Friday, June 06, 2008

Obama crosses Finishing Line - Clinton keeps on Running

from Tribune, 6 June 2008

As I write, Associated Press has finally called the Democratic Primary for Obama. So far Hillary Clinton has not conceded, and presumably still hopes for her rival to be found snuggled in bed with Osama Bin Laden, or maybe even that one of her “hard-working white voters” may be catalyzed by her evocation of Robert Kennedy’s assassination as an example of how Primary outcomes can change unexpectedly. She has allegedly told her New York congressional colleagues that she would be open to running as Vice President on an Obama/Clinton ticket.

This would be one of the more debilitating dynastic matches ever made. Poor Obama would have a hard job fending off Clinton and spouse for his term of office. Electorally, he would have to compromise his promise of a new leaf in politics by grafting two of the most unprincipled stalking egotists in recent American politics onto his general election campaign.

A former Vice President once compared the office in importance to a “bucketful of warm spit,” but a Vice Presidential Clintonian job-share (which it surely would be) could be guaranteed to bring the house down if they did not get their way.
After all, they have already almost done that by prolonging the agony hoping that something would turn up.

The debilitating effect of the Democratic Primaries has been exactly as I predicted it over a year ago. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent squaring Hillary Clinton off against Barack Obama and using precisely the slimeball tactics that the right had used against her and her husband. With the difference that Monika Lewinski was real while Obama’s “madrasa” education was totally fictional.

I wish it were possible to exonerate Clinton of playing to the worst racist and anti-Muslim sentiments, but it isn’t really. Could such an experienced hand really have “accidentally” mentioned that she had the strongest support among hard-working “white” folks, with the consequent assumption that non-whites, idle welfare queens and feckless poor blacks were Obama supporters? Her comments were the equivalent of Obama saying that he had the support of most politically astute males while only ditzy bra-burners supported Hillary. And was her Kennedy assassination quip a Freudian wish fulfillment lapse or a hint? Neither way did it look good.

To his credit Obama has been turning the other cheek and not fighting back in kind as the Clintonistas would have liked, since then he would have forfeited his nice guy – and responsible party person – image which has had him winning the support of Democratic activists. While Hillary wanted to know why he had not disavowed his fiery pastor Jeremiah Wright, he forbore to ask loudly why the Clinton’s had invited him to the White House.

Obama sedulously avoided damaging future Democratic prospects against McCain, which he could easily have done by rattling the countless skeletons in the Clinton closet. She showed no such inhibitions. For the Clintons, like their erstwhile soul-mate Tony Blair, all politics is personal. The purpose is to save the country and the world by getting “me” elected.

Indeed, her hanging on in the primary when it was statistically impossible to win was quintessentially Clintonesque in the best family tradition. Somewhat reminiscent of Comical Ali as Baghdad fell her question to the media has been “Who are you going to believe? Me or the evidence of your own eyes?”

Firstly, she discounted the popular vote, and alerted everyone to the importance of the party placeholders, the “superdelegates.” Then, when the latter turned against her for her manifest willingness to sacrifice the Democrat’s general election chances on the altar of her self-perceived worthiness she decided the popular vote was what mattered – discounting the states that sensibly have caucuses. Originally, she agreed that the Florida and Michigan delegations should not be counted because they broke the rules on primaries – and then decided that because she needed their votes, they should after all be seated.

While these standards of duplicity certainly make her a fitting successor to the last two Presidents, Obama would have to do his maths very carefully to weigh how many extra votes she brought to the equation – and keep looking over his shoulder.

This is not to say that Obama’s election is in any way going to resemble the Second Coming. Any candidate who has been through the mill of the primaries has been ground down towards the centre, and Fox slurs notwithstanding, he did not exactly begin the race out of left field. He certainly has shown more integrity than either McCain or Clinton, and on foreign policy issues has offered some hope compared with them.

Perhaps most important is what his adoption as the Democratic candidate, let alone his election as President represents. While faux-feminist supporters of Clinton claimed the first woman in the White House had more potential social content than the election of a black, it does not stand up to scrutiny (not least for those of who saw the downside of the first woman in Number 10). Women in the US were not generally kidnapped, raped, enslaved, tortured and terrorized – unless they were black. They were not lynched, disenfranchised and banned from living in decent areas or going to decent schools as happened to black men and women in very recent living memory.

Obama’s election would finally put some truth in the pleasant rumours that a bunch of slaveholders spread some two score decades ago about all men being created equal.

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