The New York Times; by William Kristol; April 28, 2008
I normally don’t claim to speak for other members of the vast right-wing conspiracy. After all, we’re each nefarious in our own, individual way. Indeed, we often disagree with one another.
But I do think I can speak for most of my fellow right-wingers when I say this: We once looked forward with unambivalent glee to the fall of the house of Clinton. Many of us still do. But we also see the liberal media failing to give Hillary Clinton the respect she deserves. So, since we conservatives believe in giving credit where credit is due, it falls to us to praise Hillary.
The fact is Hillary Clinton has turned out to be an impressive candidate. She has consistently defeated Barack Obama when her back was to the wall — first in New Hampshire, then in several big primaries on Super Tuesday, on March 4 in Ohio and Texas, and then last week in Pennsylvania, where she was outspent by almost 3 to 1, yet won handily.
She is, of course, still behind in the race, and Obama will most likely be the nominee. His team has run the better campaign. In particular, it realized how important the caucus states could be: Obama’s delegate lead depends on his caucus victories.
But Hillary may well be the better candidate. After all, for all the talk of Obama’s extraordinary ability to draw voters to the polls, Clinton has defeated him in the big states, including California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Obama won his home state of Illinois, but she won Florida, where both were on the ballot but didn’t campaign.
Furthermore, if you add up the votes in all the primaries and caucuses — excluding Michigan (where only Hillary was on the ballot), and imputing the likely actual totals in the four caucus states, where only percentages were reported — Clinton now trails in overall votes by only about 300,000, or about 1 percent of the total. By the end of the nominating contest, she may well be ahead on this benchmark — one not entirely to be scorned in a democracy.
Hillary has achieved this despite much disparagement of her candidacy by liberal commentators, and in the face of the media’s crush on Obama. Even those who started out being well disposed to Clinton have moved toward Obama, if only out of concern that the prolonged race is damaging Democratic prospects in the fall.
Obama understands his advantage with the media, as he perhaps inadvertently demonstrated over the weekend on “Fox News Sunday.” In the course of dismissing much pundit commentary for typically overreacting to events, good or bad, Obama explained, “Well, look, after you lose, then everybody writes these anguished columns about, why did you lose?”
Obama chose a nice word: “anguished.” You’re only anguished by an Obama defeat if you’re rooting for an Obama victory. Obama was tacitly acknowledging that much of the liberal media has been hoping he’d win. Now, they’re rooting for him to close the deal.
That’s fine. If I were on the left I might be rooting for that too. But this focus on Obama has resulted in a refusal to give Hillary her due. It’s startling how much of the commentary on the Pennsylvania results has had to do with Obama’s flaws and mistakes — rather than Hillary’s strengths and successes. Maybe in Pennsylvania, they were voting for Clinton, not simply against Obama.
Which leads to this question: Will the media this week give Obama a pass on refusing to debate Clinton before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries on May 6? Will he be chastised for his lame excuse? “We’ve had 21, and so what we’ve said is with two weeks, two big states, we want to make sure we’re talking to as many folks as possible on the ground, taking questions from voters,” Obama said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Will it be left to conservatives like the estimable blogger “Allahpundit” (at hotair.com) to (sarcastically) state the obvious? “What’s the most efficient way to communicate with voters? Surely not at a massively promoted, televised, highly watched debate. Much better to hold a few town halls and meet and greets.”
We have had four one-on-one debates so far — and each has been revealing. A debate without a moderator, as Clinton has suggested, could be particularly interesting. But debates would give Clinton equal time in the spotlight, and would make Obama’s advantage in paid media in Indiana and North Carolina far less significant.
On Friday in Indiana, Obama talked tough in response to a question: “I get pretty fed up with people questioning my patriotism.” And, he continued, “I am happy to have that debate with them any place, anytime.” He’s happy to have fantasy debates with unnamed people who are allegedly challenging his patriotism. But he’s not willing to have a real debate with the real person he’s competing against for the nomination.
Will Obama pay no price for ducking? Should paid advertisements determine the Democratic victor, not the performance of the two candidates debating at length in an unscripted setting?
Over to you, anguished liberals.