Time For Hillary To Swat Back
A lot has been a lot written over the last 24-48 hours about the need for Obama and Edwards to pointedly go after Clinton in tonight's Philadelphia debate. The conventional wisdom is that one or both of them need to draw blood and rely upon Hillary's adoption of the 11th Commandment to stay above the fray while absorbing broadsides. Seasoned pundits like Howard Fineman and Chris Matthews are arguing that Obama needs to take the gloves off, but to different degrees. Matthews wants Obama to go right at Hillary on the Iraq war and her vote for Kyl-Lieberman. Fineman wants Obama to follow the example of an unlikely source in going after her tonight.
Up until now, I have been of the mind that Hillary should stay above the fray and let the men take shots at her, pointing out that the men from both parties are ganging up on her. But based on the calendar and her swelling poll numbers, the timing allows her to now land some lethal punches against challengers in both parties that will propel her towards the general election campaign, while directly addressing the critiques and their sources.
Obama's Social Security Attack
As Chris Bowers noted yesterday, Obama's campaign may be teetering despite the best efforts of Chris Matthews and others to make him into the lone Anyone But Hillary candidate (I think Chris Dodd fits that bill better.) It angered me that Obama decided Social Security was the issue to hit her with, an issue that Democrats rammed down the GOP's throat in 2005, only to see Obama of all people desperately reach for this life raft and use a false GOP sense of urgency on the issue to attack Hillary. To that end, I would suggest that Hillary wait for the attack tonight and then punch back with something like this:
Senator, the Democratic Party stood up for everyday Americans back in 2005 and stopped the White House’s efforts to privatize Social Security. Now two years later, you seemingly want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and use GOP talking points to make Social Security an issue again in the 2008 campaign in some desperate effort to take shots at me. Democrats can only wonder why you are doing the GOP’s work for them.
Yes, I'm suggesting she kneecap him on this, by questioning why a Democratic candidate way behind in the polls takes a GOP "we must do something now" approach on a program that experts say can be addressed rationally once the current regime is gone.
The "Electability" Canard
From several accounts, Hillary may get hit tonight from multiple opponents on her electability. It may be time to marry her stump speech about the appeal of a female presidency with one of the implicit messages against her particular candidacy, and it may be time to question the source for this argument. I would suggest several lines of counterattack here:
Dredging up failed Republican arguments on Social Security doesn’t make you electable with Democrats. Talking about a new politics without holding the GOP accountable doesn’t make you electable with a country that wants change. Attacking corporate campaign contributions after previously taking them yourself doesn’t make you electable.
Why are my fellow Democrats up here tonight so willing to accept the GOP and media’s tag that the party’s first major female candidate is too divisive to be president? Frankly, I expect this sort of glass ceiling nonsense from Republicans but not from my own party and their Beltway consultants. It’s pretty clear why my fellow Democrats up here tonight seem to be so willing to let the media and the Republicans dictate who the Democratic candidate should be based on their definition of “electability”, but why should Democratic voters let the media and the GOP dictate their nominee?
The last seven years have shown us what happens when Republicans convince you to vote against your interests for the more likeable candidate. Our times call for smart, realistic, and yes, tough leaders who remember their commitment to all of America, not just those who write the checks. But don’t read my focus on the issues, willingness to work with all sides to solve problems, and commitment to our national security above all else as a sign that I will abandon Democratic principles, refuse to fight for Democrats and independent voters, and not bring our troops home as soon as possible. Each of you has to make that choice between accepting the media and GOP’s image of me, or helping me be the party’s toughest campaigner and best advocate for all the people in this country here and around the world.
I'm not running to be a smarter face on George W. Bush's policies, I'm offering you a smarter, more disciplined Clinton presidency.
Lastly, at some point she might be able to deal with Iraq and the Iran vote on Kyl-Lieberman by reminding her opponents tonight that several of them in fact voted for something similar months ago. As for Iraq, she can make the case that the country needs to move beyond the GOP's "more of the same" mindless quagmire for our troops. She can change the dynamic by making the case that if Petraeus in fact has seen a reduction in violence as he claims, then now is the time to move beyond arguments about 2002 towards bipartisan mission change in 2008. Maybe Democrats should bank the progress that Petraeus is claiming, to now outflank the White House in a call for troop redeployments tied to a mission change before the end of 2008. And tie it into a call for the Guard to come home first, something that will have great appeal in Main Street America.