Smart Hillary bides her time
By Michael M. Bates
Hillary Clinton can be accused of many things. Stupidity isn't one of them. Waiting in the wings, she's ready to rescue her party if Mr. Wonderful continues to self-destruct.
Mrs. Clinton didn't formally terminate her candidacy for the Democratic nomination; she suspended it. She didn't officially release the delegates pledged to her; she merely asked them to support Barack Obama.
Clinton loyalists now demand her name be placed in nomination at next month's convention. They point out that the Illinois senator wins only if he secures the support of numerous super delegates. Those superior beings can change their votes at any time, including the day of the balloting.
Meanwhile, Barack is running in reverse. Even his most rabid admirers must wonder if he's ready for prime time as he dazzles them with switcheroos on withdrawing from Iraq, gun control, NAFTA, government wiretapping and sundry other matters on which he had purportedly held rock solid convictions.
Recently, comedian Bernie Mac worked a Chicago fundraiser for Obama. Before introducing the candidate, he told a joke ending with the punch line: "But realistically speaking we live with two hos."
That last word is considered a derogatory term, one that ended radio personality Don Imus's career at CBS. At the time, Barack Obama was incensed by the slur. He declared Imus "fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America."
Yet after Bernie Mac used the word, Obama pronounced him a "great friend." For just a minute, it appeared as though Obama reprimanded his great friend with part of his standard stump speech. The Associated Press quoted the candidate:
"We can't afford to be divided by race. We can't afford to be divided by region or by class and we can't afford to be divided by gender, which by the way, that means, Bernie, you've got to clean up your act next time. This is a family affair."
But Barack being Barack, he wasn't going to end on a sour note and explained, in a surge of change and hope naturally, "By the way, I'm just messing with you, man." If Obama is truly concerned about his daughters confronting terrible stereotypes, is that what he should have said?
His daughters also played a role in another Barack blunder. They were featured in a four-part (gee, couldn't there have been more?) "Access Hollywood" interview with Mom and Dad. Reportedly, the girls were darling and the whole thing probably should be charged as an in kind political contribution to Obama's campaign.
The candidate immediately expressed remorse for exploiting his children. This regret, of course, wasn't developed until after the interview and its subsequent benefits.
Barack told NBC "Today" host Matt Lauer:
"We were having a birthday party, and everybody was laughing. And suddenly this thing cropped up. I didn't catch it quickly enough. I was surprised by the attention it received."
That explanation is preposterous. At this point in a presidential campaign, everything – including potty breaks – is orchestrated. But this suddenly cropped up without him catching it. And Obama, who has fanatical supporters passing out at his mere presence, is staggered by the attention.
I'm staggered by the fact he hasn't claimed it was all his staff's fault. Much of the time, he shuns personal responsibility and places blame on people who work for him.
Two women wearing Muslim head scarves weren't allowed to sit behind Obama at a June Detroit rally. He personally extended his "deepest apologies for the incident that occurred with (my) volunteers."
In a debate last April, moderator Charlie Gibson brought up a questionnaire completed by Obama when he ran for office in 1996. In saying "my writing wasn't on that particular questionnaire," Obama stood by his campaign's previous explanation that placed responsibility on a staffer for wrongly filling the questionnaire out.
In January, Obama was willing to spread the blame around. He told Hillary during a debate that they both have "supporters or staff who get overzealous."
Last year's Obama campaign analysis of Mrs. Clinton identified her affiliation as "D-Punjab" because of her close ties to India and the American Indian community. When the Des Moines Register asked about it, Obama maintained it "was a screw-up on the part of our research team."
Also last year, he missed meeting a group of New Hampshire firefighters. You know whose fault that was. His staff had bungled his schedule and "heard from me a little bit because I wasn't happy I couldn't be there personally."
Good help is just so very hard to find. Add to the mix a candidate who changes positions like he changes his socks and who, by his own admission, doesn't catch some things quickly and finds himself surprised, and you have a contender whose inexperience and naiveté could still bring his campaign down. Granted it's not likely given the media swoon over Obama, but it is possible.
Patiently, Mrs. Clinton waits. Just in case she's needed.
This Mike Bates column appeared in the July 17, 2008 Reporter Newspapers.