Thursday, May 8, what had to come up finally came up. Three were left running for president, with the respective ages on that day of 46 years, 9 months, 4 days (Barack Obama), 60 years, 6 months, 13 days (Hillary Clinton), and 71 years, 6 months, 10 days (John McCain). So age did come up:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Thursday that Republican John McCain was “losing his bearings” for repeatedly suggesting the Islamic terrorist group Hamas preferred Obama for president.
That brought an angry response from McCain’s campaign, which accused Obama of trying to make an issue of McCain’s age.
Well, McCain would be the oldest person to be sworn in as president, if he manages to get elected. Is that an issue?
McCain said there is one big, real issue, and it’s not age. As mentioned previously, a Hamas adviser seems to approve of Obama. Ahmed Yousef said in a recent interview – “We like Obama and hope that he will win the election.” McCain’s been all over that. On Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, McCain did say this – “It’s indicative of how some of our enemies view America. And I guarantee you they’re not going to endorse me.”
Yeah, well wait until Paris Hilton and Charles Manson both say they hope McCain wins the election. There’s not much you can do about such things.
It hardly matters. And Obama, in his response, hit on his usual theme:
This is offensive, and I think it’s disappointing, because John McCain always says, “Well, I’m not going to run that kind of politics.” And then to engage in that kind of smear, I think, is unfortunate, particularly since my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his. For him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination.
In fact, the AP item here notes that both McCain and Obama criticized Jimmy Carter for meeting with Hamas leaders, and they both have said we must not negotiate with any terrorist group that wants to wipe out Israel entirely. McCain had called on Obama to repudiate Carter’s meeting – Obama mentioned that he already had. Someone wasn’t paying attention.
But that suggestion was the problem, as McCain adviser Mark Salter explained:
He used the words “losing his bearings” intentionally – a not-particularly-clever way of raising John McCain’s age as an issue. It is more than fair to raise this quote about Senator Obama, because it speaks to the policy implications of his judgment.
It does? That may be a stretch (see Paris Hilton and Charles Manson, above), but Obama spokesman Bill Burton had a great reply – “Clearly, losing one’s bearings has no relation to age.”
That might have been a dig at Hillary Clinton too – a kind of bonus. The issue isn’t age. The issue is who is discussing what matters, and who is playing obviously dim-witted games.
And the AP adds this:
Thus far, Democrats have been careful not to mention McCain’s age, at least not directly. The lone exception is Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton who a few weeks ago said the rigors of running the country is too much for guys their age.
“Let me tell you something, it’s no old man’s job,” Murtha, 75, told a union audience.
In response, McCain told CNN: “All I can tell you is that I admire and respect Jack Murtha. Speak for yourself, Jack. I’m doing fine. Thanks.”
Some would differ with that.
But McCain’s age is really not the problem. The problem is politicians of any age losing their bearings – saying stupid stuff like “I don’t care if not one economist anywhere in the world agrees with me, we should have a gas tax holiday this summer, even if it does no good, because people really, really need that, even if it does nothing to reduce the price they pay and makes the oil companies richer.”
Obama has actually managed to get people to step back and ask that all-important question. You know the question. “What?”
This makes Obama dangerous to both McCain and Clinton, which probably explains their odd off-and-on agreement on so many issues. Obama stands off to the side and calmly points out to everyone just what they’re doing – but he doesn’t laugh. He just suggests their nonsense is what they know, and that such nonsense, even if we’re all used to it, is not particularly useful these days, what with the way things in the world and the economy are going. He leaves them no good response, other than their offering more of the same, with greater intensity, which lets them dig themselves deeper into the hole, simply proving his point.
It hardly seems fair. They’re slugging it out and he’s doing Bruce Lee – “When the opponent expands, I contract, when he contracts, I expand, and when there is an opportunity, I do not hit – it hits all by itself.”
Age has nothing to do with it. We are simply invited to watch the other two candidates bluster and implode, if we wish, and to realize that there are more important matters – those two can self-destruct on their own time, and it’s actually a bit unseemly even to watch. So let’s get some things done.
The other two are thus reduced to shouting, over and over, “We are NOT irrelevant!” And when you have to angrily shout that, well… it’s over. You wouldn’t want to be a political advisor to either Clinton or McCain.
And that leads to the other implosion of that same day – Hillary Clinton gave an interview to USA Today. She argued her case for continuing in the Democratic race, or what is left of her case – “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.”
She does? She then referred to an Associated Press item that “found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again” – and how whites in Indiana and North Carolina “who had not completed college were supporting me.”
Okay then – she was arguing that she had the vote of uneducated, low-income, resentful whites all sown up. The idea seemed to be that unless she got the nomination, these folks would stay home or vote for McCain, and the Democrats would surely lose the whole thing.
Is that a racist argument? Or is it simple realism – noting that there are far more racists out there than you starry-eyed idealists think, and nominating a well-educated, thoughtful, highly-successful black man would, regrettably, be throwing away the presidency, giving it to the Republicans, even if the Republicans nominated Daffy Duck. She, after all, doesn’t threaten these folks – they all kind of like her. The lower the income, the lower the education, the more they like her, a lot. They may be racists, but they vote, damn it – in big numbers!
Realism or racist crap – they seem to blend here.
The reaction across the net was not in her favor. Andrew Sullivan was somewhat aghast:
Does she hear herself? “Working, hard-working Americans, white Americans.” “Whites in both states.” If a Republican said this about a black opponent, his career would be in jeopardy for racism.
Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money was appalled:
See, Obama’s coalition is bigger. But Clinton’s is broader, because it consists of more Real Americans and fewer [insert adjectives from RNC attack ad here] elitists and Shiftless Negroes.
Oliver Willis, an African-American and an Obama supporter, says amen to that:
Even professional haters like Pat Buchanan and his ilk aren’t so balls-out about racism. You’ve been getting your ass handed to you and especially among black voters. This shows me once again that we – who are apparently lazy and shiftless non-Americans based on your definition – have yet again been a leading indicator.
John Aravosis at AMERICAblog says this:
The Clintons are using racism to try to win the nomination against a black man. And our party leaders are okay with it. (Well, in all fairness, our congressional leaders said that Hillary had better not adopt a “negative tone.” They never said she couldn’t adopt a racist one.) Is it any wonder blacks aren’t voting for Hillary? They shouldn’t vote for Hillary, ever again.
Markos Moulitsas, the “Kos” at Daily Kos, isn’t surprised at all:
She’s already ignored and belittled every state and voter demographic that doesn’t support her. So it only follows that since in her world, the only things that are important are things that support her, she’d ignore election results in favor of the one (outdated) poll that confirms her manufactured reality.
Kim Priestap at Wizbang offers a warning:
The Clintons are not accustomed to losing and it seems they’re going to make the Democratic Party pay for not choosing her. This primary may end up in court by the time the dust settles.
And on it went. This was not going well. When you are reduced to shouting, over and over, “I am NOT irrelevant!” … well, it’s over.
At Talking Points Memo, the attorney David Kurtz here notes an interesting comment from a reader:
It seems to me that every progressive voice in this country should be outraged – jumping up and down – shouting in print and word – to repudiate Hillary Clinton’s remarks that Obama is having trouble winning over blue collar “white” voters… “white Americans”…
It is a disgraceful, shameful tactic to justify her own non-candidacy. This is a remark I would expect from a politician from Mississippi or Louisiana – not from our New York State senator…
I am outraged, I am deeply embarrassed that my children have heard this reported on the news.. .and I regret that have I ever gave her one hard earned nickel.
All the while she touts the glass ceiling as a woman but when her chips are down, the racism springs forth fully formed.
Kurtz says the reader is right:
Maybe it’s general campaign fatigue, or the sense that the race is all but over now, but a month ago her remarks would have been a huge story, the dominant political story of the day.
The political press spent weeks trying to divine whether the Clinton camp was really attempting to cast Obama as the black candidate, a favorite son candidate of the African American community. The Clinton camp vehemently denied it then and even as recently as a few days ago Bill Clinton claimed it was the Obama camp playing the race card against him.
But Kurtz notes this almost had to happen:
Race has been the subtext of much of Hillary’s argument for her own electability. But now she’s thrown it right out there in the open: Obama can’t win because he’s black. Vote for me instead.
You don’t have to believe that Hillary’s a racist (I don’t) to conclude that a combination of the rigors of the campaign trail and her own powerful ambitions have clouded her judgment and curdled her spirit. It has certainly soured what had been a historic relationship between the Clintons and the black community.
Hers is not an appeal we’d tolerate from a Republican candidate, nor should we from a Democrat, no matter how sterling her progressive credentials might otherwise be.
There’s been a lot of talk about the damage Hillary will do to the party by staying in the race this long. Perhaps she should consider the damage she’s doing to herself.
How did Bruce Lee put it? “I do not hit – it hits all by itself.”
And it never was age or race.