Until last week, Samantha Power, a Harvard trained attorney and Pulitzer Prize-winner, was one of Senator Barack Obama's senior foreign policy advisers. While in London, promoting her book, "Chasing the Flame," she made negative comments about Senator Hillary Clinton that reflected a growing frustration and anger inside the Obama campaign and resulted in her resignation.
In the ramp up to the Texas-Ohio primaries, the Clinton campaign had gone negative, working from a page taken from the Karl Rove/Republican political play book, a strategy known for scurrilous accusations and distortions that came to be known as "Swiftboating."
The be afraid, be very afraid ad, "3 am in the Morning," was only the beginning of the Clinton campaign shift to what is clearly a say anything, do anything strategy (if that ad had been released later this fall, the assumption would be it was created by Republicans). After Texas, Hillary appeared at a news conference wherein she insisted she had met the commander-in-chief test, John McCain had met the commander-in-chief test. She wasn't sure about Obama, and suggested the reporters should ask him. That was a stunning statement for a Democratic nominee to make about a fellow Democrat.
Two things came to mind: First, Hillary did not define what that test was and when she had met it. In the same news conference, she did offer that she had indeed been in the White House when the phone rang at — am and though she didn't answer it, she was there. She failed to mention that during Bill's presidency she had no high level security clearance. She was not a member of the cabinet. She did not attend crisis meetings in the war room. She was the first lady, and at best an ambassador of goodwill.
What makes Hillary's commander-in-chief comments seem so disingenuous is that it is self-evident that there is no definitive test that can be passed which telegraphs how a candidate will react when he or she picks up the red phone. Obama can point to the judgment he exercised on the eve of the Iraq war and say he opposed it. And isn't sound, prescient judgment (not years in Washington) the ultimate qualifier?
And second, was Hillary saying in that same press conference that if she could not be her party's nominee, then she would rather have John McCain as our next president and commander-in-chief? In other words, if she can't be president, then choose a Republican. It was a say anything, do anything moment.
The Clinton campaign has also been linked to a photo &
which appeared on the Drudge Report, an online news site, and was attributed to Clinton &
of Barack Obama dressed in host-country African garb to include a turban. When Hillary was asked if anyone in her camp was responsible, she said no. Not long after, appearing on "Sixty Minutes," she was asked if she believed Obama was a Muslim. She said, "Not as far as I know." That final qualifier left just enough doubt to make sure the issue was not put to rest. It was an indefensible response and it showed again a disappointing willingness to say anything and do anything.
Later, when the Obama camp finally punched back, asking why Hillary has not released her tax returns, and why has no list of Bill's Presidential Library list of donors been forthcoming, and was her husband going to release papers pertaining to the pardons he granted during his final days in office, Clinton spokesman, Howard Wolfson, accused Obama of acting like Ken Starr. In many Democratic circles, the name Ken Starr is synonymous with "monster."
Just last week, Geraldine Ferraro &
senior Hillary surrogate, fundraiser, and finance committee member for the Clinton campaign &
said, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (or any other color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept." It is an outrageous statement which is intended to diminish Obama and his considerable accomplishments based on his race. When the Obama campaign pointed this out, Ferraro accused them of playing the race card and asked for an apology. She was the victim. Her insensitivity and racial myopia was (and continues to be) astonishing for someone of her background.
Over the last two weeks, with brazen chutzpah, Hillary and Bill repeatedly offered Obama the Vice Presidency. Recall that Obama is still considered the front-runner and ahead in the popular vote and the delegate count. And yet the Clintons have suggested that he step into second place. It is offensive, condescending, and a sleazy attempt to attach the V.P. moniker to him, the intention being to once again denigrate, in a blatantly tactical manner, his candidacy. There is also an aspect to that offer that is disturbing. The Clinton's have introduced race into this campaign in subtle and not so subtle ways (Hillary in New Hampshire, Bill in South Carolina). All things considered (and this may seem a stretch), the V.P. offer has a "get to the back of the bus" tone embedded in the words. And not to forget, this offer comes on the heels of Hillary and Wolfson having said categorically that Obama did not pass the commander-in-chief test. Suddenly he is asked to be one heart beat away from the presidency. Wolfson did say that perhaps Obama might be ready to be V.P. in time for the Democratic convention. Maybe. These are not nice people, and it is politics as only the Republicans know how to play it... well, it was.
So how does Obama respond? Hopefully by fighting back. Fiercely. Not by denigrating or demeaning Hillary; rather, by stating, unequivocally, that he is not only qualified to be President, but that he will not be denied the opportunity by a type of politics that represents the worst in all of us and not the best. He needs to raise even more boldly that voice which inspires young and old alike to believe once again in the purpose and the hope that is America. Of course, this is about much more than words; but words are where we start. Barack Obama should not go gently into that good night of politics, no matter the methods used by his opponents.