YOU ONLY HAD TO watch last night's Democratic presidential debate to
understand why Hillary Clinton stays in the race. She's losing the nomination
fight to Barack Obama in both the delegate count and the popular vote. But if
bad things happen to her in a debate or while campaigning, she'll be no worse
off. She'll still be losing. Her prospects of winning may be slightly more
remote, but they aren't exactly bright now.
But if bad things happen to Obama, that's another story. In a debate, he's
bound to be asked questions about matters he'd rather not be front and center
in this campaign. And indeed those matters were dwelled on last night: his
pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright, his week-old putdown of small town voters, the
American flag pin he no longer wears. No good can come to Obama when these
issues dominate a nationally televised debate, as they did last night.
Sure, Clinton had a tough time dealing with
her lie about having been under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1995. But so what? She's
already suffered whatever hurt that episode may have caused her. For now, all Clinton has to do is stay
in the race and hope Obama makes more rookie mistakes. No Clinton candidacy, no TV debates, far less
pressure on Obama.
He made a few mistakes last night under questioning by Charlie Gibson and
George Stephanopoulos--but not egregious ones. He compared his association with
a former left-wing bomber to his friendship with a Republican senator. He said
he hadn't signed a questionnaire in which he advocated a ban on guns, though
it's been widely reported that his signature was on the document. He said he
might raise the capital gains tax even though a higher rate might reduce the
revenue it takes in.
Obama insisted repeatedly that the debate--indeed, the entire presidential
campaign--had gotten off the track whenever he was asked about unfriendly
issues. These were a distraction from the real issues confronting America, he
insisted, though once again he and Clinton essentially agreed on almost every
single one of those supposedly more important issues when they did come up.
given her desperate position, was free to say just about anything. She cited
her record of "35 years of producing results," though what these
results might be remains a mystery. She claimed to be "ready to be
commander-in-chief," but her only evidence was that some retired generals
have endorsed her.
Obama doesn't have to provide Clinton
a national audience for these dubious claims. All he has to do is refuse any
further debates, including one in North
Carolina before the state's May 6 primary that CBS
wants to stage. Clinton
has already accepted.
This won't keep Obama entirely out of trouble. He made the disastrous
comment about working class people clinging to guns and religion at a private
gathering in the San Francisco
mansion of the Gettys, classic limousine liberals. But declining further
debates will reduce the risks he faces as the frontrunner.
He was lucky in San Francisco.
His remarks were tape recorded, but there was no video. Imagine if there had
been. His condescending remarks about the denizens of rural Pennsylvania would still be playing
everywhere, not just on cable news.
wasn't as lucky. Her peaceful arrival in Bosnia with no snipers around was
videotaped for all to see. And no doubt anyone likely to vote this year did.