Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hillary Can't Punch

One of the biggest mistakes the Clinton campaign made was in their all-attack policy. It's like they took the "War Room" concept from Bill's presidency and decided to make that the entire focus of their campaign. Sure, Hillary's got policies. But they just seemed like window dressing to hide the rhetorical military equipment they've got inside; because her main sales pitch focused on how she was going to "fight" to get her policies implemented, and even the policies seemed selected based upon their ability to win her the nomination, rather than due to any longtime belief in them.

But it really does look like Hillary decided to adopt many of the Republican ways of operating a campaign; but failed to really understand how they worked. They went with the Inevitable Political Machine concept, without realizing that their candidate wasn't supposed to come off like a machine too. They went with a Loyalty First policy, without realizing that competence is more important. They went with a Don't Take Shit From The Media attitude, without understanding that only works if the media doesn't already hate you.

And most of all, they adopted the Attack Everything That Moves strategy of attacking their opponents. But as I've argued before, that's one of the most flawed ideas the Republicans have. Because even the wingnuts can't keep track of all the outrages they're supposed to be outraged about. And it was based upon the same premise that helped people forget Bush scandals: When a new scandal is discovered every few days, you get so overwhelmed that you can't remember them all. So even legitimate scandals can go down the memory hole; making absurd smears even more likely to get forgotten about. It all just becomes white noise without any focus or strategy.

And let's face it: Copying the Republican strategy was perhaps their biggest mistake. Because while they had HUGE advantages on their side, including a pliant media, a diehard following, vast mass communication advantages, and gobs of cash; they barely won. They never created a dynasty. They never dominated Congress numerically. And they barely won the Whitehouse twice, and had to cheat both times to do it.

Why Hillary imagined this to be a winning strategy is beyond me. Particularly as she'd never have a pliant media or their mass communication system, which were two of the biggest underpinnings of the Republican method. It's like trying to duplicate NASA's success with the Space Shuttle when all you've got is a nice airplane and fifty bucks worth of fireworks. You might put on a nice show, but you ain't getting into space.

The Anti-Attack Attack

And one of the worst aspects of the Clinton attacks was when they attacked anyone who attacked Hillary for her attacks on Barack. Because they were just so damn sensitive about it all, that they'd loudly denounce headlines like "Hillary attacks Barack" and insist that was proof of anti-Hillary bias. It was considered a smear to suggest that Hillary smeared Obama, even if she had. And while you try to be sensitive about that stuff at first, eventually all you can do is laugh at them. And I kind of doubt that was the reaction they were going for.

But that was sheer idiocy. Because rather than focusing on the attack Hillary leveled at Obama and stay on the offensive; her supporters and campaign would always end up on the defensive and insist that her critics were jerks for saying what they did. And that's just dumb. But it goes to the heart of why Hillary shouldn't be president: She doesn't play offense. She only plays defense. And so even when she's supposed to be playing offense, she naturally switches back to playing defense immediately and acting like a victim.

And that's just dumb, and isn't where you want your campaign to be. The whole purpose of the "War Room" is to keep the heat on your opponents. But Hillary just kept bringing it back upon herself.

Barack Responds

The latest example is from TPM. Drudge says that the Hillary campaign has started circulating a photo of Obama dressed in local clothes in Somalia from a trip he made there as a Senator in 2006. Now, this is just a dumb issue. I'd be more offended by a politician who refused to do this kind of thing. And so Obama reacted to this by attacking Hillary with an attack that I actually think is a bit overstated.

Here's a portion of it:

On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election."

Perhaps they're referring to something else, because that seems a bit overstated. But perhaps they're referring to this as being a part of Hillary's whole campaign, which has focused entirely on scaring people out of voting for Barack. And seeing as how the accusation came from Drudge, perhaps they should have waited to see if it was confirmed that this came from Hillary before making the accusation. Obama's campaign also referred to this as "devisive politics."

Hillary Responds

And how did Hillary's campaign initially respond? Did they deny it, or perhaps reassert an idea that Barack had done something wrong? No. They blasted Obama's attack without saying anything about the picture. But even worse, they weren't playing offense. It was defense. Obama came out blasting Hillary in a way that turns her attack into a mistake that he's blasting her for. But her rebuttal is pure defense.

I quote:
This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry. We will not be distracted

See the difference? While still attacking Barack, this is all about how Barack is trying to distract Hillary. But they weren't. Barack was defending himself and did it in a way that hurt Hillary and put the ball back in her court. But Hillary's rebuttal did nothing to put the ball in Obama's court. It's still back on her. In essence, Barack successfully counter-punched Hillary by turning a defensive statement into an offensive one. And Hillary's defensive attack was worse than if she had done nothing at all, as the target not only stayed on her, but it just got a little bigger.

One of her surrogates later came out denying they had anything to do with it...to his knowledge. But again, even that wasn't an attack. It sounded like he knew Obama had just whacked the tar out of them, and he didn't want anything to do with it. No counter-attack. Not even a defensive parry. It was just a straight denial from someone who wasn't prepared to deal with it.

But this is the way it's been the whole time. Hillary just likes playing defense better and is incapable of sustaining an offense. Because she keeps getting blasted every time she attacks him, and rather than standing up for the attack, she gets defensive. And that's just not how it's done. It's bad enough that the Hillary campaign has adopted the idiotic Attack Everything That Moves philosophy from the Republicans. But it's even worse that she can't even do it right. Because the Attack Everything part is what Republicans do wrong. It's the Never Play Defense strategy that works.

And so Hillary's adopted the bad aspects of the Republican methods, without learning the good aspects. While Barack does the opposite. He keeps his powder dry until he's got a good attack, but when he has to play defense, he always turns it into an offensive thrust that puts things right back on his opponent. And that's how it's done. And that's one of the big reasons why I preferred him as president, and he hasn't let me down. Obama knows how the game is played and he's playing it better than anyone. And that's exactly what I want to see in a Democrat.

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