Friday 18 April 2008

Pathetic and Despicable

These are the only words I can find to describe how Hillary Clinton is waging her campaign. If all she can do to dominate the news cycle is to twist Barack Obama’s words entirely out of context, then she is simply not worthy to be President of the United States.

This is the contested paragraph of Barack Obama’s speech at a fundraiser in San Fransisco, which I copy from the original Huffington Post. It’s the entry that touched this all off:

"But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

I find nothing reprehensible about these remarks. He refers to some small towns in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, presumably affected by industrial restructuring and prevailing socio-economic and demographic trends. To claim that he is referring to all religious people or all gun-owners is absurd–a logical fallacy. Yet that is exactly what Hillary Clinton and John McCain are trumpeting.

If a Democrat-or any other commentator-were to use a similar logical causality to explain the political rise of Ross Perot or Pat Buchanan in the late 1980s, this would be considered sharp insight into American society and economy at the time. Yet when an African-American Presidential candidate who is leading the Democratic primary race embarks on a similar logical construct–and even more mildly–he is suddenly branded elitist, arrogant and out of touch with the American people. Remarkable, given that his background hardly bears resembles that of most elitists I know.

Had I made these comments, I would stand by them. To apologise in this case is to accept someone else’s false interpretation, someone in your own party employing nearly every under-handed, supercilious and hypocritical trick in the book to beat you in a crucial election.

As if more evidence were needed, it shows that Hillary Clinton will stop at nothing to win. Her tactics are despicable; her assurances that this is all about “electability” a hypocritical distortion. Somehow she wants us to believe that by sinking to this level she is qualified to beat John McCain in November.

Since when did we decide to become as shallow and dishonest as our opponents? What’s next, a “Willie Horton” campaign ad? A Barack Obama “love child”?

It shows that Hillary is fighting yesterday’s battles. Deeply scarred by her experience with the failure of her 1993 healthcare task force, her husband’s impeachment and the 2004 election, she feels no compunction about rolling out all the negative tactics she can employ against a member of her own party.

Barack Obama offers a vision for the future. The details are in many cases lacking, and that vision will take years to implement and is dependent on bipartisan good will and a macroeconomic recovery. Hillary Clinton offers an abundance of micro-management and focussed policy details, yet these too are incomplete and do not address many of the underlying problems, only their symptoms.

Yet if I were to make my decision based on “character,” Hillary Clinton has once again shown that she has fails this test. She is doing everything she can to win, even if it means destroying the Democratic Party and the hopes and aspirations of the millions of voters who came out to support Barack Obama.

This is not the way I expect a Democratic candidate to campaign against a member of our own party. Even in this hubristic rush for the Presidency, there are limits to the compromises possible with decency and honour. Hillary Clinton has shown that there are no limits to the compromises she would make. The vote next week in Pennsylvania will show how little this profits her.

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