Thursday, October 18, 2007

Obama Helping Hillary, Again

It has long been my contention on this blog that the candidacy of Barack Obama actually has helped Hillary Clinton. Through the long months of the summer, Obama fever kept everyone from seeing Hillary as the front-runner, and thus as the target, as well as providing her campaign with a useful sparring partner in preparation for the next twelve months. Now Obama is helping Clinton again, this time on the question of Iraq War policy. Clinton's early votes in support of the invasion are widely seen as her biggest liability with liberal and left voters who are overwhelmingly and passionately against the war. Obama, responding to criticism that he wasn't taking the fight to the Clintons, naturally chose war policy as the issue on which to attack her. His formulation is clear: Hillary differs from Bush on the conduct of the operation, Obama says, while he opposes the war altogether. This makes a good soundbite, but I predict that it will turn out to be another mistake ("another" because Clinton has already goaded Obama into making mistakes with foreign policy pronouncements, such as his suggestion that he might send troops into Pakistan, or that he would consider using nuclear weapons, or that he would be willing to talk to any dictator). What Clinton is doing now is demonstrating that she will be a responsible executive. Given the tragic fact that we are in Iraq, the endgame will be complicated and difficult to maneuver. Iraqi leaders and American generals will be briefing the next President on the possible outcomes of various scenarios: might a too precipitous withdrawal lead to genocidal ethnic cleansing? Might a complete withdrawal open the way for an Iranian, or Turkish, or Saudi invasion? And so on. So when Obama says that, unlike Clinton, he's just plain anti-war, what's the next question? Does that mean, Senator, that your proposal is to simply withdraw immediately, come what may? And if not, how are you different from Clinton? He's painted into a corner: basic mistake. And who comes out looking good? I won't say, but she's one of the other candidates.

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