Monday, February 25, 2008

What Hillary Means By "Obama Isn't Vetted"

Among the memes this election cycle that are so patently stupid that it makes me want to beat my head against a wall is the idea put forth by the Clinton campaign that "Obama isn't vetted." Here's just one example of Hillary Clinton herself pushing this idea:
“I’ve been tested. I’ve been vetted. I have been in the political arena in our country very intensely for 16 years. There are no surprises. There’s not going to be anybody saying, ‘Well why didn’t we think of that?’ or ‘What, my goodness, what does that mean?’” she said. “I am going to be able to go up against any Republican who they nominate.”

And here's longtime Clinton booster Taylor Marsh:
I'm getting quite a lot of heat these days for my posts on Mr. Obama. Frankly, I don't care because when a man running for office hasn't been vetted by the media or our own party, it's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

The pertinent question is, "What could the Clinton camp possibly mean by this?" It certainly can't be the fabricated Rezko scandal, or the silly Exelon story, or the ridiculous charge about "present" votes, or the insulting "cult" insinuations, or the plagiarism charges, or his supposedly incomplete health care plan, or his supposed "lack of experience" in domestic or foreign policy. All of these are attacks are easily batted aside and debunked, of course--but more importantly, they've already been used by the Clinton campaign. Most of these broadsides are more influential with Democratic voters than with the general election; if hitting Obama with them hasn't sunk his presidential campaign in a Democratic Primary against an opponent with better name recognition who started off 20 points ahead in the polls, why should anyone believe that they'll stick in the general election?

Certainly she can't mean that Obama has yet-unseen skeletons in his closet. After all, she had to have been using at least some of the $140 million she wasted on oppo research. If the Clintons couldn't dig up serious dirt on Obama with over 13 months to run against him and most of the Democratic establishment until recently at their disposal, Democratic voters should not too afraid of what 9 months of Republican research in Obama's background will bring. Not to mention the fact that the Clintons' last seven years of financial dealings have not been vetted, as the disclosure of the $100 million Boratgate scandal reminds us. Add to that the fact that Clinton refuses to release her tax records until after the nomination has been secured and continues to resist releasing Clinton Library records, and it becomes a serious question who has more undisclosed skeletons in their closet (to say nothing of the numerous Clinton skeletons that have already been exposed and are lying all over the bedroom floor). That Hillary Clinton has survived rightwing assaults is no great shakes: surviving a challenge from Rick Lazio in bluer-than-blue New York is no more a badge of honor than Obama's beating Alan Keyes in Illinois.

No, the frustration and exasperation seen on the faces of the Clinton campaign and its supporters about Obama's supposed lack of vetting has nothing to do with scandal or experience: it's all about race and Muslim smears. This is an uncomfortable truth that was first pointed out by Bob Novak, of all people.

The Clinton camp is frustrated because they know that the "Black/Muslim" line is the only one they can't use in a Democratic Party without its blowing up in their faces. They also know it's the only one that has a prayer of working to smear Obama enough to stop his incredible grassroots movement and fundraising momentum. And as is typical of the DLC, weak-willed finger-in-the-wind bunker politics practiced by the Clintons and many of their backers, they believe that when Republicans use this strategy on Obama in the general election, it will destroy Obama and secure the nomination for John McCain.

But they couldn't come out and say that explicitly--not, at least, until the Clinton campaign became as desperate as they are today. Now that the Clinton camp is all but certain to lose the nomination, they are throwing all caution to the wind and actively going with the sort of campaign that they have been signaling with various dog-whistles that Republicans would be running: an overt strategy to paint Obama as a black African Muslim.

It is actually a boon to the Obama campaign to see Clinton begin this line of attack, especially after her ridiculous attempt to accuse Obama of having started the gutter politics first, right before she knew that she would be using the filthiest line possible against him. To the Obama campaign's credit, David Plouffe has has responded quickly and coherently to this tripe, which just goes to show that the Obama camp, as usual, is on its toes and ready to counter such vile fearmongering. The Clinton camp, in true Fox News fashion, is playing coy, neither affirming nor denying that they were behind the attack, but stating with extraordinary nerve that
We think it is wrong for the Obama campaign to say that this is divisive photo. It’s not a divisive photo.

This Rovian strategy of accusing the other camp of doing exactly what you intend to do, combined with appealing to the worst instincts of the American electorate, is exactly what Obama can expect to encounter from the Republican machine.

It is the final barrier; the final vetting. Clinton has hit Obama with every other attack possible but the Black/Muslim smear. This last is what Hillary means by "Obama isn't vetted." So let's vet him and get it over with. That neither Obama nor any of the other candidate shave gone this route against Clinton (e.g., Vince Foster or Chelsea Hubbell rumors) even when things looked hopeless for their campaigns is a testament to their collective character. Let us demonstrate once and for all who our friends really are in the Democratic Party.

And, more importantly, let us demonstrate that the American people can respond to the better angels of our nature and reject the gutter politics being pushed by the Clinton campaign just as surely as we can reject it from the Republicans.

Yes, we can.

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