Props for the Political Theater of Hillaryland

Posted: Apr 10, 2008 12:01 AM
Props for the Political Theater of Hillaryland

Hillary Clinton should stay in the race and fight as hard as she can to win. She owes that much to Americans who voted for her, as well as staffers who cast their fortunes behind her when they chose sides in the Democratic presidential primary.

There also is no point in holding back her attacks on Barack Obama -- lest she tarnish her rival for the Democratic nomination. As former Clinton White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis wrote in a Wall Street Journal piece Wednesday that took on Obama's support for his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, "If Mr. Obama doesn't show a willingness to try to answer all the questions now, John McCain and the Republican attack machine will not waste a minute pressuring him to do so if he is the Democratic Party's choice in the fall."

As a long-time Clintonista, Lanny Davis knows attack machines. Don't get me wrong. I don't want Clinton to win the nomination. But unless and until Obama has garnered enough delegates to proclaim himself his party's victor -- well, as the Democrats say, let every vote count. If Obama can't beat Clinton when she's down, then he's not a closer.

As for Clinton, her campaign is proving that if you must reach into your old bag of tricks too often, the magic wears off.

In 1992, Democratic candidate Bill Clinton hit President George H.W. Bush for "coddling" China and not linking most-favored-nation trade status to human rights. In office, Clinton predictably bowed to the inexorable big-market forces of globalization and de-linked China's human rights record from most-favored-nation approval.

Now Hillary Clinton has called on President George W. Bush to boycott the Olympics Opening Ceremony in Beijing and chided the Bush administration for being "wrong to downplay human rights in its policy toward China." Does anyone doubt that, if elected, Hillary Clinton would make the same happy about-face as her husband?

Ditto a free-trade agreement with Colombia, which he supports and she says she does not. The Clinton formula has ever been thus: Say what you have to say to win, then do what you have to do to hold onto power.

Then there's Clinton's record on Iraq. In 2002, she voted for the Senate war resolution, noting, "This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make -- any vote that may lead to war should be hard -- but I cast it with conviction." By 2008, she was arguing that the vote was "a vote to put (U.N. weapons) inspectors back in to determine what threat Saddam Hussein did, in fact, pose" -- not a vote for war.

Meanwhile, as a Democratic primary victory seemed less sure, Clinton switched from opposing setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq to supporting a timetable, and from opposing any attempt to cut war funding to voting against war funding. Ever shameless, Clinton told Pennsylvania voters Wednesday that Obama cannot be trusted to end the war.

The latest story to focus on Hillary's truthiness concerns a story Clinton heard from an Ohio sheriff's deputy about a young woman who, according to Clinton, was uninsured, pregnant and turned away from an Ohio hospital because she could not pay it $100. The baby was stillborn and tragically, the mother later died.

An aunt later confirmed that Trina Bechtel did not visit one hospital because she had once owed it money and feared she would have to pay $100 up front. But Clinton was wrong in that the woman was insured and two other hospitals did treat her. Besides, the story never made sense. One, a hospital has to treat uninsured patients whose lives are at stake. Two, if making money were the issue, wouldn't the hospital demand more than $100?

Team Clinton told CNN that it tried to vet the story, but as Brian Todd reported, "Officials at all three medical facilities in question tell us they have no recollection of being called by the Clinton campaign to vet any of this."

Or maybe to Team Clinton, facts don't matter. Anyone and everyone's sad story serve one goal in Clintonia: They're all props.