In the Arena

Last Dog in Intensive Care

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Waco, Texas

Some signs that things aren’t going so well:

1. The Red Phone Ad As Karen recounts below, a 24-year-old ad? From Walter Mondale? And easily refutable by Obama–who said, in response, earlier today: “We’ve had a red phone moment in Iraq.” And Clinton voted the wrong way. But the more substantive question is this: What has Clinton shown us so far in this election that demonstrates her superiority and toughness on national security issues? Not much. Clinton has worked hard to accumulate some expertise over the past 5 years on the Armed Services Committee, but in this campaign she hasn’t made much use of it. Last summer, she criticized Obama, appropriately, on a minor point: you lay the groundwork carefully before agreeing to meet with an adversary (I’m sure a President Obama wouldn’t just fly off to Habana without staffing it out first…and I’m equally sure that President Clinton would make the same efforts as Obama to end the utterly foolish and counterproductive U.S. policy of not recognizing our adversaries.) She also criticized Obama inappropriately–as McCain did–about his willingness to go after Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan.

But, one might ask, where’s the beef? What substantive policy proposal has she made that demonstrates how she’d be a better Commander in Chief than Obama? I can’t think of any.

2. Conference Call Hell As we rode down to Waco from Fort Worth on the Clinton bus this noon, various cellphones had the Clinton-spinners press conference-call on speaker. It was intolerable, like being forced into a small room with that obnoxious Cincinnati talk radio host. It went on for an hour and a half, and I was beginning to wonder if there was a hostage situation. The big news, the new spin was that Obama was going to have to prove his front-runnerdom by winning all 4 primaries next week. This sort of spin is…so 4 cycles ago. Do Penn and Wolfson etc. actually think this has any effect beyond making them seem stupid and petty?

3. Meanwhile, the candidate–as is her wont–continues to hold meetings of substance…about the economy in Ohio yesterday, about alternative energy in Texas last night. Completely admirable. If she’s going out, it’s with class.

Update: Clinton just finished a solid, if unspectacular, speech about military affairs here in Waco, with an impressive array of brass–several of the 27 generals and admirals who’ve endorsed her–standing on stage. She hammered Obama for being “AWOL” on various national security isses–like his failure to hold hearings about NATO and Afghanistan as chair of the European Affairs Subcommittee…and his failure to show up for a Iran vote (in which she, dubiously, sided with the Bush Administration in favor of labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps–or IRGC–a terrorist organization).

She had nothing new to say about Iraq or Afghanistan…and, it seems to me, that this national security theme is coming very late in the game. After all, her expertise–and obvious interest–in this area was an important difference she had with Obama and, as she said today, “We’ve never had an election where national security wasn’t an issue.”
But, as one of her generals told me, “It’s not the sort of issue that lights up Democrats”–which was evident today, as the Waco crowd (not overwhemingly large) came alive only toward the end, when she turned to domestic issues.