This is a dirty campaign and since Senator Barack Obama won't say it, I will. The media has not been unfair to Senator Clinton, they have been extremely soft. There are elephants in the room that need to be addressed. Can anyone say Whitewater? How about impeachment? Let's not forget Osama bin Laden. You can bet Republicans will be talking about these issues. So why aren't Democrats? Clinton's central arguments in the campaign are basically a mirage, and they are dangerous ones both for the party and the country.
Clinton's line is that she is "experienced and ready on Day One" and that she is best poised to fight the Republican attack machine.
Sure, the Clintons have faced the Republican attack machine, and they did such a good job that it resulted in a Constitutional crisis. The scorched earth battle between the Clintons and the GOP over the Clinton's lies about sex, dubious financing and other misdeeds nearly brought down the government and terribly damaged the Democratic Party. Were the Republicans nasty, dirty and all manner of evil? Sure. But it took the Clinton spin and lie machine to spiral the country, the party and the presidency downward into impeachment.
Now the Clinton campaign shouts about "Nafta-Gate," pointing to a supposed conversation between a chief Obama economic advisor and Canadian officials, to assure the Canadians that Obama's opposition to NAFTA was political posturing. The media made a big deal about it. But it was Bill Clinton actually passed the legislation at stake (along with the disaster we know as welfare reform, and deregulation of banking that contributed to the current mortgage meltdown). The Obama campaign should reveal what happened with the Canadians. But it will likely pale in comparison to Clintonian back-room escapades during their tenure.
Senator Clinton has also raised the Rezko land deal. At worst it looks as if Obama bought a portion of a vacant lot next door to his home from a dubious character, so he could have a bigger backyard for his kids. Does it really compare with the Whitewater scandal? The phony "Nafta-Gate" and "Rezko-Gate" don't come anywhere close to Monica Gate, Trooper Gate, Whitewater and the persistent trail of sleaze that follows the Clintons.
Senator Clinton knows how to come at the Republican attack machine, but she's also the one who gives it all the fuel it needs to rev up.
As for experience and being poised to fight for Americans, well Hillary Clinton was given one major policy task as first lady, health care reform. She was so effective at "fighting" for it that it went down in defeat and the Democrats lost the Congress as a result.
Legislation is not passed by fighting. Health Care reform will only be achieved through bringing Democrats, and some Republicans, together.
Clinton's claim of experience and readiness is a mirage. Senator Clinton has no true national security experience. Her vote on the Iraq war was cynical, at best. Embattled during the impeachment scandal, the Clinton administration failed to respond decisively to the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden. Bill Clinton's unwillingness to take out bin Laden, fearing it would create a "wag the dog" scenario in the midst of impeachment, showed a disastrous lack of judgment. McCain will hammer home these weaknesses at every opportunity. And the fight will be messy.
So since Senator Barack Obama won't say it, I will: The Clintons are reckless, back-alley fighters who are willing to destroy the Democratic Party, the country and the institution of the presidency if it will benefit them. Yes, they are "fighters," but not for you or me. They fight hardest and dirtiest on behalf of themselves, and this campaign has proved it. Over the past week Senator Clinton has reminded us how dirty she can play to stay alive. But is that ultimately good for the Democratic Party? Democrats need to exorcise their Clinton demons and do it fast for the sake of the party and the country. Superdelegates and especially Al Gore, can you hear me?
Mark Q. Sawyer is an associate professor of political science and African American studies at UCLA, director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics and author of "Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary Cuba."