Some Obama supporters may think this has been a dirty Primary Race
by Tom Rinaldo, Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 12:18:07 AM EST
In reality it has been as dirty as a spelling bee for politics played at this level. What passes as an underhanded attack in these primaries wouldn't qualify as a soft ball pitch in a hard fought Presidential campaign. The 2004 Democratic Primaries were nastier by far than what we have seen in the 2008 primaries to date. Many of the very same people who practice character assassination online daily are the first to scream bloody murder if anyone touches a kid glove to Barack Obama in the real world. Online this campaign is down and dirty, but not where our candidates actually live.
Having your actual middle name mentioned in public, no matter what it might be, is not hard ball politics. Having passages from a memoir that you yourself wrote speculated about in public is not hard ball politics. Calling attention to a candidate's race in a contest that the entire world is fixated on in part due to that candidate's race, is not hard ball politics. Having a second federal prosecutor reopen a closed investigation of the suicide of your personal friend to determine if he was actually murdered, while national talk radio fingers you as the probable murderess, now THAT is hard ball politics.
I do not fault Barack Obama for the campaign he has run so far, I praise it. Let me be clear about that. Obama has done extraordinarily well, and the approach he has taken is working fabulously for him, in this far cleaner than average Democratic Primary. But Barack Obama hasn't been hit with a single truly nasty negative campaign ad yet, let alone the full frenzy fury of a rabid Republican swiftboat crew. Obama has gotten a great deal of media scrutiny; to his amazing cross racial appeal, to his uplifting hopeful message, to his youthful comparison to the JFK of camelot, but precious little to his prior political career.
And half of the little negative press that Obama has received in this campaign he only received because Hillary Clinton managed to mention the name Rezko during a nationally televised debate, in response to an attack that Barack Obama made on Hillary Clinton's past. The media had been more than happy to just sit on that story before then, until perhaps the General Election. Obama never had to go hard negative on Hillary himself because the Republican Party did that work on her for him long ago, and the national media refuses to let anyone forget about it. All Obama has to do now is occasionally remind voters, while acknowledging that it may not be fair, of how "divisive" Hillary currently is, while asking "Do you want to return to the bitter partisan grid lock of the 90's?"
As if Hillary Clinton were the cause of all that. As if Barack Obama can vow to house break the G.O.P. when he enters the White House instead. Obama gets to run his campaign of hope, and the press covers the arms in the crowds uplifted toward him. Hillary talks about fighting for Democratic ideals and the press covers the scars on her arms from prior fights for them.
It's good for the Democratic Party that Obama won Iowa and Clinton won New Hampshire, because though the rhetoric has not been overly harsh in this campaign, the continuing ordeal of this endless campaign has been. Whichever of them ultimately wins, Obama or Clinton, will be a better candidate in the Summer for having gone through this Winter ordeal. This is a race where Obama fought back from behind, and Clinton fought back from behind, and Obama fought back from behind, and now it is Clinton having to fight back again. There is real fight in both these candidates, but only one of them has been tested in no holds barred combat with the National Republican Party. Perhaps that will change this Summer. Perhaps not.