I’m looking at Sen. Hillary Clinton’s comments in the wake of her primary victories yesterday in Texas and Ohio, and I’m wondering if I now have even more reason to be worried than I did before. From CNN:
Clinton attributed her wins to the belief of voters that she would be the best candidate to protect the nation.
“For me, this election has always been about who can be the best president, and, you know, that includes who can be the best commander in chief,” she told CNN Wednesday.
Voters also choose her because she would be the best candidate to challenge Sen. John McCain, who locked up the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night, on national security issues in the fall, she said.
“People who voted a month ago didn’t know who the Republican nominee was going to be. They didn’t perhaps factor in that it will be about national security because, indeed, with Senator McCain, that’s what it will be about,” she said.
Sports fans will be familiar with the term “home-court advantage.” When the opponent plays in your barn, you statistically have a significantly better chance of winning. Home-court advantage serves as a useful metaphor for the political world, too. If you can make your opponent defeat you on your terms, you have a lot better chance of winning. If you’re great on domestic policy and you’re running against someone who’s strong on foreign policy, you want to make him/her beat you on domestic policy.
You set the terms of debate. You dictate the vocabulary. You conduct the battle in your areas of strength. And any winning coach knows that if you take away your opponent’s Plan A, you’re in the driver’s seat.
It’s been awhile since the Democrats were more in the driver’s seat than they are – or ought to be – right now. Seven years of GOP Fail-o-Rama have voters ready for a different approach, and that’s nowhere more evident than in the approval ratings of George Dubya Bush, which stand at below a third of the population in most polls. Hell, he’s only at 36% in the FOX poll.
But Clinton’s comments above seem to suggest that she doesn’t want a general election fought on terms favorable to her. She’s ramping up for an away game. Sure, her opponent, John W. McCain (who I believe formally locked up the Republican nomination last night), is going to want to talk about “national security” – what the hell else can he talk about? – but that doesn’t mean the Democratic nominee has to acquiesce.
McDubya: Let’s talk about fear and terror!
Democrat: No, Senator, let’s talk about the real issues facing the American people.
- over 18,000 Americans die each year because they lack adequate health insurance. How many people died in 9/11?
- Middle class? What middle class? Opportunity? What opportunity?
- No Child Left Untested and the moneyed elite’s cynical war on education
- Energy independence and global warming
There’s more – lots more – but you get the idea. If McDubya wants to continue Bush’s legacy of fear, let him talk. Hell, pay for his airtime. Then make clear that one candidate stands for staying in Iraq for a million years and one stands for strengthening America by strengthening America. One is promising more wars while the other is promising to end George Bush’s economically debilitating policy of unprovoked adventures abroad. One candidate has been endorsed by Bush and the other stands for the 70% of Americans who reject Bush and all that he endorses.
Goddammit Hillary, this ain’t rocket surgery. Once upon a time – a time not very long ago, I should note – you had the Dem nomination sewed up, had it won before it got started. Now you’re in a no-disqualification steel cage death match, and you’re in it because of this kind of thinking. You think you can beat Obama by convincing voters – with no evidence whatsoever – that you’re ready to be Commander in Chief? Seriously? You think that’s the answer to Obama’s rhetoric of change?
And if you can win the nomination, you think you’re going to beat The Maverick by campaigning on national security? Sweet fancy Jesus, Hil, that’s the only chance McCain has in this election! If November comes down to a Commander in Chief election, the GOP wins. I don’t think McCain is any more ready to be CiC than anybody else in reality – avoiding unnecessary and unjust war is one of the prerequisites in my book – but we know how much we can count on the intellectual discernment of the voting masses, right?
As I’ve noted before, Clinton isn’t my first choice in 2008, but she’s considerably higher on the list than Dubya’s boy John. There’s a part of me that thinks hey, great, Hillary is committed to a program of ballistic podiatry (that’s fancy talk for shooting yourself in the foot) and that can only help Obama. But the other part of me would like to see all candidates in the race demonstrating a modicum of good sense. And on the chance that she somehow captures the Democratic nod, I’d like to hope that she doesn’t wind up being her own worst enemy. She’d have a powerful home-court advantage, and only a moron in that situation would choose to play on McCain’s terms.
Of course, the other possibility here is that she’s completely right about what the voters are thinking. If thought, we’re about to forge new frontiers in fucked….