Uh-oh. It looks like a change of direction is underway over at “Fortress Hillary.”
Mrs. Clinton said as much last week, in an exclusive interview chat with Katie Couric for CBS television.
Couric addressed the “inevitability” of Clinton being the Democratic presidential nominee, asking “if it’s not you, how disappointed will you be?”
“Well, it will be me” Clinton responded. “But of course I’m ready to support the Democratic nominee, whoever it is.”
Couric continued, “I know you’re confident that it’s going to be you, but there is the possibility that it won’t be, and clearly, you have considered that possibility…”
“No, I haven’t” Clinton interjected.
“So, you never even considered the possibility…”
“I don’t. I don’t….”
Further, when asked by Couric if her campaign was becoming more “aggressive,” Hillary stated “It’s time. I have absorbed a lot of attacks for several months now. But after you’ve been attacked as often as I have from several of my opponents, you can’t just absorb it. You have to respond.”
So ever-confident candidate Clinton is once again willing to position herself as a victim (with the “I’ve been attacked” rhetoric), rather than leaving this task entirely to her husband (such as Bill’s “piling on” and “smear campaign” remarks after the “aggressive” Philadelphia debate).
But Mrs. Clinton nonetheless made it clear that she intends to “respond” to her Democratic rivals, which is a change from the tactics she’s deployed thus far for most of her campaign.
We saw evidence of this shift last week, even before the Couric interview. After some polling data showed Senator Obama ahead of her in Iowa, Mrs. Clinton derided Obama’s lack of “experience,” and insisted that America needs her experience in the White House to fix both our “broken” economy, and worldwide reputation.
But, in the interest of being “ more aggressive,“ Mrs. Clinton will likely do more in the coming weeks than merely criticize Obama’s “experience.” (Perhaps the first round was planting her partisans on the CNN telecast). There are other weaknesses, other vulnerabilities in her opponents that Mrs. Clinton — and her surrogates will do their best to exploit.
So what are they? Let’s begin with Senator Obama, since he remains Clinton’s strongest opponent. Obama’s response to a question about his “foreign policy experience” is what fueled Clinton’s criticism of it experience in the first place. Saying that you spent childhood years abroad doesn’t make you Henry Kissinger. (Obama’s original remarks point to a far greater problem — at times he doesn’t do well “thinking on his feet.” Worse yet, he seems to not learn from his past experiences.)
Don’t get me wrong here — Obama presents himself as intelligent, well-spoken, and a very likeable person, and seems to have tremendous appeal to the “anybody but Hillary” wing of his party. But when speaking extemporaneously and responding to spontaneous questions, he has made too many rookie mistakes.
The question about his foreign policy experience at an Iowa campaign stop earlier this month was not the first time it had been asked of Obama. Obama made himself sound foolish by suggesting that he’s qualified to make foreign policy simply because he lived for four years in Southeast Asia and his Dad was from Kenya. Obama should have anticipated this question and should have had a more cogent and convincing response.
In a similar failure, Obama bungled the question posed to him about “driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.” After dealing a powerful blow to Mrs. Clinton over her equivocation on the issue at the Philadelphia debate, Obama should have anticipated the issue arising again in Las Vegas — and when it did, he swerved all over the road with his response, depleting the credibility on the issue that he had previously gained. In a similar gaffe, Obama made the extraordinary statement earlier this year that, when he becomes President, the option of using nuclear weapons will be “off the table,” only to change his position with a “clarification” statement less than thirty-six hours later.
Mrs. Clinton could very well use these and other examples to label Obama as a “flip-flopper,” as “indecisive,” and as a candidate who simply does not possess the clarity of mind to serve as President in such trying times as these.
Should it turn out that Clinton needs to swing at John Edwards, he, too, possesses some vital vulnerabilities. In the on-going debate over healthcare, Mrs. Clinton has already begun telling us that she is the only candidate advocating for universal healthcare coverage.
Edwards remains especially vulnerable on this issue, given that before his life in public office he amassed a sizeable fortune for himself as a medical malpractice attorney, suing doctors, insurance companies, and healthcare providers. Clinton could connect John Edwards’ professional history with one of the key components that drive-up healthcare costs — litigation — and seek to label him as part of the problem, not the solution.
One thing we know with certainty: both Mr. and Mrs. Clinton have a history of “going negative” on the campaign trail. And even though Mrs. Clinton has very little experience in elected office herself, she has repeatedly been a willing accomplice in her husband’s campaigns. And this we know, as well: whether the campaign tactics are positive or negative the Clinton’s usually find a way to make things work out well for themselves.