Even though she won by a 9.4 per cent margin and not the blow-out victory in Pennsylvania she was predicting a month ago; even though Barack Obama is decisively ahead in both the delegate count and the national popular vote in all Democratic primaries and caucuses this far; even though polls show Americans think Obama would handle a 2am crisis as well if not better than Hillary; even though other polls show that Obama would fare as well if not better than Hillary against McCain in the fall; even though her campaign is still millions in the red and Obama has nearly $42 million in the bank; even though. . .
Multiply the “even though” count by a factor of fifty and Hillary Clinton insists on staying in the game.
The only two substances that definitively get someone to quit running for President are gold or lead. In Mrs Clinton’s case even their potency might fail. Gold, in this case the lack of it in the form of campaign funds, wouldn’t stop her tottering into the next round of primaries on a shoe-string.
And even if – perish the thought – an assassin retained by the Democratic National Committee stepped from behind a shrub and laid Mrs Clinton low, we’d have Bill Clinton insisting that a generic Clinton family candidacy for the Democratic nomination be kept in play, while he simultaneously sought repeal of the 22cnd amendment which bars US presidents from serving more than two terms. Clinton’s already on record as saying that while no president should serve three consecutive terms, a two-term president should be able to clamber back into the White House for a third stint after a respite in private life.
Now the primary campaign heads off to Indiana and North Carolina amid a steady downpour of news stories about the mathematical impossibility of Hillary Clinton outstripping Barack Obama in either the delegate count or the popular vote. But math isn’t the issue here. Mrs Clinton is set to stay in the race until the roll call at the Democratic convention in Denver on August 27 conclusively settles the issue. Not since Isaac Newton sought to decode the Ancient Testament or since Ronald Reagan redefined the properties of a meal fit for children to eat, has anyone defied science as absurdly as Mrs Clinton in her efforts to how that if you count things her way she’s in the lead. She is in the direct lineage of Joseph Stalin who said it’s not a matter of who does the voting, but who does the counting. How the Georgian dictator would have wagged his pipe in approval of Mrs Clinton’s claim that a disqualified election in which only her supporters voted somehow constitutes a legitimate expression of the popular Democratic will in Florida!
A popular line is that this interminable struggle between Obama and Clinton is good news for the Republican candidate, John McCain. While the Democrats bicker in the playpen, he can issue statesmanlike bulletins on matters of national importance. The flaw here is McCain’s inability to address matters of national importance in any serious way, beyond calling for endless war in Iraq and telling very poor people in Kentucky that he’s offering them big tax breaks on their stock investments.
McCain gets soft treatment from the claque on his press bus, but the going could rapidly get rough for him. Just as John Kerry got whacked for false claims about his war record in 2004, McCain is already on the receiving end of charges (most recently here in our CounterPunch newsletter) that as a POW “hero” McCain collaborated with his captors for three years and was on Vietnamese radio so often he was tagged as “the PW Songbird”.
Meanwhile Cliff Schecter, author of The Real McCain says an AP reporter “ recounted to me seeing John McCain wander off into the Red Light District of Hanoi in 1996 when he was there to normalize relations with the Vietnamese”, and that “a few reporters told me that the McCains don’t really live together anymore, and that until the presidential campaign Cindy McCain was spending much of her time in San Diego with their daughter Bridgette, because her husband was just not Johnny-on-the-spot anymore.”
McCain certainly has nothing of consequence to say on the issue most disturbing Americans, which they cannot afford the fuel needed to drive to work and what jobs haven’t already been outsourced to China or India are fast disappearing. “Home” means a refrigerator depleted by soaring food prices, children facing a lifetime of debt peonage for their student loans, a mortgage with variable interest rates suddenly ballooning to 13.5 per cent and a “foreclosure” tag scheduled to be nailed to your front door.
Every candidate has some sort of problem. McCain has his legendary temper, rendering him probably the most unstable candidate in American history to be one election away from the White House. Obama has the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers and a Chicago realtor called Tony Rezko now on trial. There could be some unexploded bombs there, not least Rezko’s financial relationship with the extremely rich UK-based Iraqi, Nadhmi Auchi.
Hillary has her ball and chain in the form of her husband. Bill has continued to jam his foot in his mouth on an almost daily basis, culminating in a tortured effort yesterday morning to claim that it was Obama, not him, who had played the race card in South Carolina. After delivering himself of this strange judgement he sought to reaffirm his credentials as a friend of blacks by declaring that he had established an office in Harlem. On that reasoning, the UK-based investment bank Dawnay Day Group, which put up £250 million in March to buy 47 buildings and 1,137 homes in East Harlem, should run for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Bill also claimed that if the Democratic primaries had been run under Republican rules, Hillary would already be the nominee. But then, Bill always did like working with Republicans.
Footnote: A version of this column ran on The First Post