Posted by: mutantpoodle | March 8, 2008

The myth of the National Security Election

Notwithstanding Hillary Clinton’s somewhat inelegant (and certainly annoying) claim that this is a national security election, I’m here to tell you it’s not.

And not just because Bill Kristol says it is.

Yes, the man who has been wrong about so many things in the past 4+ years that the New York Times gave him a column to make him feel better about himself reassured Oregon Republicans that this would be a national security election, and that in times of war, Americans vote for the more hawkish candidate.

The thing is, Kristol believes it. I don’t, for a minute, think Hillary does. She is trying to make it one now, because that’s an advantage she perceives she has over Barack Obama. But come fall, were she to somehow overcome the monstrous odds she faces in getting the nomination, she’d hammer McCain on economic issues and his admitted inexperience in that area. Because Hillary Clinton may be many things, but stupid ain’t one of them. And for all her talk about how she’s passed a commander in chief threshold that Obama has not , that claim, sad to say, is largely based on sleeping in the White House for 8 years. She can’t mean that the two extra years she’s served in the U.S. Senate vs. Obama are the threshhold, can she? And if her high-powered experience at the Rose Law firm and her exemplary service on children’s issues count, then so should Obama’s community organizing and state legislative experience, right?) I think the argument she’s making is that she’s been around long enough for people to know her and know that she’s tough. Which is true – and Obama needs to parry that attack, and I think he is doing so now.

(I should note here that I don’t have an automatic deranged response to Clinton, and I know smart, otherwise rational people who do. I completely get Clinton fatigue, however, and I think it would be good for the country to put the – Holy Shit! – 20 years of Bush-Clinton White House occupancy behind us. I don’t really think this back and forth will fatally damage the Democratic candidate in the fall, and I don’t think Hillary isn’t saying anything about Obama that the GOP couldn’t have thought of themselves. Better to deal with it now. And I think Obama’s got the right idea about her 3AM ad and other attacks on him, like that idiotic patriotism kerfuffle – reject the premise. So while annoyed about all this, I’m not panicked.)

But whoever faces John McCain will face an experience deficit, which is why the Democratic candidate will frame this election around (a) the economy, (b) the economy, and (c) did I mention we need change because the economy, among other things, is really screwed up? It wouldn’t hurt to point out how much less secure we are because of the Iraq war – a point Obama can make more easily than Clinton – but if this election turns on the economy, John McCain loses. Period.

That doesn’t mean that McCain and his surrogates won’t try to scare people into thinking the Democratic candidate will hand the Panama Canal over to al qaeda, or some such silliness, but (a) I don’t think most people will buy it (in many surveys, Democrats are tied or lead Republicans, generically, on who is best on national security), and (b) I don’t think that will be foremost on people’s minds come fall, when foreclosures are up, employment is down, gas prices are up, consumer confidence is down…well, you get the idea. (You could plagiarize quote the Al Gore riff from 1992, above, right now, and not have to change anything except a date in November.) baghdad-john-709366All the Democrats have to do on national security is make sense, and when John McCain is talking about a 100-year presence in Iraq (and when you remind people of his idiocy when he walked through that Baghdad market), it’s not hard to look sane in comparison.

So this is a National Security election for Hillary until it’s not – which is the moment she or Obama garner the nomination. And then it’s on to the issues that are really on people’s minds.

P.S. I want to give a shout out to Biodun, who has guest-blogged at Firedoglake a few times and is up blogging on his own. Welcome to the unshaven, pajama wearing world of lefty bloggers!

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