Friday, December 28, 2007

Clinton nomination now a certainty

From this perspective, yesterday's tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the varied candidate reactions assure that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president. Already the odds on favorite, it's now a certainty, and that's regardless of what happens in Iowa or New Hampshire.

Events in Pakistan underscore the importance of international exposure and foreign policy experience. Her two main rivals are, generally speaking, lightweights on the global stage. While candidates like Biden and Richardson have more first hand experience than Clinton in this regard, they are "also rans" already.

Yesterday's actions by the main candidates were emblematic of the field of play as it now stands. Clinton issued a press statement but somehow managed to stay out of the broadcast news with any public commentary. On a day when nothing can be said to change what had just happened, when a moment of mourning might be considered, and when no one really knows where this is heading, that seems appropriate(and might have only been possible because she does have more experience).

Obama made a widely broadcast statement of reasoned comment, but his delivery seemed practiced and he seemed uncomfortable. Later, his campaign's chief strategist, David Axelrod, made comments to the press saying that the Iraq war led to the rise of terrorist activity and political instability in Pakistan and reminded everyone that Clinton had supported the Iraq war. Rewriting history is an activity of every politician and political observer, but this was a boneheaded comment both in terms of timing and validity. Pakistan has been in a state of political upheaval for decades, and one could just as well argue that the Iraq war diverted Al Qaeda's attention to Iraq, leaving a major effort in Pakistan for another day. Who knows, but it was the wrong day for the Obama campaign to make such comments linking Clinton to what unfolded in Pakistan and saying, to quote Axelrod, "she should be held accountable".

For his part, John Edwards made multiple comments to the media and cameras and in some referred to his close personal relationship with Bhutto. While his comments in general made sense, his touted link to Bhutto came across as bizarre given his unremarkable six years in the Senate with limited foreign policy experience.

To sum up, Clinton handled the day diplomatically, Obama, or his campaign staff, made an almost irredeemable mistake, and Edwards acted with his usual syrupy aplomb. Clinton has it.

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