How Sen. Clinton Loses Debates

During last night’s debate, Sen. Clinton once again tried to make an electoral issue out of Louis Farrakhan’s endorsement of Barack Obama, and the honor given Farrakhan by Obama’s church for his community activism in black communities.

First, let me say that the honor given Farrakhan is meaningless; it was for his activist works alone, which are deserving of recognition and get as little as they do because of all the many odious things Farrakhan says.  And of course, Barack Obama had nothing to do with the decision to give the honor.  So, in my opinion, not an actual issue.

But I want to talk instead about how Sen. Clinton blows her chances, rather than whether the opportunity is deserving.

Last night, regarding the issue of Farrakhan, Sen. Clinton said:

“There’s a difference between denouncing and rejecting,” Clinton said, implying that Obama had not gone far enough. “I just think we’ve got to be even stronger.”

Yeah.  That sucks, doesn’t it?  You aren’t going to get many people up in arms about the difference between denouncing and rejecting.  But here is what she could have said:

This speaks, sadly, to the issue of experience.  In 1999, regretfully, I attended a ceremony in the West Bank with Suha Arafat, the wife of the late Yasser Arafat.  On that occasion, Mrs. Arafat took advantage of our language difference to give a false and incendiary speech, which I did not understand, and before a translation could be given to me on the dais, the ceremony called for us to embrace.

As I said thereafter, the decision to meet with Mrs. Arafat was a mistake.  And that mistake could not be undone simply by my denunciation of what Mrs. Arafat said, and what she stands for.  Because she was using me, cynically, for her own advantage.  She could, and did, use that image to help perpetuate conflict in the Middle East.  It was a grievous error on my part.

But from experience comes wisdom.  Why the endorsement of Sen. Obama by Farrakhan troubles me is not because I have the slightest concern that Sen. Obama shares his odious views, but because of how Louis Farrakhan can use his endorsement of Sen. Obama to his own advantage.  It is the same reason that I am troubled by Sen. Obama’s willingness to meet with leaders of rogue nations without conditions – not because there is harm in talking to our enemies, but because some of those enemies are attempting to use our willingness to talk to score their own propaganda victories.  After the past eight years, I feel certain that the American people are tired of being made to look the fool in the eyes of the world.

She could have said that.  But she didn’t, and won’t, and probably couldn’t.  But that is how to make it stick.


    • Jay Elias on February 27, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    …without hiring the Senator a decent goddamn writer?

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