Questions for Hillary

Once again Hillary Clinton has displayed a resilience uncommon to most politicians. Just like President Clinton, she has the capacity to reinvent herself in ways unimaginable. Her campaign seemed to be reeling from a lack of focus and no real plan except ending the campaign on Super Tuesday, February 5, but Clinton has reenergized her supporters and placed Obama on the defensive.

How she won is due to a mixture of risk-taking on her part, and benefitting from mistakes in her opponent’s campaign. Completely disregarding the perception that she is a polarizing figure, Hillary decided to go negative and aggressive. Karl Rove would nod his approval. The ‘3:00 a.m.” ad questioned the qualifications and fitness of Obama to be president. While his response was quick and amusing, Obama’s ad basically followed her lead. In other words, she won in the exchange. Experience is back on the agenda. It is not just about change.

The Illinois Senator also committed his first real blunder in the campaign. The ‘Nafta memo” incident which seemed to indicate doublespeak on his part had the double effect of creating a perception of insincerity and old politics. Clinton was quick – and with good reason – to pounce on this incident to question Obama’s message of ‘new politics and authenticity’.

Wyoming and Mississippi are now becoming Barack’s ‘Texas and Ohio’. He has to perform or else the momentum shifts decisively in Hillary’s favor.

This race is a great boost for democracy, the role of politics in our lives, and the Democratic Party itself. But the only ominous cloud hanging over the prolongation of this race is the potential effect on the chances of the Democratic Party in November. John McCain is the Republican nominee with clear sailing to the autumn campaign. The Democrats will have a candidate, potentially bruised, and one who may inherit a divided party. If Super delegates were to go against the wishes of the elected and pledged delegates, the Denver convention could end up becoming a donnybrook. If disqualified Michigan and Florida delegations prevail, that too could directly impact party unity.

In recent days, Clinton has touted her experience in foreign policy and national security and has lauded the qualifications of McCain in the process. She claims only she and McCain bring that experience to the White House, while Obama brings just ‘a speech he delivered in 2002’. Ouch!

Republicans are waiting with glee to use this should Obama win. But there is something more fundamental at stake. Is Hillary telling us that America is safer with her or McCain, the Republican, in the White House? If so, should Obama be the nominee, how can she in good conscience support his nomination knowing McCain is better for America? Who will she then campaign for? This is serious stuff. In answering those questions, she cannot hesitate.

I am assuming she would support Obama which means this negative campaigning is just tactical and self aggrandizing. The Democrats will have to decide how they want to win and whom they want in the White House in the next few weeks. Hillary answering those questions will go a long way in helping Democrats decide.