I'm writing this on the day of what will probably be the final debate between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I don't know how Tuesday's tussle will play out, and there are a couple of people on the Flyer staff who are better qualified to offer political analysis, but I know what I saw in the last debate — and in the week since — and it doesn't look good for Clinton.
In her opening statement last week, Clinton said "I" about 60 times. Obama said it five or six times. He mostly said "we." Obama kept his responses to Clinton's verbal jabs — accusing him of plagiarism, of offering empty rhetoric, etc. — measured and civil. Clinton tried an obviously preconceived (plagiarized?) bon mot, "That's change you can Xerox," to poor effect. (When's the last time you heard anyone in your office use Xerox as a verb?)
By the end of the debate, Clinton seemed to get it: The audience didn't want cheap shots. So she closed with a warm smile and gushed that she was "so honored to be on this stage tonight with Barack Obama," adding that the important thing was that they both do what's right for the American people. A standing ovation ensued, followed by plaudits for Clinton's graciousness from the network pundits.
So it seemed odd to me to see Clinton go on the attack the next day, literally shouting, "SHAME ON YOU, BARACK OBAMA," in response to a flier criticizing her health-care plan. It got even stranger the following day, as Clinton tried the sarcasm route, implying that stupified Obama supporters think "the sky will open, the light will come down" when he speaks. Then the Clinton campaign released a photo to the Drudge Report of Obama in Somalian dress. I read that Clinton had been urged to "throw the kitchen sink at Obama" by her advisers.
These are the actions of a candidate in trouble. They reek of desperation. And the more erratic her strategy appears, the more presidential her opponent looks by default. Obama's the new Reagan in one regard: He's Teflon-coated at this point. I don't have the best record when it comes to predictions, but here's one, anyway: Hillary is toast.