Monday, March 17, 2008

Making The Turn: Clinton's Newest Move--And How Obama Can Respond

In a speech today at George Washington University, Hillary Clinton indicated the next clever move of the Clinton camp--making a turn from attack on Obama by insinuation and surrogates, to a serious and detailed speech on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, leveled largely against Bush and McCain. Having drawn Obama out to respond to the attacks, the plan is clearly to now outflank, moving forward on the issue of Iraq, thus leaving Obama standing amid the mire of the attacks while also attempting to underscore the foreign policy "experience" argument and to turn the narrative towards the general.

Wearing an incongruously joyous shamrock-covered scarf, Clinton spoke in even and leveled "3. a.m." tones of soldiers "who have made the ultimate sacrifice" and who have "experienced wounds both visible and invisible to their bodies, their minds and their hearts."

That President Bush seems to want to keep as many troops after the surge as a clear admission that the surge has not accomplished its goals. Meanwhile, as we continue to police Iraq's civil war, the to our national security, our economy, and our standing in the world continue to mount." She then tied the ongoing expense in Iraq to her core domestic issues--health care for the uninsured, pre-K for children, solving the housing crisis, providing support for college students, and offering tax relief.

Repeatedly tying the failed policy of Bush to that of McCain, and citing chairman of the J.C.S. Mullen, she invoked the "unescapable reality"--we can have troops on the ground for 100 years--but there is no political solution" to the war in Iraq.

The payoff: "Withdrawal is not defeat--defeat is keeping troops in iraq for 100 years. Defeat is straining our alliances and losing our standing in the world. Defeat is losing our reseources and diverting attention from our key interests."

A deft move. As Obama prepares to level strong attacks against Clinton in response to the onslaught of the previous weeks, Clinton is now premptively changing the message and focus to Bush, McCain, the war in Iraq, and withdrawal. Underscoring the latter is certain to draw media attention, and is intended tactically to leave Obama standing in the echo of his return attacks, in the potential position of being a step behind, with the questions of Clinton, however legitimate, unanswered. After having leveled the most broad-brush attacks against Obama, the Clinton camp is now attempting to place Obama in the perceived position of leveling attacks, rather than dealing, as they now happen to be, "with the serious issues of the day."

What Obama can do:

Do *not* avoid Clinton's newest turn. Instead, come strong--having first *tied* Clinton's speech to the questions that will now be raised about her, e.g.

Hillary Clinton, has raised questions about fitness for office--at the same time that, as the person running second in this contest, she has said that I would make an excellent Vice President. She has questioned my experience, when she has less experience governing, and key figures from her husband's Administration who were with her at the time have that that experience did not occur. We know the other charges that have been leveled.

Now, when Mrs. Clinton is having questions raised about herself, serious questions about her own fitness for governance, about her own "experience", about her own--let's say politely veracity, in statements that she has made and is making, now--she would like to change the discussion. Now--she would like to focus on the "serious issues".

Well, I have to wonder. I know...I know...this is just her newest change, the newest hoodwink...but, still, I just have to wonder. Where was she when we were focusing on the serious issues? Where was she focusing he concerns when Congress took the vote on Iraq? Where has she been when we have been focusing week after week on the serious issues of resolving the war in Iraq, on providing security for our nation?

Just what will her next change be, next week? Do we want a President who does not know what she will say from week to week? Who does not know who she will be at 3 a.m."

And so on.

Instead of letting her simply make the turn, and playing catch-up, let her make her turn--and then box her within it, by tying it to and framing it within the context of her previous changes and actions.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman