Second Thoughts

June 13, 2008 10:09 a.m.

With an era of good feelings breaking out among Democrats nationwide, I hesitate to delve back into the acrimony and angst of the Obama-Clinton duel and all the anger it sowed between Democrats across the country. But I do it with a suggestion that may surprise some of you and one that questions my own earlier take.

I was never someone who thought Hillary was under any obligation to get out of the race until the end or even necessarily that she should have done so. What got me was her campaign’s harsh and strident attacks on Obama — one that often mimicked Republican attacks and which escalated in intensity as her hopes of beating him approached the vanishing point.

Hillary supporters claimed that there was nothing that Hillary was throwing at Obama that McCain and Co. wouldn’t be thrown at him later. So at a minimum she was helping him get the stuff behind him and perhaps even making him a stronger candidate.

This always struck me as what I can only very generously term a deeply disingenuous argument. And I still find it deeply disingenuous. But I’m coming around to the belief that it may have been an accurate one — much more than I realized or was willing to credit.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Hillary was trying to do Barack any favors. (see Matthew 18:7) But looking forward, it seems far better to me that all the Reverend Wright, Rezko, Bitter and and all the rest are out there and run through and basically old news. Better they were run through in the spring than the summer or the fall.

What’s more, in these first few days of the general election, in addition to McCain’s and Obama’s fundamental qualities as candidates, I think it is increasingly evident that both campaigns are hitting the ground at very, very different speeds. Clinton gave Obama one hell of a run for his money. He’s been campaigning and fighting at a fever pitch — as has his whole campaign — for months. And it shows.

On the contrary, McCain’s operation is simply a wreck. Flabby. Disorganized. Sometimes comical. And one big reason for that is that McCain hardly won the nomination. It defaulted to him. Looked at with some distance and perspective the Republican race fell out as follows: Rudy imploded because of the combustible force of his own militant ridiculousness. Then Huckabee gutted Romney. And since Huckabee was too out there (ironically, simultaneously too sane and too looney to pass Republican muster) that left McCain. With the rest of the field flopping around like fish on dry land, McCain was able to sew the nomination quickly with pluralities in the GOP’s winner-take-all contests.

No discussion of this race would be complete without reference to the many damaging factors that are beyond McCain’s control — the collapse of public support for the Republican party, the Iraq War, the deep unpopularity of President Bush, etc. But when you see trainwrecks like the McCain camp’s lame effort to upstage Obama on his victory night with that lime green speech clunker, it becomes evident that this campaign just hasn’t had a chance to go head to head with a real competitor. And it shows.

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