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Friday, March 7, 2008

We're All Monsters Now

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They are words that strike fear in the hearts of voters: the Republican Hate Machine, the Republican Smear Machine, Swift Boating, Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. The tactics these words represent are used to play on our fears, to divide us and polarize us. They could only be the tools of the corrupt, right-wing fear mongers, war mongers who rely on the politics of fear and hate. Such people do America a disservice. They are cynical, cold. They are, in short, monsters. So it is so sad that in looking at the recent race for the Democratic presidential nomination one thing has become very clear: We are all monsters, now.

For years now Democratic politicians have been running on the bugaboo of a massive, evil, institutionalized Republican smear campaign that distorts the record of decent, selfless Democrats, spreading lies, using code words and debasing every race they're in. Democrats would never do things like that. Enter the Clinton/Obama race.

It is hard to imagine a race more pointedly personal, filled with uglier tactics than this Democrat vs. Democrat campaign. And, make no mistake, this is not some grand battle of ideologies gone off the tracks. In everything but the most minor points Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama agree. They are the Chang and Eng of American politics. Give them a Rorschach test and they'd see the same butterflies and naughty bits. This is a grand battle of two giant egos. It isn't a battle for the heart of America; it is a battle of ambitions of the highest order.

The recent "off the record" ("off the record" in the middle of an on-the-record interview, by the way!) remark by high-ranking Obama campaign foreign policy advisor Samantha Power that opponent Hillary Clinton is a "monster" is just the latest personal attack in this getting-dirtier-by-the-day fight. After lecturing Republicans about the nasty races they run every election cycle, it will be hard for whichever one of these two actually gets their party's nod, to run the usual off the rack Dem campaign of railing about nasty Republicans.

The usual taunt that Republicans are trying to divide people by race is going to be especially hard to float if Hillary winds up as the nominee. Hubby Bill's playing the now notorious "race card" before the South Carolina primary damaged both himself and Hillary with Blacks in ways that are already coming back to haunt them both. His heavy handed attempt to highlight Obama's blackness lost him his coveted label as "America's first Black President" (a label so phony it is surprising someone hasn't sued for false advertising) and allowed Blacks to start to see the race as just another example of us vs. them and start to move into Obama's camp in ever larger numbers.

And despite that tactic resulting in a self inflicted wound Hillary has managed to draw blood from Obama that could well prove very damaging to him should he win the nomination. It is widely acknowledged that her now famous "3AM commercial" in which she called into question Barack's ability to handle a crisis that might arise out of nowhere in the middle of the night was very effective; so effective that should he win the nomination Republican's could practically lift it word for word and run it against him themselves. The ferocity of the campaign is at such a level that even the foot-shot of playing the race card wasn't enough to make the Clinton campaign cautious. Hillary has begun to raise Obama's connections with indicted political fundraiser, Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a risky move considering the long and lurid history of questionable connections both financial and otherwise that she and her husband have had through the years. She has also been questioning Obama's honesty, yet another example of her accusing her opponent of things for which she is more well known .

And the "monster" comment isn't the only example of the Obama camp's taking the low road, either. He recently accused her of "swift boating" him, an accusation that falls on Democrat ears the way an accusation of child abuse sounds to the rest of us. He's also accused her of scare tactic, the very same kind of tactics Dems accuse Republicans of employing in every election. For all the talk of hope and change that this campaign started off trumpeting, it has rapidly been devolving into a pay per view style wrestling smack-down.

As it stands right now this race could still go either way. Obama is currently ahead in delegates 1,567 to 1,462 and in total votes he leads by about 600,000. But there are five months to go before the Democratic convention and it is very likely neither of them will get there with the requisite number of delegates to secure the nomination.

And that raises the question of what other dirt is left to be thrown? Obama taking shots at Hillary's looks? Hints of lesbianism? New stories about her well-known habit of dropping the f-bomb on any and all who annoy her? Hillary is known for her use of private investigators to dig up dirt. What has she or will she find about Obama that she's just waiting for the right time to unleash? Affairs? Considering Bill's track record this doesn't sound like the smartest idea but we've already established logic has gone by the boards in this race.

John McCain is a candidate with a large set of problems of his own; a discontented base, running in a year when Republicans are very unpopular, a habit of beating up his allies with far more vigor than he does his enemies, a temper issue of his own, but if Clinton/Obama keeps looking like the political version of Ali/Frazier he might not have to turn on the Republican Hate Machine, call upon the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and he may not even have to Swift Boat anybody. Those monsters may not be needed as the Democrats' own monsters may just wind up scaring away enough voters that he winds up as President thanks to them.

One thing is certain here; this is one scary election season.

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