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Clinton's Decision To "Be Like John" McCain

The Clinton Strategy -- Plan B Is Clinton's Decision To "Be Like John" McCain

by Christine Bowman


As I watched Hillary Clinton's post-Ohio spin on CNN, I took heart after a brief period of despondence. As a lifelong Democrat who likes Obama for president, I need some hope. The DNC strategy to wrap up the primary season early and focus on the big prize is in shambles. The Republican glee about "there will be blood" among Democrats requires a counterweight.

My hopeful epiphany springs from Hillary Clinton's own statements today that align her with John McCain while trying to dismiss Barack Obama, even though Obama remains well ahead of her in grassroots workers, small donors and total donations, popular vote totals, states won, and the delegate count. I see Clinton's clear decision to "Be Like John" as the strategic choice that will be her undoing.

Making a Comeback (CNN/video -- Clinton's Tuesday night victory speech. Go to 1:24 on the clock to hear her embrace of McCain and his National Security frame.)

Clinton touts her experience. She now uses shadowy fear in her ads and stump speeches. She has staked her race on a commander-in-chief ready-for-anything mantra, symbolized by the 3 am phone-ringing ad. That's how she defines herself now. Democrats must accept that. Some supporters do accept the down-and-dirty strategy as downright necessary. Cynicism triumphs.

But is Hillary Clinton blind and deaf to all the elephants crowding her chosen room? If so, it certainly confirms doubts Obama has raised about her judgment.

The incontrovertible fact is that George W. Bush is in that fear-mongering room with her. He has tenure in the White House, just like Clinton does, and he is widely loathed, ridiculed, and distrusted. John McCain, who is linked at the hip with George W. Bush on foreign policy, likewise represents the Iraq war, and perhaps more wars, along with "experience." He's had a touch-and-go roller-coaster ride to the Republican nomination, despite high name recognition and a deep residue of respect for his long service. Now Hillary Clinton wants to wear the same war-and-fear mantle that he has chosen?

It's faulty thinking, short-term thinking, and fresh evidence of poor judgment. First, does Clinton really believe she beats McCain at his own, essentially Republican, message? Second, what makes her think fear is the Democrats' best tune to play? The general election is supposedly the Democrats' to lose, after all. So why go "Republican"? Finally, has she put her short-term competitor's goal of winning ahead of the overriding goal of changing our country's course from that charted by Bush/Cheney, Gingrich/Rove, and even Reagan?

Ultimately, Obama's steady promise of change and bringing Americans together to work on achieving that change remains the winning message. Americans simply can't stomach a continuation of the macho Bush/Cheney foreign policy. Americans also are sick to death of the dirty and divisive Gingrich/Rove style of attack politics, character assassination, Congressional deadlock, and parsing of words, which Hillary Clinton is now ready to adopt. And Americans on all rungs of the economic ladder can see that Bush/Cheney/DLC Reaganomics has served only the top 1% well, and foreign investors.

Americans care deeply about national security and our stature in the world, but we see that the Bush/Cheney/McCain approach has not been a winner for America. We gave them eight years, and we have a mess as a result. It's two wars and counting, and a weak economy crippled by the payout demanded by an ill-conceived, and poorly managed $3 trillion war. We want smart, principled diplomacy now and a focused approach to national security. We're ready for new priorities and a new style.

But Hillary Clinton has linked herself now with the Bush/Cheney/McCain fear-mongering, commander-in-chief identity, and she's talking like she has moved on to the general election based on one day's successes. That means Obama must confront her and the Republicans as a group, starting now and through November.

Clinton laid out the new rules and her new alignment. Now Obama, like Clinton, must campaign for the general election. Both Democratic contenders must look to the general election rather than arguing intra-Democratic Party fine points now, or they leave McCain unchallenged through August. Maybe if they both campaign against McCain, they can weaken him more than each other.

The Democrats can't and shouldn't win in 2008 on a platform of fear and fighting. Once the Democratic Party superdelegate "elders" and the remaining voters reflect on that, their choice will be clear. Americans want change, and it's Obama who will bring it.

Ironically, Hillary Clinton's campaign also has decided to mock and twist Obama's campaign message, "Yes, we can," into "Yes, we will." Clinton's supporters tried out the new soundbite at their rally in Ohio last night. You can hear it here.

Clinton Bounces Back (CNN/video -- Go to the 3 minute mark for "Yes, we will!")

That regrettable distortion seems ironic, and symbolic.

Americans want hope, unity, and change. That's "Yes, we can!" -- not Hillary Clinton's smirky, willful, hubristic, and short-sighted "Yes, we will!"



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