Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hillary has to disembowel Obama

By Rick Morris

With the final Democratic presidential debate before the big March 4 primaries looming next Tuesday, the dilemma facing Hillary Clinton is very stark indeed. Ever since she lost Iowa to Barack Obama and launched Obama-mania, she has been trapped in circumstances that have only grown more dire over time. Because he is an appealing candidate in a way that she will never be, she needs to absolutely destroy him in order to win the nomination (hence her black vs. brown strategy). However, the nomination won’t mean anything if she wins because she’ll have completely embittered the base by doing what was necessary to win it.

It’s clear that Hillary and her inner circle realized the full extent of the crisis even during their only upswing of the election season. The insane momentum realized by Obama after the Hawkeye state win set in motion a dynamic that even Hillary’s shocking comeback win in New Hampshire and her victory in Nevada couldn’t change. In retrospect, that’s clearly why Bill Clinton played the race card so ham-handedly in South Carolina; the only way out of the box for Hillary was to polarize the electorate along racial lines, hoping that whites would rally to the Clinton name once blacks rallied around their own candidate fiercely. But the Clintons’ efforts in South Carolina were so transparent that they painted her with a coat of desperation she’s never been able to shake – and that aura was only enhanced by her pathetic trumpeting of a “victory” in Florida when the candidates had originally promised not to contest that state due to their violation of DNC guidelines regarding primary scheduling.

Hillary’s attempt to come off graceful at the end of the Texas debate Thursday night was startling, not least of which because “graceful” is a term rarely applied to the political efforts of the Clintons. But it was also intriguing because it showed the first signs (accurately or inaccurately) of Hillary coming to grips with her situation and deciding to bow out gracefully. Ever since January 3, she’s been traveling a road that leads to one of two options. Door #1 contains every vicious attack and smear that the Clinton War Machine can conjure up in an attempt to render Obama helpless enough for her to jam a stiletto heel into his heart on the way to the nomination. Door #2 contains a meek surrender course that will be disguised as a noble decision to “listen to the will of the people.” If she fully embraces the options behind the first door, she’ll split the base and infuriate blacks everywhere, setting herself up to get annihilated by John McCain even if she did limp away with the nomination in Denver. If she chooses the second path, she’ll at least maintain some small claim on the future should Obama somehow fail in November. The choice is hers and we may well get some glimpse of the path she chooses Tuesday night in Cleveland.

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