Senator Clinton's Emerging Competence Problem
by Matt Stoller, Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 09:47:56 PM EDT
There's so much to attack about John McCain, and no Democrat has decided to step up on their own. I guess it's telling that the first Democrat to do it is Hillary Clinton, who responds (sort of) to an attack from McCain. John McCain went after Bill Clinton's record on North Korea, with his usual crazy angry dishonest banter. Bill Clinton rebutted him with a friendly and piffling remark about politicizing national security.
And his wife? Well, Senator Clinton's advisors chose to return fire using ... McCain record as a POW being tortured Vietnam?
The adviser, speaking of McCain's criticism this week of BIll and Hillary Clinton's posture toward North Korea, said that McCain wound up "looking similar to the way he did on those captive tapes from Hanoi, where he recited the names of his crew mates.""
Clinton later disavowed these comments, which were originally uttered to Maureen Dowd. I have no idea what happened here. It's probable that Clinton was horrified at these remarks, upset that her advisor said something so stupid.
But I'm not sure. And this is the problem with candidates who have no overall rationale for their political work, the technocratic centrists who believe in their own abilities and very little else. They have no message or direction, and resort to vicious pointless attacks in lieu of actual effective argument. It's a structural problem, not an issue of political management.
John Kerry was swiftboated because he stood for very little in 2004. Even if you wanted to go to bat for him, it was basically impossible to do so since he had no rationale for what a Kerry Presidency would mean. This hurt candidates up and down the ticket.
Fast forward to 2006, and I'll say that I have never heard more groaning about a possible political campaign than I have about Hillary Clinton's run for President. I don't know if she can win; I imagine that a lot of that has to do with what happens over the next two years.
But can this kind of clumsy political operation be swiftboated? Absolutely. Hillary Clinton never steps out of line to say anything of substance. And when one of her advisors does, she practically swiftboats herself.
UPDATE: Why this post, and why now? Because this is the first attack by any Democrat on McCain. That's a big deal.