Monday, January 21, 2008

Palmetto State Stilettos

The heat is really on.

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were at each other's throats last night down in the Palmetto State.

Obama's strategy is clear and, from highwayscribery's perspective, the right call for him. Ms. Clinton must decide soon who her husband is and Bill Clinton needs to do the same thing. In the South Carolina debate Obama correctly answered her retort that "He's not here (Bill), but I am" with "Well I can't tell who I'm running against."

By linking Ms. Clinton in a clear way to the former president Obama both highlights her husband's inappropriate role as hatchet man and draws into relief the fact that, if she gets back into the White House, he does, too.

The joining of the past administration to a future one may cause some to view the Clinton's push for a second bite at the apple as more than a little annoying and power-cloying.

Meanwhile, the process is working. Obama's arguments are issues the media has passed on, and Clinton's pointing out the seamy reputation of an Obama campaign operative is necessary information, too.

And Obama was clearly angry, which is something we've not seen. He is not quite as unflappable as we thought, but voters will decide whether that's a good or bad thing.

It is easy to say what good theater it all is and how much excitement this rivalry generates relative to the political process.

But it is a terrible trap for Democrats, especially if Ms. Clinton's insider campaign and collection of super-delegates crush Obama before or at the Democratic National Convention.

The anger and resentment it would generate could drive all these newly-minted Democratic caucusers and primary goers, along with Obama supporters, away from the contest in November, and from the process for years to come.

It happened in 1980 when Kennedy supporters, livid at Ted's rough handling at the hands of Jimmy Carter's minions, stayed home and opened the door to a Reagan landslide.

But for now, on with the show!

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