Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Clinton's Comeback and Obama's Challenge

One thing is clear: Hillary Clinton has won her Comeback Kid spurs and, despite the challenges ahead, shown remarkable political resilience. Has it been worth the price?

Editorially today the New York Times condemns the Pennsylvania campaign and calls on Clinton to acknowledge that "the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election."

On the eve of the primary, the editorial contends, "Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad--torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook--evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. 'If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,' the narrator intoned.

"If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: 'We would be able to totally obliterate them.'"

The nagging question is whether the contest for the Democratic nomination will end in a Pyrrhic victory that could give Republicans a chance to hold onto the White House that was unthinkable even a few months ago.

With Clinton sounding more and more like McCain, Obama's failure in all this has been not to find a way to answer personal attacks without being deflected from the positive, inclusive message that has brought him so far in such a short time.

In defending himself, Obama has lost some of his focus and reinforced doubts about his inexperience in hardball presidential politics. He will have to work hard to regain it in the remaining primaries.

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