Wrightgate v. Snipergate
Almost two weeks ago, Barack Obama gave his landmark speech refusing to cut ties with radical pastor Jeremiah Wright. Only days after Obama publicly accepted Wright as a flawed brother-in-arms, Hillary Clinton was caught giving an outlandishly exaggerated account of a 1996 trip she made to war-torn
At least part of the answer has to do with political ingenuity and damage control. Immediately following the release of Rev. Wright’s anti-American rants, Barack Obama made a few television appearances in which he claimed limited knowledge of Wright’s more radical sermons. These appearances were the worst of Obama’s campaign. He doesn’t bend the truth convincingly. He looked awkward and unsure as he offered very hazy qualifiers about his own attendance at
By contrast, when Hillary was caught dead-to-rights for making up her
But the fact is Hillary had no choice. There was no thoughtful way out of the
Interestingly, the different binds in which the two candidates found themselves reflect exactly what they considered their respective campaign missions. Hillary thought she had to solidify the commitment of her base. This base, she knew, was already aware of her propensity for tall tales. The accuracy required of truthfulness, she figured, was a waste of energy better spent on other things—like reminding people she’d spent eight years “in” the White House. Obama, on the other hand, set out to find new voters. The ingenuity on display throughout his campaign sprung from this need to keep making headway. Meanwhile, the
If the notion of change was ever taken seriously amongst Democrats during this primary (and that’s a big if), then Obama’s candidacy should get more credit for being novel than for being a mere novelty. Without a legislative record of change, he took a daring approach to campaigning—of necessity. Hillary’s “old-style” of politics didn’t merely prove to be a liability in that it tarnished her perception amongst voters; her sense of entitlement, reliance on recognition, and dependence on built-in support fostered a laziness that will probably have been her undoing.
Hillary has entrenched what’s left of her base, though. Another recent poll shows that 28 percent of her supporters would vote for McCain in a general election if Obama became the Democratic nominee. A figure like that is born of complaining, not campaigning. Hillary managed to convince her supporters that Obama was everything she said. It just never occurred to her to go after those who weren’t listening. So while Obama has more voters, Hillary’s are more aggrieved. That’s a distinctively Clintonian sort of victory.