Obama Experience Attack Two-Edged Sword
Matt Yglesias makes an excellent point:
If you genuinely believe in your heart that Obama is too green to be president, and that the person with more Beltway experience belongs in the White House, then by all means keep saying that stuff but if you would prefer Obama over McCain if Clinton can’t get the nomination then you do need to consider what the impact of having high-profile Democrats going on record claiming that the likely Democratic nominee can’t do the job is going to be. That’s a different kind of thing than hitting him on his health care plan, or pointing to his sometimes off-base environmental record in the Senate.
Essentially, Matt’s invoking a variant of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” He’d seen the attacks on Barry Goldwater’s “extremism” by Nelson Rockefeller come back to haunt the party in the 1964 general election and wanted to head that off during his own 1966 bid for governor.
Generally speaking, this caution holds true for any primary attack. Despite the mythos surrounding Lee Atwater, the fact of the matter is that the Willie Horton scandal was introduced into the 1988 election not by the Bush campaign but by Democratic opponent Al Gore. Then again, Bush did introduce the “Voodoo Economics” attack on Ronald Reagan in 1980 only to have to reverse course when he accepted the vice presidential slot on the ticket.
The experience issue here is a special case, reminiscent of the “extremism” charge against Goldwater. By constantly harping on how, unlike Obama, she is ready to assume the duties of commander-in-chief “on Day One,” the Clinton team is explicitly saying that Obama is not fit to take the office. John McCain will certainly make use of that in the fall if Obama is the nominee.
Not that Clinton much cares, of course. I suspect she’d just as soon have McCain win if she’s not the nominee, anyway, to punish Democrats for having the temerity not to nominate her.
Image via Drew McKissick