Clinton cedes GE issue-framing to Republicans' only hope
by Bob Johnson, Sat Mar 08, 2008 at 08:40:10 AM EST
The last few days, Hillary Clinton has been saying this:
Clinton: I've crossed commander-in-chief threshold
"I think that since we now know Sen. (John) McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that."
Why, in a year where Democrats have...
- a failing and unpopular Republican president,
- a Republican candidate who has lashed himself to the failing president's sinking ship,
- a costly and unpopular (mostly) Republican war,
- huge Democratic turnout that has been dwarfing Republican interest in state after state,
- an economy in shambles, and
- a massive presidential money edge
... should we accept Republican framing -- and, literally, their only hope for victory in the Fall -- as the primary driver of the general election?
Clinton is clearly articulating the failed, DLC, inside-the-Beltway Democratic strategy of basing a general election campaign for president, not on an agenda set by Democrats, but on fear of what the other side will say.
So we have two fears working here:
1. McCain and the Republicans' only hope for victory in November is to scare voters on national security. The albatross of a faltering economy and an unpopular war already have them two strikes behind.
2. Clinton is pushing her own fear message to scare Democratic primary voters into backing her based on McCain and the Republicans' general election framing. Instead of controlling the agenda in a year when we hold the cards?
Why would she, or any Democrat, do that? The answer is obvious: Ceding the "national security" framing for the general election makes her, somehow, a better candidate than Obama:
"And I think it's imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold," the New York senator told reporters crowded into an infant's bedroom-sized hotel conference room in Washington.
"I believe that I've done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you'll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy," she said.
Calling McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee a good friend and a "distinguished man with a great history of service to our country," Clinton said, "Both of us will be on that stage having crossed that threshold. That is a critical criterion for the next Democratic nominee to deal with."
Clinton moving national security "front and center" is a Republican's wet dream.
What's left unsaid in her comments is the hugely ironic notion that, should national security, indeed, be the "front and center" issue of the general election, why would voters choose her over John McCain?
That is the only argument on which he wins the election.
In a year when Democrats should have their collective foot on the throat of every Republican running for office, we have one of our two finalists for the nomination casting the election in the most favorable terms for our opponents.
It is not only inexcusable, it is incredibly stupid and short-sighted. And it furthers the perception that Clinton is determined to undermine Obama not just in the primary, but also in the general, so that should she lose nomination, she can run again in 2012.