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Pawns And Brokers

Well, is there a better show around right now than the Democratic race for the presidential nomination? (Well, now that "Eliot Spitzer's Ho-Down" has been canceled.) The fighting between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is the stuff of which legends are made.

I'm not certain, but I believe that each candidate has enough delegates (between elected and designated, or "super," delegates) to deny the other a first-ballot victory. Which means that it will, if nothing changes, it's going to be a brokered convention.

The first solution that comes to mind is if one of the two leaders voluntarily steps aside "for the good of the party." That ain't likely to happen at all.

The Clintons, to the best of my knowledge, have NEVER made any kind of sacrifice "for the good of the party." To them, loyalty is a one-way street -- it's what they are owed, but owe no one in return. Further, I am convinced that, in her heart of hearts, Hillary Clinton believes that she is "owed" the presidency for her years of standing by (and putting up with) Bill Clinton, helping him win and keep the presidency. It's her turn, dammit, and no one is going to keep her from getting what's hers.

Barack Obama is equally unlikely to take a dive. He's seen -- as have the rest of us -- how loyalty to the Clintons is repaid. (Just ask Al Gore, who stood by Bill all during his impeachment.) He knows the old saying quite well -- "when you strike against a king, be sure to kill him." He knows that should Hillary win, she will not be a gracious victor and forgive his effrontery in challenging her. Even more egregious, doing so so successfully.

Most importantly, he's winning. Why should he give up while he's ahead?

So it's going to take something really spectacular to head off a brokered convention.

Which is precisely why Hillary -- through her various pawns -- is trying to engineer something really spectacular.

Numerous times throughout our political history, we have seen presidential candidates self-destruct in public. George Romney announced that he had been "brainwashed" during his visit to Viet Nam, and was now opposed to the war. Romney meant, I believe, that his brain had been washed of the lies and deceptions of the Johnson administration, but his misuse of the term pretty much destroyed his chances for election.

In 1972, Ed Muskie was under relentless attack by the Union Leader of Manchester, New Hampshire. After one particularly scurrilous and contemptible attack against his wife, Muskie rented a flatbed truck and parked it across the street from the paper's downtown offices and harangued its publisher, William Loeb. It happened to be snowing, and Muskie got a smidgen emotional, so it appeared to many that he broke into tears at one point. Whether it was tears or melting snow running down his face, the perception was that he had acted "unmanly" and he was done.

In 1980, Ted Kennedy challenged President Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination. In a televised debate, Roger Mudd put the nail in Teddy's presidential ambitions with what should have been a softball question: "why do you want to be president?" Apparently no one had ever asked Teddy that one, because he so utterly flubbed it that he was done for.

In 1987, Gary Hart was dogged by rumors of rampant infidelity. He challenged reporters to "follow me" and see that he wasn't doing anything wrong. They did, he was, and he was done for.

In 1992, Ross Perot achieved a feat that can only be considered legendary in the annals of politics: he self-destructed repeatedly. First, he irritated a whole bunch of blacks at an NAACP convention by talking about how "you people" are the first ones hurt in an economic slowdown -- a fine sentiment, utterly destroyed by the insensitive term. So he quit.

Then he got back in, saying that he'd quit before because "Republican operatives" were going to embarrass his daughter by releasing compromising photos of her just before her wedding.

Then he blew it again when he talked about how he and his security detail had thwarted a six-man "Cuban hit squad" that invaded his estate to assassinate him. So he was gone once more -- until 1996.

And I'm sure we all remember Howard Dean's "I Have A Scream" moment in 2004.

So, that's pretty much the only thing that can spare the Democrats a brokered convention, when no candidate wins a majority of delegates' votes on the first ballot, and they are all released to vote for whomever they wish. And Hillary knows it.

That is what I think is driving the almost-kamikaze-like tactics out of the Clinton camp. More and more staffers and backers -- some at the highest levels -- are launching attacks against Obama that, in the end, cost them their positions and relevance to the Clinton campaign, but they keep trying it.

National Co-Chairman Bill Shaheen (from here in New Hampshire, husband of Jeanne Shaheen, former governor and current Senate candidate) had to resign after he said that Republicans would play Obama's admission of youthful drug use into accusations of drug-dealing. Down goes Bill.

Former Senator (and longtime Clinton backer) Bob Kerrey commented that Obama might be a "Muslim Manchurian Candidate." Kerrey goes down in flames.

Now Geraldine Ferraro tries to play the race card, but in a spectacularly (but for her, predictably) clumsy fashion. This would-be attack crashes and burns on takeoff.

The goal, as I see it, is to provoke Obama into some kind of response that would show him to be un-presidential. A flash of temper, a rash counterattack, even an unguarded, profane moment would give Hillary the leverage she thinks she needs to bring him down.

Obama, so far, is reacting perfectly to these attacks. That is, not at all. There was a brief moment when one of his staffers called Hillary "monstrous," and was promptly fired. (I suspect for "revealing secrets" as much as "embarrassing the candidate.")

He is also smart enough to know that he can play the same game, too -- drive Hillary into making some huge gaffe, some massive mistake that can turn her campaign into a smoking ruin. And he knows that the best tactic to provoke her into doing that is to keep doing what he's been doing -- shrugging off her attacks and continually beat her in state after state after state.

This primary could prove expensive for me. After all, popcorn might be cheap, but it ain't that cheap.


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Comments (17)

What thrills me about this ... (Below threshold)

What thrills me about this political brawl is that it greatly resembles the contests that completely unmade the Democratic Party in 1896 and 1912. Those years gave us the left-liberal / "Progressive" Democratic Party, a 180-degree turnaround from the libertarian, Constitution-respecting Cleveland Democrats. A similar shattering in 2008 could produce equally dramatic changes.

Of course, major changes in a major political party need not be for the good, as the 1912 convention clearly indicates. But at least there's a chance that the major-party duopoly -- "We care more!" versus "We'll do it cheaper!" -- will be shaken up in a way that creates opportunities for lovers of freedom.

I think Hillary has a lot a... (Below threshold)

I think Hillary has a lot a favors to call in. We haven't seen the last of prominent Democrats falling on their sword.

I wouldn't really call them favors as much as Hillary knows where the bodies are buried. Either from famed FBI files or just in house gossip, it doesn't matter.

I can't say the thought hasn't cross my mind concerning Spitzer, who reluctantly got onboard with Hillary after leaning towards Obama, looks like he got in trouble all of a sudden in January in connection to behavior that went back years thanks to a bank that decided to squeal on him. Its a massive leap, I know, but he timing is interesting.

I liked what you wrote abou... (Below threshold)

I liked what you wrote about Hillary Jay. It's why I've said before that were she to win the nomination I'd either vote for McCain (not sure yet) or write in someone - maybe you Jay.

Ayn Rand illustrated two ty... (Below threshold)

Ayn Rand illustrated two types of people who seek election by socialist parties: idealists and thugs. People with high convictions and wrong methods, and people who are in it for the money, power, fame, and who fiddle as Rome burns. I shouldn't have to explain why I brought this up.

"Further, I am convinced... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"Further, I am convinced that, in her heart of hearts, Hillary Clinton believes that she is "owed" the presidency for her years of standing by ..."

I think the Obama's have the same entitlement mentality; they think they are owed the office as payback for a 'mean and racist' America.

OBAMA's pastor is going to ... (Below threshold)

OBAMA's pastor is going to eventually do damage to him. He sat under this racist's teachings for 20 years and Obama says he is his own man, whatever that means. Also, Mrs. Obama thinks men are idiots including her husband. Obama is getting the soft treatment because he is black. Hillary is Hillary. Everyone knows the package their. McCain, he will probably win if he picks a great running mate.

Overall, I am loving watching the dem's take each other on regards to race, gender, experience, qualifications, etc. ww

How do the "Breck Girls" De... (Below threshold)

How do the "Breck Girls" Delegates factor in?

Hill-A-Bee Clinton is not a... (Below threshold)

Hill-A-Bee Clinton is not a "Monster", although her campaign is quite monstrous and poorly run.

Hill-A-Bee is a Machiavellian, opportunistic, calculating egotist.

Her bid to be President at all cost and by any means is clearly the one true purpose in her life.

Are they gonna wash that ma... (Below threshold)

Are they gonna wash that man right out of their hair?

The Thunder Run has linked ... (Below threshold)

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 03/13/2008 A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Wow! Someone else that thin... (Below threshold)

Wow! Someone else that thinks like me. I have been telling anyone I can that Hillary believes she is entitled the job. Yeah Right.
It has been obvious to me that there is room in Hillary's heart for for Hillary and her rise to power. That Mr. and Mrs. America is all she cares about.
Two things come out of Hillary's mouth, lies and treason. Pick the order, it's all the same.
As for the empty suit Barack, it's pretty much the same.

It is amazing how Democrats... (Below threshold)

It is amazing how Democrats always want a do-over when things aren't going their way.

I'm no fan of Hillary, but she won in TOTALLY LEGAL primaries. They were 100% legal because election rules are set by the states, not the parties.

Anyway, not a single candidate in the Presidential race is worth looking at.

Obama is just a sleazy car salesman that can talk pretty as long as he is rehearsed. Asking a simple question about an unrehearsed topic and watch him struggle. He has no clue about most things, yet he pretends he knows what he is talking about and many idiots believe him. Also he has NO EXPERIENCE ON ANYTHING. His record as a Senator is none existent (because he is done nothing).

Hillary is an impressive woman, with real life experience. But her "social ideas" (like universal health care) are based on having the middle class pay for everything. She is the typical "socialist" who believes that the working class should pay for everybody else.

McCain is an old [email protected] with old ideas. Sure he is less risky than the other candidates, but safe is not necessarily a good thing. We need new ideas that can stimulate the long term economy ... and that takes risks.

I am loving watching Hill-a... (Below threshold)
Martin Washington:

I am loving watching Hill-a-bee hold on to thin hope with white knuckles and then seeing the demo-rats implode. More reason to keep giving to the GOP: Just donated another buck to acitesting

"There was a brief momen... (Below threshold)

"There was a brief moment when one of his staffers called Hillary "monstrous," and was promptly fired."

Yes, that might have also been some PR for Obama. It does make him look more ethical, doesn't it, though? Someone says what he really thinks, then they cut him loose. Really, I believe there's political scapegoats everywhere. Do I sound cynical, Jay? ;)

WackoE, I don't think you u... (Below threshold)

WackoE, I don't think you understand elections.

You state:

I'm no fan of Hillary, but she won in TOTALLY LEGAL primaries. They were 100% legal because election rules are set by the states, not the parties.

You are correct that the primaries in Michigan and Florida were "legal". However, the Democratic party has no obligation to recognize the delegates at its own party convention. None. Zero. Zip. The states cannot tell the parties how to hold a party convention.

The rest of your comment belies your claim that you are "no fan" of Hillary. Comically so.

So it's going to take so... (Below threshold)

So it's going to take something really spectacular to head off a brokered convention.

I think all it really takes is for enough super delegates to swing to Obama to put him over 2,025 before the convention. Given the delegates still out there in the remaining races that he'll get he will need about 130 more superdelegates to pledge for him (there are still 346 undecided).

I think you're right that Hillary is trying to bait Obama into making some kind of a shrill attack on her. Then, she'll play victim (maybe shed a tear or two) and then whine about how Obama's attacks contradict his basic message of hope and bringing change.

She's a clever one but she's running out of time. I can't believe the events of the past week will convince many superdelegates that she's the one to lead the party against McCain. Just look at how haphazard and disorganized her campaign has been with all the infighting.

Did it ever occur to you th... (Below threshold)

Did it ever occur to you that maybe these people (Shaheen, Kerrey, Ferraro) saw that Hillary would lose, and wanted out of her campaign?

Something to think about, maybe ...






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