At this stage in the race for the White House, no one has any doubts anymore that moving back into her “home” of eight years is Hillary Clinton’s overriding motivation. She spends more time denigrating and “misspeaking” about her opponent, Barack Obama, than about issues, or Republican candidate John McCain; to the point that Americans are becoming fed up with the nasty tone of the battle between the two Democratic candidates.
According to a new poll, 50% of Americans (as well as 50% of Democrats) now believe that the campaign has become too nasty – so nasty, in fact, that 20% of those polled say that they will not vote for Clinton in November if she is nominated.
Obama, meanwhile, finds himself in a tricky situation. After promising a new style of politics, he can hardly engage in mudslinging the way Clinton does. If he turns too negative, voters will accuse him of flip-flopping on his promise, and Clinton will doubtless let people know that Obama’s new way of politics eerily looks like the old; that is, her approach to political campaigning.
But how many more punches and low blows must Obama take before he is willing to speak up for himself? Following Clinton’s win in Pennsylvania, political pundits and observers have begun to urge Obama to take the gloves off and go after Clinton at full blast. Both he and his campaign are resisting these calls for getting tough.
While the two candidates battle it out, the Democratic party is slowly falling apart. Some high-level Democrats have called on Clinton to drop out of the race for the sake of the party, and more recently, one Slate.com blogger has suggested that Obama should be the one withdrawing from the race, so that he can run and win in 2012.
This is very bad advice. Obama’s moment is now – not only for himself, but also, more crucially, for America. America needs a president like Obama now, not in 2012, when McCain would have had four years to drive the country even deeper into the hole – yes, McCain, because the only way to prevent McCain from becoming president is to pair him off against Obama, for Clinton does not stand a chance against the war veteran.
The nastiness, however, is not limited to the Democratic side. McCain has intimated that Obama is a candidate “favored by Hamas” and that Obama would be a president serving Hamas and terrorist interests, rather than American ones. McCain, who is a respected “senior citizen” and liked, or at least tolerated, by both Republicans and Democrats, has certainly hit a low point in the campaign with his remarks, which have tinfoil written all over them. In the far-fetched department, his comments are about as logical or reasonable as if he had claimed that Obama had arrived on earth 47 years ago in a space ship and had been raised by a family on a farm in Kansas.
Among Republicans, this will not harm him much, even though many, and a growing number of, Republicans have been slipping over into the Obama camp. Nor will this open up a gaping rift in the Republican party, because their candidate has been nominated, and now they are all determined to close ranks.
Democrats who are disgusted with the hostilities exchanged between Clinton and Obama, some of whom have indicated to pollsters that they might vote Republican if their favorite candidate does not make it, may now have second thoughts about the Arizona senator. If nothing else, McCain has lived up again to his reputation of being a hothead. This is exactly one of several factors that would allow Obama to take the White House in a campaign against McCain: when given a choice between Obama and McCain, Americans will most definitely opt for Obama, who thinks things through first (he is probably the slowest-talking politician in the country right now), whereas McCain has a tendency to fly off the handle – not a good thing when you are the commander-in-chief in charge of the “red button”.
Democrats must be scared stiff right now. Since Clinton has a tendency to attack Obama as if she were running for the Republicans, she might be tempted to pick up on McCain’s comment and start accusing Obama of being “a terrorist’s favorite president”. With the party on the verge of breaking into two camps, this would provide the absolutely final blow to the Democratic party. Alternatively, there will be a price to pay if Clinton fails to defend her fellow Democrat against such preposterous accusations.
American politics is a business of underhanded tactics, which is why it fascinates so many people around the world. It is, therefore, quite conceivable that Rev. Jeremiah Wright was dropped back into the game by either Clinton or McCain in order to cause further damage to the Obama campaign. It is true, of course that the original Wright controversy was simply too good to be true, and anyone who is opposed to Obama would do his or her best to make sure voters do not forget about the good old reverend and his politically incorrect remarks.
As if this were not enough, Obama is also still being beaten over the head with the “William Ayers” stick and the “Weather Underground connection”. If more or less passing acquaintances of questionable character were a real obstacle to running for public office, the entire US Congress and the White House would be empty. Everyone knows someone they should not know, but those paths that so often cross in people’s lives are inevitable and beyond anyone’s control.
I once ran into Jörg Haider, even talked to him, but I certainly do not belong to any of his political parties and groups, and I cannot be held personally responsible for anything that man says or does – it would be utterly ridiculous if anyone tried. Unfortunately, Obama’s opponents are not afraid of looking downright bizarre.
One thing is for certain, though. The longer Obama and Clinton clash with each other, the more likely it is that the Democratic party will cease to be a single party, and the more likely it is that Americans may have to face another four years of a Republican administration with Bush and Bush-lite policies. Looking at America’s current problems, and the challenges it will face down the road, every American should wish, pray and chant any possible spells that this particular scenario never comes to pass.