Hillary Clinton Vs. The Mudville Rookie

Update II:  New York Daily News on the big Obama blunder and its political impact in states like Florida.  We wrote earlier about the political impact in the Florida Cuban community.  The Daily News describes the Obama blunder (taking on both Hillary and Edwards) and its impact on the Jewish American community – which impacts a whole lot of other states, not just Florida.  As Senator Dianne Feinstein endorses Hillary today we say Good Job Team Hillary – – Keep On Digging Axelrod/Obama/Plouffe: 

Political observers said they expected Clinton to waste no time using Obama’s comment to shore up her standing among key voter blocs, such as Cuban-Americans in bellwether Florida and Jewish voters who may find the idea of a sitdown with the Holocaust-denying president of Iran disturbing.

Team Clinton plans “to use these issues in outreach in the states [and nationally] with Jewish leadership and Jewish grass-roots voters,” a Democratic operative familiar with the Clinton campaign told the Daily News.

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Update: New York Daily News:  Hillary Clinton has a more sophisticated and tougher perspective than Barack Obama does when it comes to the exercise of presidential power on the global stage. Obama was downright naive in promising that in his first year in office he would meet personally with antagonists like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il and Hugo Chavez. And Clinton was spot on in ruling out talks unless they had a goal, saying, “I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes.”

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An important rule in life generally and in politics particularly is – When You Are In A Hole, Stop Digging. Barack Obama (D-Rezko) made a major blunder at the South Carolina debate Monday night. Instead of moving on, Obama called in the Chicago Shovelers.

Last night on Countdown:

Keith Olbermann: You wrote though that after last night there is little doubt that Senator Clinton is the best debater. Did Obama hurt himself last night on that critical issue that seems to be focusing around him about seasoning and experience in internationalism?

Chris Cilizza: Right. I’ve said before and I think the most important thing is that none of these events matter in a specific. They matter in the larger narrative. The larger narrative, the negative narrative around Barack Obama, is he’s not experienced enough. I think he jumped at that question. He was happy to be the first person to answer. He got out there and whacked the Bush Administration as you heard in that clip you played. It drew some applause.

Well, then came Hillary Clinton, sort of the closer to say ‘Look, I understand why you would feel that way but we need to be smart about this. We need to be principled. We need to be pragmatic.‘ So I think Obama sort of got caught off guard. I think he saw an opportunity. He jumped for it. He may have overstepped himself just a little and Clinton used that. Again, she is a very good debater; used that to paint this as experience versus inexperience. And that’s the best dynamic if she wants to win the primary.

Recall, as Politico points out, that it was the Obama campaign that issued a press release, attacking Hillary, first. The Obama press release sought to rewrite the events at the debate and instead dug itself a bigger hole. The Hillary campaign then responded to the Obama rewrite of history. Hillary at the debate was very clear in her respect for diplomacy. But Hillary has sufficient experience to know how to avoid potential traps for the American people.

I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.

I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don’t want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration.

And I will purse very vigorous diplomacy.

And I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we’re not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.

John Edwards, to his credit, agreed with Hillary. “I would not not commit myself on the front end” to such meetings, he said. At the debate Edwards said:

Yes, and I think actually Senator Clinton’s right though. Before that meeting takes place, we need to do the work, the diplomacy, to make sure that that meeting’s not going to be used for propaganda purposes, will not be used to just beat down the United States of America in the world community.

What are the immediate political implications for this political campaign?

We noted that the Miami Herald published an article about these issues.

Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards suggested Monday that they would meet with two leaders who top South Florida’s most-hated list: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

During a nationally televised debate, Obama responded to a hypothetical question: “Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?”

[The article does seem to misrepresent the Edwards position on Obama type unconditional meetings within a year. Both Edwards and Obama do support the embargo against Cuba.]

Here is the political hole Obama and his Chicago crew have gotten into, as detailed in the liberal magazine The Nation (David Corn wrote the article).

I can see the ad now: Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Fidel Castro, Bashar al-Assad, and Hugo Chavez all strolling into the White House, and a grinning Barack Obama greeting them with a friendly “Welcome, boys; what do you want to talk about?”

If Obama gets close to the Democratic presidential nomination, pro-Hillary Clinton forces could air such an ad. If he wins the nomination, the Republicans could hammer him with such a spot.

And the junior senator from Illinois will not have much of a defense.

Writer David Corn prints the text of the question and Obama’s response. Then this:

The crowd responded with applause. His answer seemed fine. It was only moments later that the problem became obvious. Sorta,[the questioner] who was also in the audience, put the same question to Senator Hillary Clinton.

Corn then prints Hillary’s and Edwards’ answer to the question Obama fumbled. Then this:

Obama had suggested he would sit down with these leaders willy-nilly, no preconditions. Clinton and Edwards explained that that they would use diplomacy to try to improve relations with these nations and that such an effort could lead to a one-on-one with these heads of state.

Obama had responded from the gut, working off a correct critique of the Bush administration’s skeptical approach toward diplomacy. But his answer lacked the sophistication of Clinton’s and Edwards’ replies. And this moment illustrated perhaps the top peril for the Obama campaign: with this post-9/11 presidential contest, to a large degree, a question of who should be the next commander in chief, any misstep related to foreign policy is a big deal for a candidate who has little experience in national security matters.

Clinton, with her years as First Lady and her stint as a member of the Senate armed services committee, and Edwards, with his tenure on the Senate intelligence committee, are steeped in the nuances, language, and minefields of foreign policy. (Among the second-tier candidates, Senator Joe Biden, Senator Chris Dodd, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson can boast extensive national security experience.) Though Obama was against the Iraq war before he was a senator, he has not developed his foreign policy chops. That’s understandable; he’s only been on the national scene for two years. (Prior to that, he was doing admirable work as a state legislator, a civil rights attorney, and a community organizer.) So he is more prone to commit mistakes in this area–perhaps stupid mistakes–that can be easily exploited by his opponents. And in the post-9/11 era, there’s not much room in national politics for such errors.

A Florida victory by Democrats in 2008 would clinch the election. Florida is also a key early primary state.

Obama, the Rookie just made his job a whole lot harder by digging a hole for himself a lot deeper.

[Latest Floida polls show Hillary ahead with 36% of the vote to Obama at 14%, Gore at 14% and Edwards at 9%.]

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