As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Walking Into A Corner

The Clinton campaign's constant denigrating of Obama's national security credentials, paired with their support of a "unity ticket" with Obama as Vice-President, is getting them into a lot of trouble.

Hillary advisers were asked by reporters how it is that Hillary could raise the possibility of Obama as her veep if he hadn't crossed the "commander-in-chief threshold," as she and her surrogates have been suggesting.

A good question indeed.

But Hillary spokesperson Howard Wolfson was prepared with a hedge. He said that the possibility of Obama as veep is not something that she is "prepared to rule out at this point," adding: "At the same time we continued to believe that Senator Obama has not passed the key commander-in-chief test at least at this point."

A bit later in the call, Wolfson was pressed on this question, and said:

"Senator Clinton will not choose any candidate who has not at the time of choosing passed the national security threshold. But we have a long way to go until Denver, and it's not something she's prepared to rule out at this point."

Great, I'm so excited for four years of endless parsing and having to be a lawyer to actually understand these statements.

Obama is pouncing on this contradiction, by the way. Clinton's own "commander-in-chief threshold" argument is coming under fire, too, with people noting that Hillary did not have security clearance when she was First Lady, as well as the numerous exaggerations that characterize her national security credentials. This post about Clinton and Rwanda is a must-read. It's infuriating to me that any Democrat would try to use the embarrassing experience in Rwanda as a net positive.

First, if Hillary Clinton did press for military intervention in Rwanda, her advocacy left no trace in the world. I have read quite a lot about the Rwandan genocide and the US reaction towards it, and Hillary Clinton's involvement comes as news to me. I just went through my various books on the Rwandan genocide (there are eight), and she is not mentioned in any of them [...]

Clinton didn't mention that she advocated military intervention in Rwanda in her memoirs. Neither did Madeleine Albright. Neither, as far as I can tell, did anyone else. Military intervention was not considered as an option, "never even debated", which means that any advocacy she did engage in must have been pretty ineffective.

But it's worse than that. The Clinton administration did not simply fail to intervene militarily in Rwanda. It took a number of steps that made it easier for genocide to be committed. Not taking these steps would have been much, much easier than sending actual troops to Rwanda. They would have made a real difference. And yet the Clinton administration failed to take them.

You can't, unless you've sat in that chair for a few years, ever announce that you have the relevant experience to be commander-in-chief. To use it as an argument against your opponent, and to try to make that case when talking about RWANDA, is "grotesque," as Hilzoy puts it.

In the end, this focus on national security could seriously backfire on Senator Clinton.

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