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Experience?

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The Lesson of the Ring.

Well, it’s sometimes seemed to have more endings than Return of the King. But, tonight, it looks like the primary season is finally, really, truly at an end, with Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois our duly chosen Democratic nominee. In the days and weeks ahead, it’ll behoove all of us, however hard, to let the primary bygones be bygones and to help reunite the party against our real foe, John McCain and the GOP. But, before we let the healing begin, I do have one more word to say about the Clintons, who above all else this campaign season has proven the truth of the old adage: “Choose your enemies wisely, for you will become them.

Now, I’m not going to recite the full litany of grievances against the Clintons’ behavior of late one more time. I’d say that ground is already pretty well-covered in the election archives. But I will say this: It has become increasingly fashionable in the press and elsewhere to esteem Sen. Clinton — regardless of her other political transgressions — as gutsy, tenacious, a fighter. Say what you will about her methods, this line of thinking goes, she goes there. She does what needs to be done. In fact, argues otherwise discerning political observers such as friend and colleague David Greenberg, she is exactly the kind of fighter the Left has said they’ve been looking for. (Of course, she and her husband have been AWOL when it counted over the past seven years, but that’s neither here nor there in this view.)

Well, simply put, this is all hooey. Sen. Clinton’s behavior over the past six months and change has been exactly the wrong lesson for Democrats to draw from the politics of the last decade. I’ve said it here several times before, but, in a nutshell, here’s why:

You don’t wear the ring. You destroy the ring.

Or, in other words, the key to beating the Republicans is not by acting Republican. It’s by rising above their tendentious garbage and working to restore reason and sanity to our politics. At the very least, a Democratic nominee for president shouldn’t validate the base tactics of the GOP by wallowing in their wretchedness. For what shall it profit a woman, if she shall gain the whole world, and lose her own soul?

Nevertheless, seemingly blinded by ambition, Sen. Clinton very quickly chose the wrong path. (In the place of a Dumb Lord, we would have a Queen…) She embraced the Rove playbook and dabbled in Al Qaeda hysteria. She validated John McCain and threatened to obliterate Iran. She called her opponent elitist and derided the “elite opinion” of the reality-based community. She played nice with Limbaugh, Scaife, and FOX. She flirted dangerously with the race card and lauded hard-working whites. She, for all intent and purposes, became the Republican candidate in the Democratic primary. She, and her husband, became part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

To repeat something I said after Wisconsin in February, the night when Sen. Obama’s primary victory basically became mathematically inexorable: “If you’ll forgive the lapse into LotR metaphors, the treason of Saruman, once the noblest and wisest of our order, is almost subdued. The Battle for Middle-Earth is only beginning.” So, as we move forward after tonight, I’ll try as much as anyone to tone down the internecine fighting around here, and start focusing fire on our true opponents over on the Right. (That is provided, of course, that Sen. Clinton chooses to diminish, go into the West, and remain a Democrat.)

But let’s also draw the appropriate lesson from the Clinton candidacy of 2008. The Clinton era is over, and this general election is now a chance for we as Dems “to show our quality.” We are not Dubya-Rove Republicans, and adopting their scorched-earth idiocies in a “tenacious” attempt to get elected is most assuredly the road to political, civic, and spiritual ruin.

FMLA came first, redux.

“‘She never had anything to with it,’ Clay said. ‘I just don’t think you ought to play games with that kind of stuff.’” As a follow-up to Clinton’s previous exaggerations on the matter, former Representative William Lacey Clay, who helped steer the Family and Medical Leave Act to passage in 1993, says Clinton had nothing to do with it. “All we needed was a president to sign it. The president signed it, and we’re grateful for that but there was no lobbying by him or her.

Easter Weekend: McCarthy, Bosnia, Judas.

Hey all. Well, I’m sure many of you are as sick of reading about this lingering primary season as I’m getting to be about writing on it. At this point, my feelings about the Clinton campaign and the dwindling band of dead-enders lingering around her failed candidacy have gone from disbelief to disgust to a sort of exhausted aversion: It’s unsightly and hard to watch, and not only because so many Clinton supporters online have been leaving the reality-based community in droves. Like a fatally wounded snake, the campaign is still writhing, hissing, and lashing out by reflex, seemingly unaware that its time came and went weeks ago.

But, the news is the news, and I did promise to keep following it. So, if you, like me, took a break over the Easter weekend, here is the most recent litany of outrages. (Of course, at this late date, you’ll probably only find these outrageous if you haven’t been following along for the past few months…)

  • I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country.” Have you no sense of decency, Mr. President, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency? Back in action after his “mugging”, Bill Clinton suggested that only a race between his wife and John McCain would include two patriots, and only by picking Clinton as the Democratic nominee can the country avoid “all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.” [See it here.] (I presume he’s talking about race, since I seem to remember President Clinton being personally responsible for “other stuff” intruding on politics back in the day, so much so that it ended up consuming a year of my life.)

    Obama supporter Gen. Tony McPeak has been taking some flak for likening this questioning of Obama’s patriotism to the antics of Senator Joe McCarthy, but, let’s be honest, what else would you call it? It’s definitely in the same ballpark. Since time immemorial, arguing against one’s opponent’s patriotism has been the last refuge of a scoundrel, and as sure a sign as any that a political campaign is wheezing its last. And Clinton, of course, knows this firsthand, since he was on the receiving end of a similar smear in 1992. In short, the president has shamed himself and his legacy yet again.

  • There was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn’t go, so send the First Lady…I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” As she’s been doing with SCHIP, NAFTA, FMLA, and Northern Ireland, we already know Sen. Clinton has been grotesquely exaggerating about her trip to Bosnia in 1996. Well, now she’s been caught in an outright lie. (A four-Pinocchio whopper, no less.) Video has surfaced, and not only was there no sniper fire at the airport, there was a greeting ceremony for Sen. Clinton…and Chelsea, because if a place is really small, poor, or dangerous, apparently the First Daughter gets to come along. At this ceremony, then-First Lady Clinton not only waded through the usual throng of soldiers standing at attention and bored bureaucratic functionaries, but gamely faced down the threat of a little girl offering flowers. Grisly stuff, to be sure. Update: Howard “Ken Starr” Wolfson says Clinton “misspoke,” while more Bosnia exaggerations emerge.

  • Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic.” This one hits a little closer to home, but anyway: Clinton supporter “till the last dog dies” and my former employer James Carville calls Bill Richardson’s endorsement an “act of betrayal, and actually likens him to Judas Iscariot (making the Clintons…uh, Jesus? Perhaps Brutus, Benedict Arnold, or Lando Calrissian would’ve worked better.) In Carville’s defense, I’ll bet dollars to donuts he meant this mainly as a joke (and, as he recently editorialized in the FT, he’s not one for the overparsing of political speech anyway.) That being said, since Carville’s a big boy, I’m sure he can weather Richardson’s pointed riposte just as well: “I’m not going to get in the gutter like that. And you know, that’s typical of many of the people around Senator Clinton. They think they have a sense of entitlement to the presidency.” That they do, Governor, that they do.

    I’m not at all surprised Carville is “Stickin’” with the Clinton campaign well past its expiration date — It’s his nature, and you can’t teach an old Clinton yellow-dog new tricks. But he’s dead wrong on this one, and given that he more than anyone else should be able to see the writing on the wall, politically speaking, he really should be working to bring the party back together, not continuing to poison the well with badly thought-out religious metaphors. (And if saying thus make me a “Judas” in his eyes, well, so be it…although I’d prefer to think of myself as a Jack Burden.)

    Update: “I think the statement had the desired effect. It was what I said.Carville talks Judas on CNN, and, as I suspected, he seemed to think it just all part of the game: “‘I doubt if Governor Richardson and I will be terribly close in the future,’ he said, but ‘I’ve had my say…I got one in the wheelhouse and I tagged him.’” What Carville seems to be ignoring here is that, tag or not, the game is already over, and Obama is the one going to the Series. So it’s a little late to be throwing the chin music.

  • The Security Gap | McCain’s Brain Drain.

    “Senator Clinton says that she and Senator McCain have passed a ‘Commander in Chief test’ – not because of the judgments they’ve made, but because of the years they’ve spent in Washington. She made a similar argument when she said her vote for war was based on her experience at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. But here is the stark reality: there is a security gap in this country – a gap between the rhetoric of those who claim to be tough on national security, and the reality of growing insecurity caused by their decisions. A gap between Washington experience, and the wisdom of Washington’s judgments. A gap between the rhetoric of those who tout their support for our troops, and the overburdened state of our military…We have a security gap when candidates say they will follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but refuse to follow him where he actually is.

    On the fifth anniversary of the war, Sen. Obama delivers a speech on Iraq and national security in Fayetteville, NC, and takes time to poke McCain for his apparent and frightening misunderstanding of Mideast affairs. “Just yesterday, we heard Sen. McCain confuse Sunni and Shiite, Iran and Al Qaeda. Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no Al Qaeda ties. Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America’s enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades.” Really, McCain’s oft-repeated error smacks of Dubya-level incompetence, and would be all over the news today if we were in general election mode, rather than collectively continuing to assuage Sen. Clinton’s vanity, by assuming she still has a chance. For shame.

    Not SCHIP either.

    “In campaign speeches, Clinton describes the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, as an initiative ‘I helped to start.’…But the Clinton White House, while supportive of the idea of expanding children’s health, fought the first SCHIP effort, spearheaded by Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, because of fears that it would derail a bigger budget bill. And several current and former lawmakers and staff said Hillary Clinton had no role in helping to write the congressional legislation, which grew out of a similar program approved in Massachusetts in 1996.

    Here’s one I missed from a few days ago. As she did with foreign policy and the FMLA, it seems, Sen. Clinton has apparently been widely exaggerating her role in the creation of SCHIP. “McDonough, a Democrat who has not endorsed a presidential candidate, also said it was Kennedy who developed the SCHIP idea after that meeting. ‘I don’t recall any signs of Mrs. Clinton’s engagement,’ McDonough said.

    Don’t Mess with Sinbad…or Greg Craig.

    “I think the only ‘red-phone’ moment was: ‘Do we eat here or at the next place.‘” As you may recall, Sen. Clinton’s recent touting of her commanding foreign policy bona fides hit a snag when it turned out not only that she was lying about the particulars on several trips, but that her big Kosovo excursion was taken with those wily diplomatic veterans, Sheryl Crow and Sinbad. (If you frequent Talking Points Memo, one wag (no, not idiotic, although he’s funny too) has been having a good deal of fun with this over the past week or so.)

    Well, now the real Sinbad has gotten involved, and his critique of Clinton’s account of that trip is pretty devastating. ““I never felt that I was in a dangerous position. I never felt being in a sense of peril…In her Iowa stump speech, Clinton also said, ‘We used to say in the White House that if a place is too dangerous, too small or too poor, send the First Lady.’ Say what? As Sinbad put it: ‘What kind of president would say, ‘Hey, man, I can’t go ’cause I might get shot so I’m going to send my wife…oh, and take a guitar player and a comedian with you.“‘”

    Update: If you don’t want to take Sinbad’s word for it, how about Greg Craig, the director of Policy Planning for the State Dept. during the Clinton years? He completely eviscerates Clinton’s claims to foreign policy experience in a memo this morning: “There is no reason to believe…that [Sen. Clinton] was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration. She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff. She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis. As far as the record shows, Senator Clinton never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue – not at 3 AM or at any other time of day.” (He then goes on to refute her claims country by country. Pretty damning stuff.)

    Obama: Step off.

    “If I’m not ready, how is it that you think I should be such a great vice president?’ Mr. Obama said. ‘Do you understand that?’” Sen. Barack Obama probes an obvious fault line in the Clintons’ kitchen-sink attack. “‘With all due respect, I’ve won twice as many states as Senator Clinton,’ Mr. Obama said, speaking over the applause of nearly 2,000 people who rose from their seats. ‘I’ve won more of the popular vote than Senator Clinton. I have more delegates than Senator Clinton. So, I don’t know how somebody who’s in second place is offering the vice presidency to the person who’s in first place….I’m not running for vice president. I’m running for president of the United States of America.’” Well put. (See it here.)

    For what it’s worth, Clinton goon Howard Wolfson tried to square the circle this morning with this gem: “We do not believe that Sen. Obama has passed the commander in chief test. But there is a long way between now and Denver.” Uh, that clearly doesn’t make a lick of sense. Why does the Clinton campaign continue to assume that we’re all morons? It’s infuriating.

    FMLA came first.

    “By now, we all know how over-hyped are Hillary claims about her foreign policy experience – including her claims that she negotiated peace treaties and opened borders. But there’s also hype in her claims about domestic policy.” Some enterprising dKos’ers look at the timeline and find Sen. Clinton had basically nothing to do with passing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The bill, originally penned in 1986 by Sen. Chris Dodd, had already been passed and vetoed twice under Papa Bush. It was then set up to go by the Democratic Congress upon Clinton’s entering office (it was HR.1 and S. 1 respectively), and was signed into law, as a fait accompli, only sixteen days after inauguration day.

    Update: Former House member William Lacey Clay notes: “‘She never had anything to with it. I just don’t think you ought to play games with that kind of stuff.’

    Foreign Policy Experience? She has none.

    “It was her coming that helped. But she had absolutely no role in the dirty work of negotiations…This had nothing to do with her competence.” The Chicago Tribune delves into Clinton’s dubious claims of foreign policy experience and finds not only that she has little to none, but that she is basically lying about what she’s accomplished. “Pressed in a CNN interview this week for specific examples of foreign policy experience that has prepared her for an international crisis, Clinton claimed that she ‘helped to bring peace’ to Northern Ireland and negotiated with Macedonia to open up its border to refugees from Kosovo.

    Let’s take ’em one by one. Regarding Ireland, historian Tim Pat Coogan refers to Clinton’s role as “part of the stage effects, the optics, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lord Trimble today called Clinton’s claims “silly”: “I don’t want to rain on the thing for her but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player.” The Telegraph digs up coverage of the one meeting Clinton attended in Belfast, and it wasn’t exceptionally hard-hitting. In fact, it was a photo-op. “Conversation ‘seemed a little bit stilted, a little prepared at times’ and Mrs Clinton admired a stainless steel tea pot, which was duly given to her, for keeping the brew ‘so nice and hot’.” The Kitchen Debate, it wasn’t.

    Regarding Macedonia and Kosovo, that border was opened the day before Senator Clinton arrived. Update: The picture above is from Clinton’s Kosovo trip. As you can see, part of her delicate negotiations to get this already-open border opened involved singing with Chelsea, Sheryl Crow, and some poor military officials forced to humor the wife of the Commander in Chief.

    As TPM’s Josh Marshall aptly summed up, “Let’s get real and admit that Hillary Clinton is getting the free ride of all free rides on her repeated invocations of foreign policy experience.

    Omsbudsdog Emeritus

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