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Hillary Clinton’s win over Democratic Presidential frontrunner Barack Obama in the Pennsylvania primary Tuesday shows the race for the top job in Washington is far from over and may well go to the party’s convention in Denver.
Clinton has come back from media-perceived political grave more times than Dracula and the comparison is not coincidental. Her critics feel she is the chief bloodsucker in a political system dominated by opportunistic vampires.
In a campaign season dominated by extremes, overt passion and outright hate, Clinton is the poster child of political polarization. Her followers offer passionate support without equivocation. Her enemies offer hate in equal measure. Like her husband, Hillary Clinton is the candidate you love to hate.
What is it about the Clintons that draws such venom, passion and bloodlust? Is it their ruthless, driving, take-no-prisoners ambition or their consequences-be-damned, win-at-any-cost approach to politics?
It is that, and more – far more. The Clinton succeed where others fail because they lack shame, conscience or consideration for the rules. Neither Bill nor Hillary give a damn about the party that once revered them and now shudders at the damage their unbridled ambition may have inflicted on once-confident hopes to recapture the White House.
Even with the win in Pennsylvania, Clinton faces a long, hard road to the White House. She may still pull out a victory by cheating and changing the rules but that win may cost Democrats a chance at beating an old man who should be an easy mark in November. Too many Democrats have told us that if the choice is John McCain or Hillary Clinton they will either stay home or hold their nose and vote for McCain.
Or, if Obama holds on and wins the nomination he should have clinched weeks ago, he may come out of the primary season so damaged that McCain can continue the scorched earth policy of the Clintons and finish off the Senator from Illinois.
Obama has not helped his cause. Clinton’s unrelenting attacks have driven him off his campaign platform of change, turning him into a defensive, business-as-usual politician trading barbs with his opponents.
An editorial in today’s New York Times says it best:
The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.
Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.
If nothing else, self interest should push her in that direction. Mrs. Clinton did not get the big win in Pennsylvania that she needed to challenge the calculus of the Democratic race. It is true that Senator Barack Obama outspent her 2-to-1. But Mrs. Clinton and her advisers should mainly blame themselves, because, as the political operatives say, they went heavily negative and ended up squandering a good part of what was once a 20-point lead.
On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad – torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook – evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.
If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.”
By staying on the attack and not engaging Mr. Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism, the economy and how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq, Mrs. Clinton does more than just turn off voters who don’t like negative campaigning. She undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Mr. Obama.
Mr. Obama is not blameless when it comes to the negative and vapid nature of this campaign. He is increasingly rising to Mrs. Clinton’s bait, undercutting his own claims that he is offering a higher more inclusive form of politics. When she criticized his comments about “bitter” voters, Mr. Obama mocked her as an Annie Oakley wannabe. All that does is remind Americans who are on the fence about his relative youth and inexperience.
If the Democrats had any leaders, they would put a stop to this nonsense before it buries the party. But the party that wants to lead this nation for the next four years is, itself, devoid of leadership.