Why Is Hillary Running McCain's Negative Campaign for Him?


We talked earlier about Hillary Clinton benefiting from a “kitchen-sink” strategy, but of all the things the Clinton campaign threw at Obama over the last week or so, few criticisms were as annoying as the charge that John McCain’s background is preferable to Obama’s.

If you’re just joining us, at a press conference on Monday in Ohio, Clinton was defending her “3 a.m.” ad, and told reporters, "I have a lifetime of experience I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience he will bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he made in 2002.”



As Christopher Orr put it, “There are certain lines that you do not cross in a primary campaign. And one of those is suggesting that your primary opponent, the likely nominee, is so unfit that that the Republican nominee might be preferable to him. This is spoiler territory, and Clinton should be ashamed.”

OK, so Clinton went a little too far. Maybe emotions were running high, as can happen to anyone the day before a major contest, and Clinton went with an attack she probably realizes she shouldn’t have made.

Except, as James Fallows noted, Clinton kept making it.

In a live CNN interview just now, Sen. Clinton repeated, twice, the “Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience, I have a lifetime of experience, Sen. Obama has one speech in 2002″ line. By what logic, exactly, does a member of the Democratic party include the “Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience” part of that sentence? And I guess with her nonstop references to 2002 she must be talking about Obama’s anti-Iraq war speech, not the 2004 convention speech that actually put him on the map.

I have reached the point of wanting to scream every time I hear about the primacy of “experience,” knowing how skillfully the 46-year old Bill Clinton waved that argument away when it was used against him 16 years ago by a sitting President who simply dwarfed him in high-level experience. But to pose it in a form that is poison for the party should Obama be the nominee??? To produce a clip that the McCain campaign could run unedited every single day of a campaign against Obama? That is something special…. If Bill Clinton poisoned the well for other possible Democratic nominees in quite the same way back in 1992, I can’t think of it now.

The conclusion of Spinney’s (and Gerson’s) analysis was that Obama had put Hillary Clinton into a position where in order to win, she had to damage not just him but the party. That is why, as everyone is saying, the big victor today is John McCain, and not just in the obvious way.

Kevin called Clinton’s comments “disgraceful.” I’m hard pressed to disagree.

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