My analysis of the recent political in-fighting is not a reflection of who I favor in the primary battle. As a student of political science, the recent controversies between Obama and Clinton(s) have an interesting consequence.
Primarily, the attacks by Bill Clinton and Hillary's campaign have little to do with real issues that separate them. The fact is that their positions are very similar with the exception of Hillary's allegedly more hawkish position on national security. And even that may be a consequence of her vote for the Iraq war and that as a woman she wants to show that she is as aggressive as a man. Bill Clinton injecting his attacks on Obama are political rather than substantive.
My belief is that the Clinton camp is really concerned about the Obama campaign's effectiveness in his message of unity and optimism that is very appealing to the 80+ percent of the electorate that are not political junkies. They know that Hillary has a lot of perceived negatives among Republicans and independents. Obama's message bodes well in a national election. However, the question is whether the understandable desire to win the Democratic nomination justifies bringing Obama down into a muddy personal battle.
Given a choice, I am sure that Obama would prefer to ignore Bill Clinton's attacks. However, it is very difficult to ignore an ex-President's criticism. But let's look at the more recent criticism by Bill and the Clinton camp.
Mark Penn mention of Obama's teenage drug use.
BET founder Johnson's referral to Obama's past.
Bob Kerry reminded us that Obama's middle name is Muhammad.
Bill referred to Obama's war position as being a fairy tale.
The choice of Obama would be "risky."
Bill accused Obama's campaign of muscling voters in Nevada.
Obama voting "present" over 100 times in the Illinois Senate.
Can anyone honestly think that these are issues of substance? I am from Illinois and know that voting "present" is a common tactic to improve legislation that is not commonly used in Congress. The Clinton campaign knows this and were looking for any way to attack.
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Bill Clinton is a master at Machiavellian politics by his lawyerly parsing of words. That convinces many that he is not lying. That is exactly the strategy used by Carl Rove. Is that what we want in a Presidential campaign? The end result is that the primary has now become a team sport in that woman and blacks are making decisions based upon race and gender rather than issues. Bill Clinton has successfully provided the catalyst for viewing the campaign on non-issues. The result is that Clinton's attacks have rallied the black voters around Obama and women have rallied around Hillary based upon a perception of Obama's team trashing Hillary. That is the consequence of Bill's attacks.
There are a number of important issues which the candidates can discuss other than Iraq and health care. Edwards has the strongest argument concerning the working class. But, all the candidates should talk specifically about the details of what they would do to level the playing field between the rich and poor. None of them have addressed the need for the FCC to break up the broadcast media monopolies. That is an issue that would change the political climate in this country. And the Clinton's have been the biggest victims of the media monopoly. Bill did not help when he signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That legislation was a disaster for independent voices in the country.
It is time for the candidates to talk about substantive issues rather than to play into the tabloid journalism that the corporate media wants. This is not a horse race. It is a process to inform the electorate about information that will help them make a good decision for a change.
Sheldon Drobny was the co-founder of Nova M radio and Air America Radio. He has supported many philanthropic causes. Mr. Drobny specializes in business and tax matters and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Tax Court as a non-attorney. Less (more...