tackle problems in Chicago’s inner-city both on the streets and in court when he could have chosen instead to find more lucrative employment in some high-priced corporate law firm. He went on to serve eight years in the Illinois Legislature and has served for the last three years in the U.S. Senate – – so it could actually be said that he has more years of legislative experience than Senator Clinton.
Hillary keeps referring to her “thirty-five years of experience” although it isn’t clear what was so remarkable about those years, even the eight years when husband Bill was in The White House. Just being in the vicinity when important decisions are being made isn’t exactly a resume headline. Actually, she’s over ten years older than Obama so perhaps simply having birthdays helps one acquire gravitas.
And then there are those pesky little votes – – first the one authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq. It doesn’t help that Hillary admits to not having read the intelligence report regarding the possible existence of WMD in Iraq or the need for actually invading that country. But okay, people make mistakes. It could also have been a political calculation on her part to show her resolve in terms of what many on the hysterical right were calling national security. So be it. But more recently she voted to endorse a resolution the White House was pushing to define Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, something many regarded as a precursor to what could become the administration’s pretext for its next military incursion, this time into Iran.
So now that the Clintonian fear tactics and innuendoes seem to have worked and netted her some victories in “big states” Hillary may in fact find a way to overcome her delegate deficit and become the nominee. But questions abound regarding some of the means to that end. Why, for instance, did she waffle on 60 Minutes the other night when asked about statements in some quarters that Obama is a Muslim? At first she was adamant that he wasn’t yet added finally, “as far as I know”, thus keeping the rumor alive. And the thrice recycled red-phone commercial that aired just before the primaries may have worked to her advantage as well. It helped Fritz Mondale a while back – – well maybe not enough, but Hillary can probably work it all the way to the general election.
If she is the nominee Hillary will get my vote; any Democratic candidate is better than ending up with another Republican administration, but her sidewinder political approach will make it hard to trust her truthfulness and judgment in the future. It is far from clear that what she calls change is what most folks had in mind and, in the end a vote for her will be cast with distaste and tinged with regret.