Hillary Clinton’s campaign so far reminds me of what Jack Nickolson said about Jessica Lange after staring with her in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, “She’s part fawn and part Buick.” Clinton’s campaign has oscillated between trying to show her as softer and more human and the kind of hard-core politics that has been characteristic of the Bush-Clinton-Bush years. And as Obama has taken the lead and the momentum away from her, she seems to be becoming more desperate. The latest example of this is her diatribe on Obama’s fliers.
“Shame on you, Barack Obama!” she screeched during a speech in Cincinnati, Oh. Clinton was upset about literature from the Obama campaign that said that her health care plan would force people to buy insurance and that she was pro-NAFTA. Clinton denied both these charges and then went on to compare Obama to George W. Bush at length, saying that this was the kind of campaign Carl Rove would have waged.
Factually, the Obama flyers don’t really misrepresent Clinton’s views. While she isn’t anxious to say it, universal health coverage does imply that there will have to be penalties for refusing to participate. And the disingenuousness of her anti-NAFTA rhetoric in the blue collar states is quite different than both her husband’s help in passing the bill and her votes to expand the program (an irony I’ve pointed out in the past). But if there is anything that Hillary has learned, it’s that when you get hit, you have to go on the offensive. So right after her attempt to take the high ground at the end of the last debate, she finds herself in the position of comparing her opponent to the president. Right now the indications are that this may be the Democratic Primary equivalent of comparing somebody to Hitler on usenet.
Not that the Republican nominee had an easy week. The New York Times broke a story about McCain’s relationship with female lobbyist Vicki Iseman. The story was based mostly on anonymous sources supposedly from the 2000 McCain presidential bid who allegedly tried to keep the two apart and confronted McCain about the relationship. As the article’s title implies, the story is not so much about whether McCain had an affair but about how presenting himself as a moral paragon might exacerbate any questions about his ethics throughout his long career. It mentions his involvement in the Keating Five scandal and positions he took favorable to Ms. Iseman’s employer, Lowell Paxson. In true “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” Right Wing pundits came to McCain’s aid, casting the article as a smear job by a left wing newspaper. McCain promptly denied that there had been any affair. But it has now been established by a couple of other newspapers that McCain’s statements about never having met Paxson and not having been confronted by his staff aren’t exactly accurate. And the Times has reiterated that the story isn’t about sex, but about ethics. So it looks like the issue has helped McCain with the right wing of his party but hasn't played out yet.