I'VE NOT DISCUSSED THIS BEFORE, but I have some actual writing to do today, and I've found no other way to procrastinate yet.
CLINTON SUPPORTER LANNY DAVIS'S OP-ED in the Wall Street Journal, discussing Obama's relationship with Jeremiah Wright, suggests "This issue is not going away."
WELL, IT CERTAINLY IS NOT. At least, not so long as Lanny Davis continues to write Op-Eds about it.*
BUT DAVIS'S FURTHER POINT--that Obama's history with Wright will be brought up in the general election should he be the nominee--is true.
IN FACT, it is so true as to be self-evident, and hardly necessary to point out, unless you want to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt among certain voting blocs right before a big primary. In this regard, Lanny Davis is the definition of a concern troll.
BUT TO BRIEFLY FEED THE TROLL, I will take Davis's concern seriously for a moment. Let's ask: should Obama become the Democratic nominee, will the Republicans attack him over his relationship with Wright?
YES, OF COURSE... just as they will happily attack Hillary Clinton over her relationship with Bill Clinton should SHE become the nominee.
BUT HODGMAN, you ask, DO THE TWO LIABILITIES REALLY CANCEL EACH OTHER OUT?
No, the candidates' guilt-by-association problems are NOT equal.
FOR ALAS, Clinton's is worse.
Not because Bill Clinton is somehow more "guilty" than Wright (I'll leave that for the angels to debate), but because the association is closer, and because Clinton has never had to defend against these kinds of attacks in this election.
DEMOCRATS are not trying to tie Hillary Clinton to the Bill Clinton scandals, for obvious reasons. And I'm not even talking about what you think I'm talking about. Indeed, I can think of two attacks against Bill Clinton that are not stupid and disgusting and that I actually find substantive and troubling, though I will not air them here.
BECAUSE NOT EVERY DEMOCRAT LIKES TO USE RIGHT WING TALKING POINTS AGAINST FELLOW DEMOCRATS.
AND REPUBLICANS have not really deployed this line of attack yet either. I'm not sure why. It's either because they have had a complete change of heart about Bill Clinton in the past 8 years, or they have been biding their time until there's a nominee.
WHAT'S YOUR GUESS?
BUT IT WOULD BE HOPELESSLY NAIVE to believe that these attacks are not coming. And we really haven't seen how Clinton will handle them. Whereas I would argue we have seen how Obama intends to handle the Wright smears, which is to say: PRETTY EFFECTIVELY.
SO I WILL DO MY OWN BIT OF CONCERN TROLLING HERE AND SAY: yes, Obama's relationship with Wright may undermine his appeal to certain white voters, and will certainly lose him the racist vote. But he's shown he can take the punch and shake it off in the polls.
BUT WILL NOT HILLARY CLINTON'S RELATIONSHIP WITH BILL CLINTON energize a currently disinterested Republican base? And won't constant attacks on this front undermine her support among Independents?
And wouldn't you like at least some preview as to what her strategy will be for fending off these attacks?
I, FOR ONE, AM VERY CONCERNED AND TROLLISH.
That is all.
* (Although most polls suggest that for Democrats at least, the issue has indeed gone away. And double indeed, there is reasonable debate as to whether it deserves the word "issue" at all, as opposed to a simple character smear--except among those within the Clinton campaign who wish it to BE an issue.)