Hillary Clinton’s use of the “liberal” label against Barack Obama seems self-destructive – but she may have a new strategy that involves cozying up to John McCain
By Elan Barnehama
A new season of the L-word has begun and no, I’m not talking about the Showtime drama. The McCain campaign is unleashing the L-word, and while it was expected, it seems a bit early in the season. I was thinking it they’d hang onto it till after the Democratic Convention and then let it out in full force. That way, they could wait for the Dems to first shoot themselves in the foot a few times before bombarding the nominee with this knockout label.
Of late, the liberal label has been used almost exclusively by the Right. So much so, that I no longer have a clear sense of what “liberal” means. Instead, I’m left with the one about the kid raised in a strict liberal household who came upon a box of kittens with a sign that read “Free Kittens,” and turned the box on its side and let the kittens out.
So while it seems odd to break out the L-word now, it seems odder to only use it to attack Barack Obama. Could it be that John McCain has decided with certainty that he would rather face Hillary than Barack? It’s true that Hillary and Bill are a great source for Republican fundraising efforts. But they do make formidable political opponents. So I’m not buying.
But then the Clinton campaign enthusiastically joined the McCain campaign in tossing the L-bomb Obama’s way, acting in unison with McCain’s tired, old, simplistic election strategy of pigeonhole politics? I wondered, for a quick moment, if Hillary is so desperate that she is willing to attack Obama regardless of what it will do to the Democratic Party, regardless of the credibility it gives to McCain, regardless of what she thinks of liberals. But I didn’t wonder long. Of course she is.
Still, desperate as she is to win the nomination, she’s too smart to ignore the obvious, that she, too, will be labeled with the L word. In fact, should Hillary succeed in derailing an Obama nomination, she will find herself the recipient of not one, but two L-bombs. The first, “liberal,” will appear often and everywhere. The second, “lesbian,” a slander in waiting, will not surface among the talking heads, but will reveal itself as innuendo by Republican operatives – and unambiguously as hilarity by comedians.
So, what is really going on? That’s when I remembered that Hillary has already granted McCain credentials to lead this nation on the basis of being able to answer a red phone at 3 a.m. And that’s when I got it. Hillary is positioning herself to be McCain’s vice president. McCain’s advanced age makes it likely that he will only serve one term—instead of Obama’s two—allowing her to run as an incumbent in 2012. And, by adding Hillary to the ticket, McCain’s struggles with conservatives will be over. They won’t vote for him. But he’ll pick up all those women voters who want Hillary. And all those confused voters we affectionately call “the undecided” – the ones who still can’t make up their minds despite being catered to and targeted with hundreds of millions of dollars of media attention.
So there it is. McCain and Clinton rewrite the book on bipartisanship, and the Republicans become the first party to elect a woman to the White House.
Elan Barnehama is a writer living in Western Massachusetts. He has taught at several colleges and was, most recently, a Senior Writer for Wesleyan University in Connecticut. His commentaries have aired on public radio and appeared in newspapers. E-mail Elan at: firstname.lastname@example.org ?