I don't watch debates, and generally don't even watch highlight reels of debates, unless a blogger I trust says it's something particularly interesting. Because the whole time I watch these things, all I can think about is how they answered the questions wrong and what they should have done instead and I find that whole thing to be quite frustrating. But I just read part of a debate transcript that Juan Cole has, and noticed this interesting exchange after something Obama said:
MR. BLITZER: Senator -- Senator Clinton, that's a clear swipe at you. (Laughter.)
SEN. CLINTON: Really? (Laughter.)
SEN. OBAMA: I wouldn't call it a "swipe." I think --
SEN. CLINTON: We're having -- we're having such a good time.
SEN. OBAMA: We are having a -- we're having --
SEN. CLINTON: We are, we are. We're having a wonderful time.
SEN. OBAMA: Yeah, absolutely. (Laughter, applause.)
I refuse to watch any clip of this for fear of it giving me the diabetes, but I really don't see much context for this other than to say that they're now making a point of getting along. Perhaps too much of a point. Shortly afterwards, Hillary spoke of some bill that both her and Barack both agreed upon. It's enough to make a Republican cry.
But the main thing this suggests to me is that I was right in thinking Obama won the attack war. Specifically, he was able to make two of Hillary's strongest assets, her husband and her aggressive attack style, into liabilities that she won't want to use any more.
I've already read things suggesting that they're now regretting Bill's strong position in her campaign, and this debate now looks like they've neutered her attacks. That she's so afraid to attack Obama that she gives this lame banter intended to project friendliness. And this plays right into Obama's strengths. He's the nice guy who can play a little rough in order to get his opponents to play nice with him, and it worked.
Why This Counts
Now, I generally don't think political campaigns are the best way to pick leaders, as the skills for leading aren't necessarily the same as the skills for campaigning. Just ask President Bush about that. If he was as lousy a campaigner as he is a president, he'd have a few cush board member jobs at his daddy's friend's companies and wouldn't have a trouble in the world. But now that he's expected to actually do stuff and have people listen to him, it's all gone down the crapper.
But this is actually different, as this fits right into their plans as president. Barack has told us that he can do this routine as president and get results; while Hillary tells us that she can be a fierce attack dog and get results. But now we see Obama tap-dancing around Hillary while she acts like she's on some lame morning talkshow. And I think it all comes down to Hillary being unable to make battlefield decisions on which attacks are good and which should be avoided. Instead, she's just swinging at everything that comes her way, to the point that she contradicts her own attacks.
Republicans do the very same thing; like when they attacked Kerry for being a pandering flip-flopper who's too liberal for America and won't give us what we really want. These are inherently different ideas, but somehow Republicans could say both things in the same sentence and imagine they made sense. And that's the general problem with attack-style politics; none of these people are actually clever enough to pull it off. I mean honestly, what helped more with Bush's two victories: the constant attacks or voter fraud? Instead, we see them attack everything indiscriminately and only remember a small handful of them, which we pretend were decisive in an election we also believe was stolen. But in my opinion, it was the theft that gave them the Whitehouse; not the attacks.
Two other issues I wanted to talk about were at the end of the clip Cole posted (I skipped to the end, so I'm sure I missed other stuff). The first was fairly small, when she said "We bombed them for days in 1998 because Saddam Hussein threw out inspectors." But of course, that's not correct. As I'm sure she knows, we bombed Iraq because they weren't cooperating with the inspectors, not because they were kicked out. You can hear Bill explain it here. But seeing as how this has become accepted wisdom in the media, I guess I can't blame her for repeating the inaccuracy. Hell, she might even have been attacked for suggesting it wasn't this way.
But here's the bigger problem, as she continued to defend her authorization of war:
Knowing that he was a megalomaniac, knowing he would not want to compete for attention with Osama bin Laden, there were legitimate concerns about what he might do.So I think I made a reasoned judgment.
Now, she's not a dumb person, but I didn't think I was either; yet I can't make any sense of this? We needed to attack Saddam because he had a large ego and might want to outdo Bin Laden? Is that it? Because I can't see what else this can mean, but think it's a complete load of shit. But again, maybe I'm missing something here.
And remember, if we remove the 9/11-Bin Laden thing out of the picture, shouldn't we have invaded Iraq during Bill's presidency? For as much as people suggest that 9/11 "changed everything," it didn't change this at all. The war-mongers wanted us to go to war with Iraq, and that's what they got. But if anything, 9/11 made attacking Iraq a worse decision, not a better one.
And once we remove 9/11 from the picture, yet still insist that we needed to invade; then the only conclusion is that Bill screwed up by not invading. But she can't say that, and surely won't say that Saddam was tied to 9/11, so I'm guessing she's invented this absurd megolamaniac argument as a way of justifying her bad judgment without having to explain why we didn't do it earlier.
And the worst part about it is that this is just hogwash and she's playing us all for suckers. Everyone knows why she authorized war, whether they want to admit it or not. It was a political calculation, plain and simple. She thought she saw the writing on the wall, and didn't want a repeat of the first Gulf War, when Dems who opposed the war got hammered. So like many of her ilk, she thought this was a no-brainer and thought she was scoring easy points by supporting a popular war. That's all there is to this and anyone who suggests otherwise is selling something.
And as Digby has pointed out (I think it was Digby, anyway), the political calculation on this was all wrong. At this point, the Republicans were going to hammer each and every Dem no matter what they did, so the only smart move was to at least take a brave stand and oppose the war. And I agree with that completely. Sure, I'd prefer that Dems oppose the war because they thought it was a bad decision, but if it was a political calculation, I'd at least like for them to have calculated it properly. Hillary didn't. Obama did.
But again, this is all more reason for why we need Obama and not Hillary. She continues to make faulty political calculations, and is primarily resting on her fame and marketing machine to carry her through this. Kind of reminds me of a certain president I know. As usual, I'll give the disclaimer that I would have supported Hillary if I didn't think there was a better candidate and will support her if she wins the primary; but the more I see of her, the less I'd want that to happen.