There’s a scene in the classic 1976 Paul Newman movie,Slap Shot, where one of the gleefully-pugilistic Hanson Brothers clotheslines an opposing player during the pre-game skatearound and instigates a full-on battle royal. One beleaguered official surveying the mayhem shakes his head and mutters, “Too much, too soon.”
It’s February 26, a full eight months and change before the general election, and given the no-holds-barred last four days in the 2008 Democratic smackdown, I second that emotion.
If the allegations that today’s photo of Barack Obama appearing in traditional African (read: Muslim) garb on a 2006 visit to Wajir in Northeastern Kenya was circulated by Hillary’s staff, the Clinton campaign has apparently decided that if they can’t beat Obama in caucuses, then they’ll beat him with Dukakises.
For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to be hiding your eyes in embarrassment in 1988 as Michael Dukakis took the worst campaign advice ever and attempted to blunt charges that his diminutive, Democrat, Massachusetts self was weak on defense. So?…They put him in a tank.
It was a horrible decision–you’re not going to make a wan, diminutive Greek man look like George Patton–and the reason that Susan Estrich hasn’t made her bones managing a campaign since then. It wasn’t just a chink in the armor; it was an open, sucking chest wound. And it was replayed again and again and again, alternated between fake Willie Horton walking through the revolving bars.
The Republicans played it again to great effect in 2004 when John Kerry thought it was a good idea to don day-glo neoprene and go windsurfing in Oregon. When you’re already dodging a patrician image with your sloping, distended chin, Massachusetts pedigree and condiment heiress wife, the last thing you need for your image is to be seen partaking in a sport usually associated with trust-fund vagabonds and the summering well-to-do. You just as well be sipping Sea Breezes on a yacht with a sweater tied around your neck.
And this year, the Democrats are going to try and put John McCain in his own tank with his awkward, practically-nuzzling 2004 hug of George Bush. This is more than fair game. The Democrats are running against the Bush legacy, and they’re running against John McCain, and with that one turn-your-head-and-look-away embarrassing moment at the last GOP convention, McCain has graciously given the Democrats one degree of separation between the two. It doesn’t hurt that this loving embrace came after AmBush & Company beat McCain like Rodney King in South Carolina in 2000. When I saw The Hug coming, I was sure it was all a ploy and that McCain was going to use the opportunity to finally snap Bush’s arm. Instead…please.
When I first heard about the Obama picture on the radio yesterday morning, when they said “traditional tribal garb”, all I could imagine was the Senator in a dashiki and carrying a spear, or a breechcloth with a string of chicken bones around his neck. When I saw the picture, though, it was an “Oh, duh!” smack to my forehead. Of course: Barack Hussein Osama, the madrasas nonsense again, Al Qaeda’s Manchurian candidate.
Where did it come from? Well, I did have to consider the source. After all, if I heard from Matt Drudge that a fall from a ten-story building could kill you, I’d probably seek two or three corroborating opinions. After her performance of the last several days I wouldn’t be terrifically surprised if Hillary played the terror card. That dog-eared notepad sticking out of her pantsuit pocket the last several days looks suspiciously like the Carl Rove Playbook.
She’s starting to behave like a wounded animal, and speaking only for myself, I wouldn’t want to be within three counties of an enraged Hillary fighting for her life. If the Clinton Campaign didn’t circulate the photos as Drudge charged, then there were many high-fives in the Clinton War Room that someone else did it before they had to. William Kristol opined this weekend the Clinton could do well playing “the politics of fear”. Not that she’s quite at the point where she’d be taking counsel from someone like Kristol…well, I don’t know. Maybe she is.
This doesn’t seem like a card the Republicans would play yet. I know they want Hillary as the nominee, but though you wouldn’t suspect it by listening to some of their talk show hosts, I think they’re probably capable at basic math. They know that Obama is probably going to be the nominee, so why not wait until the fall to play this card?
We’ll see how much ugly Hillary brings tonight, but if the current trajectory holds, a handful of boxknife and hijacking metaphors wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.