Carol Platt Liebau: A Status Quo Debate

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Status Quo Debate

It's elementary that, when you're the candidate behind, you have either to hit the ball out of the park, or force (at least hope for) a huge error on your opponent's part. Tonight, Hillary Clinton did neither.

Her performance was solid, as usual -- as was Barack Obama's, as usual.

A few observations:

(1) The whole issue came up again about willingness to negotiate with "America's enemies." Hillary would insist on preconditions, Barack wants only agenda and "preparation." That may work for him in a Democratic primary, but can you blame the rest of America for wanting to know what, exactly, is the difference between "precondition" and "preparation"? And also for wondering whether it's really a good idea for the President of the United States to dignify the world's tyrants by sitting down to talk to them about human rights? Anyone who remembers the Jimmy Carter administration and its debacles had to have been experiencing a cold chill.

(2) Hillary has obviously made the decision not to attack Barack, at least in the spotlight. Despite the controversy about this, it's probably a good choice, judging from how badly her pre-prepared line about "change we can xerox" flopped.

(3) It will be interesting to see how Barack Obama handles criticism if it ever comes in any quantity from the press or the GOP. It's obvious that he's thin-skinned and he gets a rather unattractive "how dare you" look when someone takes him on.

(4) It's remarkable that Barack Obama is running for President being unable to answer a question about a crisis he addressed. The problem, of course, is that he's never confronted a crisis. Are Americans willing to let that happen to him for the first time when he's sitting in the Oval Office?

(5) Pundits were congratulating Hillary on her final statement -- call it the "hill of beans" conclusion (remember in Casablanca, when Rick tells Ilsa "I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world"?). And it would have been effective -- but the problem with Hillary Clinton is that it's so obvious that she's desperate to win that there's not a shred of authenticity left. Does she mean what she says? Perhaps. But she's said so much, it all seems so carefully calibrated and calculated that it's impossible for a normal person to really get a warm glow even from a skilful delivery on her part of undoubtedly noble sentiments.


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