Jan 31, 2008

January 15, 2008: Race Card, George Wallace Teaches a Lesson, Giuliani Slithers South

As the contest for the presidency spills out now over the landscape from Michigan to Nevada to South Carolina, it is becoming increasingly ugly on the Democratic side. This week the race card was played by the supporters of Hillary Clinton with the former president musing about Barrack’s lack of experience, and the founder of the Black Entertainment Network introducing Hillary by pointing out that while Hillary was fighting the fight for civil rights, Barack was doing what all teenage boys in the projects do at that age—referring to his admitted use of cocaine. This has set off a firestorm and has caused some serious back peddling by the Clinton operatives trying to insulate the candidate from the worst of it. This does not portend well and will probably produce a backlash in places like South Carolina giving Barack a boost.

I must admit that I am not an enthusiast of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Although she will be hands-down preferable to any conceivable Republican nominee, it is difficult to see her candidacy as anything than an open invitation by the Democrats to the Republicans to take the presidency.

The problem with Hillary is not that she is a woman. I have supported and managed political campaigns for women, helped get them elected to office and when elected happily followed their leadership. My problem with Hillary is that she is a Clinton and as such is besmirched not only with unseemly campaign contributions, but a marked propensity to turn in the wind and readily compromise principles well before they need to be compromised. Her record on health care reform was a disaster and she has not distinguished herself in the senate by championing any cause other than the advancement of herself unto the national stage. She also carries a lot of baggage.

George Wallace, the old banty rooster was a politician who fought the fight of the old industrial working class. But no matter how ‘progressive’ his politics he is forever frozen in the national consciousness standing at the schoolhouse door blocking the admission of young black students into the University of Alabama and shouting “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever…” No matter what his position on race in America on the day he died, no matter how much he recanted or repented, he will forever be remembered as one of the great voices of racism in America. Nothing he did in later life could change that.

First impressions matter. First impressions stick. First impressions are hard to live down. For 15 years the Rescumlicans have been savaging the Clintons and Hillary has been a central target of their attacks. Millions of dollars have been spent in investigations of her role in stock deals, White House travel office firings, and god knows what else. The result is that she began this primary season with personal negatives, by some polls as high as 47%. Two things follow from this. First and obviously, it is not a far step from 47% to 50% plus one to elect one’s opponent. Secondly, as George Wallace, or George Romney—who never recovered from his first national exposure when he quipped that he had been ‘brainwashed’ by the military while touring Vietnam—demonstrate that one rarely, of ever, overcomes first impressions. And Hillary’s first impressions have been burned into the national consciousness for 16 years now.

For the record, it is more than interesting to note that Hillary has the backing of Rupert Murdock and has been touted by ‘Ol Two-Cows’ and his henchman Karl Rove as the likely Democratic nominee. The truth is that the Republicans have spent more than a decade and many millions of dollars getting Hillary’s negatives this high and they don’t want to see their investment go to waste. Hillary Clinton is the candidate they most want to run against for they have made such a divisive figure of her that she has now become a wedge issue unto herself. This is the Achilles heel of the Clinton campaign for should she gain the nomination the Rescumlicans have to move the ball only a few yards down the field to win another term in the White House.

The brouhaha over race that erupted this week did little to polish her tarnished image, for it reeks of a Macheivelian willingness to grasp for power by any means necessary, even the savaging of the most faithful base of the Democratic Party. Here Hillary lives up to her reputation for overreaching and unprincipled political expediency. In short the kind of tactics one would expect from the other side.

Speaking of the other side….As the campaigns in Michigan wind down and those in Nevada and South Carolina heat up, Rudy Giuliani has crawled his way through the Okeefenokee and has been reportedly sighted crossing interstate 10 near Jacksonville where his tail was run over by Marshall McCain’s campaign bus. As we speak he is slithering through the tall grass, feeding on the lowest form of animal and vegetable life, as he makes his way toward the everglades—his natural habitat.

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