So far, John Edwards and Barack Obama have tried to dent Hillary Clinton’s claims to the nomination by attacking her (less so Obama than Edwards) on policy issues. That’s fine. But while she often makes her electability claims based on experience and readiness to lead, she just as often makes it about her toughness and her ability to fight the Republicans. This is a political readiness, not policy preparedness, boast.
So why are Edwards and Obama not challenging Hillary on this claim? Has she, in fact, proved she knows how to beat the Republicans? She surely has a lot of experience fighting them (off), but that does not mean she knows how to beat them? On her health care debacle and war vote, Edwards and Obama are making the case that she used bad policy and/or personal judgment, but they ought to try a new, politically-themed tack: Hillary and (they should be more careful here) Bill Clinton fought the Republicans but the GOP was stronger, not weaker, when they left office in 2001 than the Republicans were when the Clintons arrived in 1993.
That case can be made based on sheer partisan control: The GOP flipped the Congress, turned a minority of governorships into a majority, and made major gains in the state legislatures. This case could also be made in terms of the steady growth of the right-wing noise machine. And it most certainly can be made in terms of the failure of the Clintons to use the White House to build the sorts of center-left institutions (think Center for American Progress, Media Matters) that were only built after the Al Gore defeat in 2000. (Former Clinton Undersecretary of Commerce ally Rob Stein has told me that Bill Clinton should have done more to build institutions when he had the power of the White House.) Oh, and there is that little matter of the “legacy election” defeat. People rightly criticize Gore for not fighting hard enough or smart enough, but if the new Sally Bedell Smith book is any indication, neither did the Clintons.
Experience fighting somebody is a necessary but not sufficient condition for beating somebody. I am not saying the Clintons had no victories during the 1990s against the Republicans and the right-wing machine; they did, though some came when the GOP (think government shutdown, think impeachment) hung a big fat curve ball over the plate for the Clintons to hit. And whose wins were they? Isn’t Hillary is overstating her win-loss record against the Republicans and the right, given that a lot of those wins are really in her husband’s column? If Edwards or Obama have any guts -- and any real political smarts -- they would go after this electability claim she’s making.
You need to be logged in to comment.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)