The outbreak of nastiness between the Obama and Hillary camps -- initiated by comments made by Obama supporter David Geffen and quoted by Maureen Dowd in her column today -- is stunning. For the Obama camp to come out this early -- and this hard -- against Hillary has riveted the attention of the political world.
For those who didn't catch it, David Geffen -- certified member of the liberal Hollywood elite, billionaire producer and co-founder of DreamWorks, and former avid and generous Clinton supporter and donor turned major Barack backer -- told Dowd:
- "I don’t think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is — and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? — can bring the country together."
- “I don’t think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person, [in terms of his personal proclivities] . . . I think [Republicans] believe she’s the easiest to defeat.”
- Most damning was this: "Everybody in politics lies, but they [Bill and Hillary] do it with such ease, it’s troubling.”
Ouch. For good measure, Obama himself took this shot at Hillary today: " "It is also ironic that Senator Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina State Sen. Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because ’he's black.’"
So just what is going on here? Part of it is just the typical tactic of a challenger, Obama, trying to dent the aura of invincibility of front-runner Hillary. Nothing unusual there. But I would say there's something more interesting at work. Obama has staked out a strong anti-war position. He flaunts the fact that he opposed the war from the beginning in 2002 when Hillary and most other Dems were voting for it. And he wants us to get out now. Not bad politics for a guy running in Dem primaries. However, even though many Americans are disillusioned with the the situation in Iraq, they still recognize that the war against terror is the most important issue confronting our country. They are not going to vote for a president who they don't think has the toughness to take on America's most fearsome enemies.
That puts Obama in a tough spot. It's fine right now, politically speaking, to be a dove when it comes to Iraq. But if Americans become convinced that Obama is not merely against the war in Iraq, but is inherently soft, he will never be the next president. What's a Barack to do? He has to find some way of proving his toughness. So why not take on what is widely acknowledged to be the toughest political operation around -- the Clinton campaign machine?
I can already hear the cries on the left: "he's equating Hillary with Osama Bin Laden!" No, I'm not at all. I'm simply saying that Obama feels the need to pick a fight to establish his macho bona fides. Taking on Hillary and her establishment serves the dual purpose of taking the sheen off the front-runner, while demonstrating that Barack Obama has the gumption required of a Commander-in-Chief. And I think that explains, in important part, why Obama has gotten so tough, so early.
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