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Tags: strange | election

Hillary, Bill, and the Strangest Election Ever

Christopher Ruddy By Monday, 25 February 2008 11:00 AM EST Current | Bio | Archive

Is this the strangest election America has ever witnessed?

Maybe not, but it certainly is in my lifetime.

Let’s look at the Democrats.

This election was supposed to be a coronation for Hillary Rodham Clinton. If elected president, she would have not only been the first woman president, but also the first former first lady president. A remarkable feat!

Hillary had all the money, media, and establishment backing any front-runner would need. She could not only make a connection to her husband’s popular eight-year record as president (especially the good economic times of that period), she could also demonstrate an independent record as a U.S. senator twice elected from one of the largest states of the union.

When entering the presidential race in 2007, Hillary had high approvals from her party, according to polls.

Today, she has been upstaged by a novice U.S. senator who three years ago was completing a relatively undistinguished legislative record in Springfield, Ill.

The reason for this dramatic turn of events?

Various reasons come to mind, but perhaps foremost is Hillary’s support for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In a biting article in Sunday’s New York Times, Frank Rich (who, by the way, only writes biting articles) writes: “When people one day look back at the remarkable implosion of the Hillary Clinton campaign, they may notice that it both began and ended in the long dark shadow of Iraq.”

Simplistically, Mrs. Clinton backed the war — as did an overwhelming majority of Democrats in 2003 — and Barack Obama opposed it.

On that basis, and that basis alone, many activist Democrats feel Mrs. Clinton should be thrown overboard.

The rage of this group, for lack of a better description I will call them the angry left, want Mrs. Clinton to walk the gangplank. But her replacement, as I discussed in my last column, is a very risky play for them to take the White House.

No matter; “Off with her head!” the angry left demands.

The angry left is still not happy that Mrs. Clinton has called for only an expeditious withdrawal from Iraq.

They have embraced her opponent’s call for an immediate withdrawal within a fixed timetable of 16 months — a notion that is objected to by military commanders. And several national polls show Americans do not support Obama’s plan of a fixed timetable.

In many ways, this civil war among the Democrats harkens back to both the 1968 and 1972 elections. In ’72, the angry left was so anxious to bring the Vietnam War to an end, they nominated liberal Sen. Barack McGovern.

For sure, most Americans were clearly not happy about the war in Vietnam, but they also saw little merit in McGovern’s radical plan to bring the war to a quick end with an immediate withdrawal.

The angry left won the day in the Democratic primaries. But Richard Nixon won the general election with the fourth largest victory in U.S. history — some 23 points ahead of McGovern.

This year was shaping up to be a horrible year for the Republicans. But the angry left of the Democratic Party has revealed a silver lining for the GOP this year.

The angry left is so kooky they are turning to Bill Clinton.

Even his critics admit he was the most popular Democratic president to leave the White House since JFK’s term was abruptly ended almost four decades earlier. Bill has held extremely high poll numbers among Democrats, independents, and in recent years, even Republicans.

The inanity of the angry left is demonstrated by the fact the man dubbed “the first black president” is now described as a “racist.”

I think in the years of Clinton-bashing (I have done my fair share), I could never have imagined someone would suggest that Bill Clinton would be tagged racist.

The main evidence of this serious allegation is that after his wife lost in South Carolina, Clinton told the press that "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."

Why exactly is it racist to suggest that Obama is resonating strongly with African-American voters, especially in a state like South Carolina where they dominate the Democratic Party?

This weekend, Hillary actually apologized for this remark. I am not sure why.

It is just one of a series of baffling moves by her and her campaign.

For example, Hillary keeps focusing criticism on Obama’s rhetoric and inexperience, even though voters like his oratory and are drawn to his freshness to the Washington scene. Hillary’s attacks continue to backfire and make her look weak or desperate or both. Instead, a smart Hillary should have been applauding Obama for his charisma and the energy and new voters he brings to the party.

But in the same breath Hillary could have pointed out that as much as she likes Obama and agrees with him on many issues, he doesn’t pass the snuff test on the one issue that matters even to the angry left: electability. For sure, Hillary could have made a very strong case that she is electable and Obama is not, especially vis a vis Sen. John McCain.

I doubt the American public, in time of war and even economic upheaval, will turn their fate over to an untested quantity like Barack Obama. The junior senator from Illinois will be facing a certified war hero this November.

The Obama campaign cites recent national polls that indicate he beats Sen. McCain by a narrow margin in a one-on-one contest.

But such polls are really meaningless in predicting how Obama will perform in November’s general election. Obama has not been under the public microscope for long. He does well in polls because he is at the high point of his initial public exposure and Mrs. Clinton has run a very gentle campaign against him.

What the same national polls show — and this is the really important point — is that both Hillary and McCain, after being in the crucible of controversy for a very long time, sometimes under withering attack from inside their own parties, are capturing their party bases plus some.

The American public has a long history of picking stability over change — the devil you know over the devil you don’t.

But the angry left sees it different.

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Is this the strangest election America has ever witnessed? Maybe not, but it certainly is in my lifetime.Let’s look at the Democrats.This election was supposed to be a coronation for Hillary Rodham Clinton. If elected president, she would have not only been the first woman...
Monday, 25 February 2008 11:00 AM
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