Friday, May 23, 2008

Bambi vs Godzilla? 

Interesting to read the British New Statesman magazine analysis about why Hillary is losing -- they seem to be surprised that Obama is actually a ruthless competitor:
Hillary Clinton (along with her husband) is being universally depicted as a loathsome racist and negative campaigner, not so much because of anything she has said or done, but because the overwhelmingly pro-Obama media - consciously or unconsciously - are following the agenda of Senator Barack Obama and his chief strategist, David Axelrod, to tear to pieces the first serious female US presidential candidate in history.
"What's particularly saddening," says Paul Krugman, professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton and a rare dissenting voice from the left as a columnist in the New York Times, "is the way many Obama supporters seem happy with the . . . way pundits and some news organisations treat any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent." Despite widespread reporting to the contrary, Krugman believes that most of the "venom" in the campaign "is coming from supporters of Obama".
This actually explains something I had noticed for months -- I kept reading Hillary supporters saying they would happily vote for Obama if Hillary lost, while Obama supporters were characterizing her as the evil spawn of Satan.
The article explains why this happened, though it dives a little too far down the rabbit hole:
But Obama himself prepared the ground by making the first gratuitous personal attack of the campaign during the televised Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate in South Carolina on 21 January, although virtually every follower of the media coverage now assumes that it was Clinton who started the negative attacks. Following routine political sniping from her about supposedly admiring comments Obama had made about Ronald Reagan, Obama suddenly turned on Clinton and stared intimidatingly at her. "While I was working in the streets," he scolded her, ". . . you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of Wal-Mart." Then, cleverly linking her inextricably in the public consciousness with her husband, he added: "I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes."
One of his female staff then distributed a confidential memo to carefully selected journalists which alleged that a vaguely clumsy comment Hillary Clinton had made about Martin Luther King ("Dr King's dream began to be realised when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964") and a reference her husband had made in passing to Nelson Mandela ("I've been blessed in my life to know some of the greatest figures of the last hundred years . . . but if I had to pick one person whom I know would never blink, who would never turn back, who would make great decisions . . . I would pick Hillary") were deliberate racial taunts.
Another female staffer, Candice Tolliver - whose job it is to promote Obama to African Americans - then weighed in publicly, claiming that "a cross-section of voters are alarmed at the tenor of some of these statements" and saying: "Folks are beginning to wonder: Is this an isolated situation, or is there something bigger behind all of this?" That was game, set and match: the Clintons were racists, an impression sealed when Bill Clinton later compared Obama's victory in South Carolina to those of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988 (even though Jackson himself, an Obama supporter, subsequently declared Clinton's remarks to be entirely inoffensive).
This anecdote reminded me a bit of the Cheney bait-and-switch, when Cheney would feed stories to the New York Times, then describe how the Bush administration policies were justified because of the stories in the New York Times.
But that unpleasant comparison aside, to me this mainly goes to prove that Obama vs. Hillary wasn't exactly the Bambi vs Godzilla match that the media seemed to think it was.
Now, Hillary has done herself no favours at all, pulling stunts like the 3 am phone call ad ["Hi, is Bill there?"] instead of apologizing for her Iraq War vote -- those misjudgments were all her own, not Obama's fault in the least. But this article reassures me that maybe Obama knows perfectly well there are no rules in a knife fight. He won't win the presidency unless he is prepared to fight for it.
The article continues
Obama and Axelrod have achieved their objectives: to belittle Hillary Clinton and to manoeuvre the ever-pliant media into depicting every political criticism she makes against Obama as racist in intent.
The danger is that, in their headlong rush to stop the first major female candidate (aka "Hildebeast" and "Hitlery") from becoming president, the punditocracy may have landed the Democrats with perhaps the least qualified presidential nominee ever. But that creeping realisation has probably come too late, and many of the Democratic super-delegates now fear there would be widespread outrage and increased racial tension if they thwart the first biracial presidential hopeful in US history.
But will Obama live up to the hype? That, I fear, may not happen: he is a deeply flawed candidate.
Oh, really? Well, he seems to be doing just fine against the originally unstoppable Clintons.
Personally, as I have said before, I am sad to see Hillary losing, mainly because I have been afraid that Obama couldn't win a presidential election
But in a perverse way, this article actually made me feel a little more confident that Obama has what it takes to win.
Hey, has anybody noticed how many stories you are reading these days about McCain's bad temper? And his flip flops. And how old he is?
Gee, I wonder why.

UPDATE: Regarding the latest flap, I pretty much agree with this -- read the comments, too.

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