In the last couple of days Barack Obama has found out what Paula Jones must have felt like after being worked over by the Clinton organization. Ms. Clinton goes slap, slap, slap across his face as husband Bill lets the Illinois Senator have it below the belt.
Nipped, kicked, jabbed, socked, bitten and bopped by the Clintons and their liegemen, Obama has been fighting back as best he can. Hence his attempts the other night in South Carolina, in what was called a debate. Mixing it up with Hillary in that format is asking for it. He was taking on an experienced political thug. If Lyndon Johnson, a president Hillary Clinton has recently come to admire, had had Obama's ear before the lights went up at Myrtle Beach, Johnson would have reminded Obama of the political adage about not getting into a pissing contest with a skunk.
The heart of the Clintons' strategy is to pull Obama down to their level. They are playing demolition derby politics. They understand that they cannot compete with his idealism or with his grand hopes for his country and its people. They know that they cannot match the inspiration he brings to young people and the renewal of faded dreams to older ones. The Clintons know they must take away the joy the Obama volunteers have in their belief that they are making history. They are going after Obama with fire extinguishers to douse the flames he ignites in hearts.
The Clintons cannot compete with the enthusiasm Obama sets off so they must destroy it. Their tactic is disillusionment. They are the quashers of the dream. Bring Obama's people down by showing them he is just another pol like themselves. Discourage idealism with the politics of experience--the politics of the payoff, the deal, of hit-man surrogates, of the slyest of slanders and of when we all are back in the White House, we'll take care of you.
The tactic is to bait, confuse and anger Obama until he says things in heat he does not mean and are not who he is. The tactic is to make him look less noble than he is and show the millions who have placed their hopes in him that he is not a special person after all.
The Clintons would barter the goodwill that they have earned among African Americans in a trade for Hispanic votes. If the exchange sows disunion and rubs raw latent antagonism, a politician of experience accepts the bitterness and the division to follow. It's for a higher cause--getting back in.
In the face of his enemies' campaign of disillusionment, Obama must get back to being Obama. No more debates which have a viewing audience of minus three but which supply embarrassing sound bites and You Tube tidbits for millions. The Lincolnesque Obama is unsuited to the circus of TV debate, where ringmasters angle for catfights and humiliation. It is for Obama's surrogates to challenge the Clintons at their game.
By the time the convention rolls around, the Clintons may pull it off. The machine wins again. Money trumps all. Campaigns of the good die young, etc. However, if those two think that the discouraged youth and the disgusted older people and the again embittered African-Americans are going to vote for her in November, they will find out that the cost of destroying Obama and the dream in the spring is their own destruction in the fall.