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Hillary and Obama: Not BFFs

After three weeks of struggling mightily to code, encrypt, and in general repress any direct public expression of their mutual antagonism, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama finally made it clear how much they simply dislike one another last night. In … Read More

By / January 22, 2008

After three weeks of struggling mightily to code, encrypt, and in general repress any direct public expression of their mutual antagonism, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama finally made it clear how much they simply dislike one another last night. In the nastiest debate of the primary campaign so far, Clinton had apparently come prepared with reams of oppo research committed to memory and went to the well so many times with it that she was eventually, loudly booed. Obama, meanwhile, turned out not to be so above it all, after all; he only had one particularly gratuitous swipe, but it was a doozy:

I was working on those streets watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart.

Clinton's response was a tactical, if not a moral masterpiece — accusing Obama of having been a consigliere for a slumlord in Chicago. The real story here, unsurprisingly, is basically benign, if a bit convoluted. But the point of levelling a charge like that has nothing to do with its truth or falsity. The point is to convey the message: "Everyone knows I'm crooked like the next politician. You're dreaming if you think Barack is any different." That's why Obama can't win in an exchange like this: No ethical indictment of Hillary Clinton, however true, tarnishes her already disreputable public image; no comparable indictment of Barack Obama, however false, fails to dull the lustre of his reputation somewhat.

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