The Clinton vs. Obama slugfest continues

While pundits suggest Clinton's confidence about winning is arrogance, Obama is stuck cleaning up after his Albright gaffe.

By Joan Walsh
November 28, 2007 2:30AM (UTC)
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I was on MSNBC this morning with Joe Scarborough for one of the cable channel's "Super Tuesday" all-politics hours. The other guests were Time's Ana Marie Cox and Newsweek's Richard Wolffe. Joe played a clip of Hillary Clinton telling CBS's Katie Couric that she's never thought about the chance she could lose the presidency. He introduced the clip saying he loves it, he plays it over and over and always chuckles, and that he thinks America wants a commander in chief brimming with confidence. Then he tossed it to me. And I agreed with him. First of all, Clinton deserves to have confidence, she's got a solid lead in every state but Iowa. But also, she has nothing to worry about even if she loses. She'll be in the Senate, not homeless. So why would she think about it? Clinton strikes me as someone who's learned not to waste energy worrying about the bad things that might happen. I admire that about her. But when Joe came around to Ana Marie Cox, she aimed her remarks at me, and asked whether I admire the same "arrogance" when I see it in George W. Bush.

Joe didn't let me answer, which was fine; we moved on to other more important topics (more on those to come). But I thought Cox's equating of Clinton and Bush was breathtakingly dumb, and straight from the lazy MSM playbook they seem to be perfecting over at Time these days. I have never seen two people as different as Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush. She has worked for everything she's had; he's had everything handed to him, including the presidency. She's a diligent, good-girl over-preparer (interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times on that topic today); he's got a lazy rich-kid, frat-boy sense of entitlement. There's no comparison. I hope that answers Ana's question.


We also talked about Obama's tart claim that Hillary Clinton is making too much of her experience on the world stage; "I don't think that Madeleine Albright would think Hillary Clinton was the face of foreign policy during the Clinton administration. But maybe she'll disagree with that." Ouch. Albright, a Clinton backer, does indeed disagree with that. Cox and Wolffe praised Obama for his new fighting spirit, but I think that comment was a mistake -- perhaps born of overconfidence? I criticized Clinton last week for mocking Obama's childhood spent abroad, because I thought the jab was beneath her. But I had friends tell me she did the right thing: By getting tougher with Obama, they said, she'll throw him off his game. Maybe they were right, because Obama blew it with that one. Albright is a Hillary Clinton friend and supporter who is uniquely positioned to talk about the importance of the global role Clinton played as first lady. They traveled together on formal U.S. diplomatic missions many times, and Albright was warm and generous about Clinton's contributions in her memoir "Madam Secretary."

I called Albright's office for comment after the MSNBC show, and they said she was out of the office today but released this statement: "Hillary Clinton represented American interests and values during her visits to more than 80 countries and her meetings with presidents, prime ministers and leaders of civil society. She has been a dynamic representative even standing up to China by pointing out that women's rights are human rights. Her seven years as a U.S. Senator, including her service on the Armed Services Committee, has further deepened her experience as a dynamic and effective leader for our country. She will be ready from the very first day to lead our nation in a dangerous and complicated world, which is why I am supporting her candidacy."

The Illinois senator would have been better off claiming Clinton was no Anthony Lake, Bill Clinton's first-term national security advisor, who is in fact supporting Obama. I admire Obama's foreign policy, so it's particularly unfortunate he got distracted from the issues to take a personal jab that backfired.

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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