Whatever we thought of Hilary Clinton's "kitchen sink" strategy might encompass when it was first broached to the public, it is now clear that it's a plot based on the divide, galvanize, and conquer school of politics.
Gone is the incredibly uplifting atmosphere of unity and positive emotion that surrounded many of Barack Obama's early victories in Iowa, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. Truly uplifting moments of joy in which Obama's victory speeches were cheered by audiences whose most distinct characteristic was their racial and ethnic diversity.
Here, for the first time, was a black candidate who was winning as a result of a better campaign with a better message that won support across racial and ethnic lines among Democratic primary participants. It was not only "feel good" time within the party; it was beginning to feel like a movement with real spirit and real momentum.
Clinton has replaced this new "era of good feeling" with one of cheap shots, surrogate attacks, and polarization of the "kitchen sink." I've never worked on a presidential campaign. I have worked on local campaigns in which every trick in the book has been put in play. I think I know them when I see them.
The basic strategy is to tie the other side up in knots responding to questions or issues you never dreamed about, much less prepared to address. Consider a local municipal race for mayor where the real issues are taxes, over-development, and corruption. In the middle of it all someone - a proxy or surrogate for "the other side" - makes an off the wall remark about a non-issue. For example, "how can candidate "X" possibly care about kids in local public schools when he sends his own kids to Catholic School?"
You would think such a comment would outrage all the Catholics in town, especially the vast majority of those parents who struggle to basically support two school systems by paying school taxes and tuition for their own kids. The idea that because someone opts to give their kids a faith-based education means they don't care about the local public system is both absurd and offensive. But, the tactic often creates a stir. Even if the underlying non-issue has no merit, it forces candidate "X" to go off message and respond. When you're responding you're not advancing those things you want to talk about.
Throughout the Democratic primary we've seen many surrogates firing off cheap shots. Aside from Hillary's hired gun, Howard Woflson, perhaps the most offensive is Tip O’Neil’s biggest mistake in judgment, otherwise known as Geraldine Ferraro. Gerry was in over her head twenty-eight years ago when her campaign skills helped Walter Mondale lose forty-nine states.
Now she comes out from under a rock to share her thought that Barack Obama is where he is primarily because Democratic primary voters are smitten with little more than the fact that Barack is a black man whose "blackness" seems to have hypnotized Democratic primary voters into supporting his candidacy.
Some may think Ferraro's comments are simply the musings of one of Hillary's "free agent" supporters who wondered off the range to utter a stupid and racially polarizing comment. I see it differently. I smell a rat.
At this point of the campaign Hillary's one real shot at having any chance to win rests entirely on the Pennsylvania primary. A Hillary win by no means signals victory. A Hillary loss comes pretty close to killing her candidacy once and for all. So it's Pennsylvania or bust.
I grew up in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia politics. Philly is a town of neighborhoods and in many instances that spells "ethnic" neighborhoods. Philly today is a much more civil and diverse community than the polarized city I left behind when Frank Rizzo was running the show. But, the politics of Rizzo are the game that Clinton and Ferraro seem to be playing.
The diversion - getting Obama tied up in knots - is having Ferraro play the pit bull and make a provocative statement that ultimately he can't ignore. After all, he's the guy we're constantly told must prove his toughness.
To say the primary reason he's been successful is because he's black, may be absurd, but it begs a response from Team Obama pointing that fact out. Therein lays the rub. In the ethnic neighborhoods the image of a black candidate and his supporters debating a "race" issue with a white woman with an ethnic name does nothing to help Obama and a lot to help Hillary . Now Ferraro has "resigned" from Hillary's fund raising committee. This only enhances the image that the "black guy forced out the poor Geraldine." Lost will be the fact that Hillary didn't force her out. Hillary's mild expression of disagreement with Ferrro sounds void of any real concern about the damage Ferraro may already have done to any concept of party unity.
Let me be blunt. I think this latest tactic is intended to stir things up with white primary voters in the hope they'll rally around poor persecuted Hillary. It's a "kitchen sink" strategy that is nothing short of shameful. But then, when has either Clinton ever exhibited any understanding, much less concern, about "shame?"