Maureen Dowd : Obama Is Obambi No More

Monday, March 3, 2008

Channeling her inner Cheney, Hillary Clinton dropped a fear bomb, as Michelle Obama might call it, implying in a new ad that if her opponent is elected, your angelic, innocent, sleeping children could die in a terrorist attack.  Only she has the wise head to go nuclear, should that Strangelovian phone call from a power-mad Putin come into the White House at 3 a.m.  Her ad shows how composed she would be at the dread moment when she picks up the phone.  Her nuke look is feminine, in a tailored camel-colored jacket and gold necklace, yet serious, in Tina Fey black reading glasses.  It’s hard to discern the message of the ad.  The scariest thing is not the persistently ringing phone but an Andrea Yates-looking mother who’s creeping up on the sleeping babes in the dark.  The point can’t be that Hillary is superior to Obama in international crisis management, because she’s done no more of it than he has.  She’s only done domestic crisis management, cleaning up after Frisky Bill…..Obambi-No-More briskly dismissed Hillary’s attempt to cast him as a global ingénue.  “Senator Clinton may not be aware, but we already had a red phone moment,” he said at an outdoor rally here, with the crowd of 8,000 booing at the mention of Hillary’s ad.  “It was the decision to invade Iraq.  Senator Clinton picked up the phone and gave the wrong answer.  And John McCain picked up the phone and gave the wrong answer.  And George Bush picked up the phone and gave the wrong answer.”  (In fact, there is no red phone in the Oval Office, but maybe Obama will redecorate.  He wants to put in a hoops court.)…..On “Nightline” last week, Hillary once more wallowed in gender inequities, asserting that it’s harder for her to run than her opponent — a black man with an exotic name that most Americans hadn’t even heard a year ago.  “Every so often I just wish that it were a little more of an even playing field,” she said, “but, you know, I play on whatever field is out there.”  Is that how she would deal with dictators, by playing the refs and going before the U.N. to demand: “How come you’re not asking Ahmadinejad these questions first?”…..

On a conference call Friday with Hillary’s ever-more-hysterical male strategists, Slate’s John Dickerson asked exactly when she had been tested in a foreign policy crisis.  After a silence long enough to knit a sweater in, as the Web site The Hotline put it, Mark Penn cited “her work on the Armed Services Committee.”  Hillary’s boys pout that the press should find some dirt on Obama before time runs out.  Their once fearsome campaign is now reduced to whining that Obama did not hold any substantive hearings of his Subcommittee on European Affairs.  What’s next?  Bitterly complaining that he missed a quorum call?  Hillary keeps trying to dismiss Obama’s appeal as emotional, something that can be overcome with enough mental discipline.  But behind that ethereal presence he’s a wonky lawyer, just like Hillary.  He reads The Times and Philip Roth and talks about the fine points of Medicare Part B in a way W. never could have when he first ran for president. (Or now.)  Hillary’s visceral attacks will not work.  And the Republicans’ visceral attacks on the Obamas’ patriotism, and their usual attempt to make the Democrat seem foreign (Hussein, Hussein, Hussein!), may not have the same traction.  The president took the country to war on his gut, exploited our fears and played the patriotism card to advance his political agenda.  This time, Americans may prefer cerebral arguments to visceral ones.  What a refreshing change reality would be.

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