To me, the greatest irony of the Democratic primary contest is that while Hillary Clinton has tried desperately to make herself more human, Barack Obama has basked in the efforts of others to make him less so.
Eventually, Obama will be brought back down to earth from his pseudo-divine perch. When that happens, there will be plenty of areas of vulnerability for his opponent -- presumably, John McCain -- to exploit.
Unhappily for Hillary, she hasn't been able to seize on Obama's weaknesses. This is because many of them she shares, and the others she can't politically afford to draw attention to. Obama's extreme liberalism across the board makes him ripe for attack from the right, or even the center, but Hillary is hardly in a position to make a credible case against him there, except possibly on national security and Iraq.
With cool, premeditated calculation, Hillary methodically positioned herself as plausibly hawkish enough for the general election. How was she supposed to know she would face such a formidable challenger in the primaries?
Her response hasn't helped. Instead of defending her position on Iraq and presenting Obama as irresponsibly dovish on foreign policy, she has distorted her vote on the Iraq War resolution to con the base into believing she was with them all along.
In trying to put that square peg into a round hole, she has succeeded only in making herself look John Kerryish, which is to say wishy-washy, unintelligible, deceitful and downright ridiculous on the issue. The net effect is that she has earned further contempt from the base and made no inroads with anyone else. Meanwhile, Barack has watched this delicious turn of events unfold while polishing his halo.
Belatedly, Hillary is now running ads suggesting Obama is unprepared and ill-suited to receive that 3 a.m. national security crisis call in the White House. But not having previously demonstrated Obama's lack of national security bona fides nor her own possession of them, her attack ads are likely falling flat. It would be like LBJ running the TV ad of the little girl picking daisies only to be incinerated in a nuclear attack without first having established -- albeit fraudulently -- that Barry Goldwater was a trigger-happy, sadistic warmonger. (And liberals talk about the politics of fear!)
But looking ahead, Obama will not escape scrutiny from John McCain in the general election, despite McCain's own liberal proclivities on too many issues. If I'm wrong and McCain treats Obama with kid gloves, he'll go the way of Bob Dole and Jack Kemp, who seemed to have more compliments than criticisms for Clinton and Gore in 1996.
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