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"So Did Jesse Jackson": Clinton's Tactics Backfire in South Carolina

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I just heard on television that Obama seems to have pulled out a rout over the CLintons, and this is interpreted --by Tim Russert, and by me-- to mean that indeed the Clinton's way of campaigning against Obama had produced a backlash. And yet still Bill Clinton is doing it, fanning the flames of the racial angle by responding to the news of Obama's great victory by saying, "Yeah, so did Jesse Jackson [win the South Carolina victory, in other words, that Obama had won this election by being a black man rather than by being a truly viable choice for America, affirmed by the 24 percent of the white vote that ended up going for Obama (up from only about 10 percent before the Clinton dirty campaigning).

One does indeed get a bad taste about the Clinton's, in their current manifestation. There are pieces about this on the web. Jonathan Chait in the Los Angeles times talks about starting to wonder if the Clinton's are capable of being anything but divisive. And Bob Herbert's piece about the Clinton's making conflicts that are unnecessary.

I'll tell you what I think. I do not think this is the same spirit that the Clinton's brought to the presidency. But they went through some intense experiences with the assault from the vast right-wing conspiracy, and I think that a kind of traumatic learning took place which led to their internalizing a great deal of the spirit of the forces that had assaulted them. Call it "identification with the aggressor" or a vampire-like contagion or whatever. I think that they were changed into dirty fighters by their decade-long assault from a cadre of dirty fighters.

So I have compassion for them, having been victims first and being turned into a kindred victimizer. But regardless, this is not the spirit we want or need to rule America. As Bob Herbert wondered about the Clintons, at the conclusion of his piece:

Can they look beyond winning to a wounded nation’s need for healing and unifying?

The voters of South Carolina have decided apparently that THEY can look beyond the win-at-any-cost-and-by-any-means approach, repudiate the Clintons, and turn to Obama as the leader to take us toward that healing.

As for me, I now know --99.9 percent-- that I will not vote for Hillary Clinton, for the same reason as it is conjectured that those 15 percent of white voters shifted to Obama in those last days. As for whether I will vote for Obama come Super Tuesday, or use my vote to strengthen Edwards, it will depend on what is the state of play in the larger game by then.

As for today, I am glad for Obama to have enjoyed this triumph. I continue to have my questions about his capability of achieving his purposes as the president of the United States, BUT I also have a basic trust in the goodness of his purposes. And methinks that Americans will be so relieved to have a president whose goodness of purpose one can trust that they'll be willing to put up with a bit of floundering, and perhaps ready to lend a hand and help this unripe leader use his considerable abilities --intellectually, legally, rhetorically, morally-- to achieve something of good for the country.

My prediction is that the Obama tide that got side-tracked by New Hampshire, for reasons of sympathy for Hillary (sympathy she has now altogether squandered, and not built upon), will now pick up momentum. I'm not sure I'm ready to say this is more than even money, but I think there's a genuine chance that Hillary Clinton has now squandered her advantages at the crucial moment.

She has squandered it by showing herself unfair and dishonest in seeking advantage, up against the upright Obama, whom she tried to goad into slinging it out in the mud of her level, reducing his asset of seeming to be a genuinely righteous and competent man who talks of hope and inspiration and what we can do together.

This is the crucial moment because now the new valence and momentum are imparted at a moment is when the NEXT big battle is the super-battle for all those delegates. What happens if the Obama tide rises all the way to Super Tuesday?

I heard it on the eve of the New Hampshire primary that the voters in Iowa had declared that they were not yet ready to have a coronation for Hillary and so they gave a great victory to Obama, but then in New Hampshire, the voters decided that it was too soon for them for an Obama Coronation, and so they gave the victory to Hillary, as if to say, according to the TV guy, we'd like for this race to go on for a while longer.

My guess is that, with the present force in operation being what the Clintons have disclosed about their present moral nature, this time the voters will be ready for a Coronation. I believe that Obama will come out of this night's election with a winning hand if he plays his hand as well as he's been playing it.
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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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