Monday, January 14, 2008

The Politics of Personal Destruction

When Hillary Clinton had that well-covered moment in New Hampshire, I thought it was wonderful. It seemed to open the door to more personal responses from Clinton, to connect with voters as a human being and show she is vulnerable and passionate as well as smart, experienced, and prepared.

She has continued, however, the strange approach of campaigning against idealism. It is not just that she argues she is the more experienced candidate, the candidate "who will be ready on day one." She and her campaign go further than this, to assert a clear divide between activists and officeholders, between dreamers and doers, between prophets and kings. This way, she can present herself as the able steward and Senator Obama as, at best, a well-meaning prophet.

In trying to make this distinction clear, she made a comment about Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Johnson that caused a little stir. Some folks weren't sure what she meant, and wondered if she was diminishing King's role in order to make her political point. The Obama campaign called the remark "ill advised" and left it that. Yet the Clinton campaign turned around and accused the Obama campaign of playing the race card.

Meanwhile, a prominent Clinton supporter, while sharing a stage with his candidate, gave a stinging speech alluding to Obama's drug use yet again. Only last month, Senator Clinton - who has often complained of "the politics of personal destruction," and has been a victim of it - was apologizing for mudslinging by her supporters. Yet the Senator stood there, passively allowing the politics of personal destruction to be wielded on her behalf without no protest.

And no doubt, she will continue to present - as she has been doing - her opponents as doing negative campaigns, while claiming she has been the positive one.

This looks to me like a good person making a devil's bargain with hypocrisy.

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