If you continue to hit back, you're sacrificing what makes you distinct from most politicians -- that refusal to turn politics into a brutal zero sum game.
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Dear Barack,


I guess I was a tad premature in counting out Hillary. In my own defense, I'd just come from Texas, and everyone seemed totally juiced for you. But the other side went negative, and managed to guilt trip the press in the bargain. Bottom line: a much longer fight for the nomination.

My advice is this: stop going negative. Hillary gets enough abuse from the misogynists who pass as pundits. Kill her with kindness. In the short term, you'll take some hits. That's the way of the modern media whore: whoever says the meanest thing, gets the biggest font. But if you (or your proxies) continue to hit back, you're consenting to make the thing a brawl, a spectacle. And you're sacrificing what makes you distinct from most politicians -- that refusal to turn politics into a brutal zero sum game.

With your indulgence, let me offer an alternative. The next time Hillary levels a broadside, whip this sucker out:

"The folks with the cameras and microphones would love for me to lash back at Senator Clinton. A fight does wonders for their ratings. But I'm not going to lash out at Senator Clinton. And neither should my supporters.

Let me remind you why I'm in this race: to stop the Bush/McCain political machine. A machine that has driven this nation into a foolish war, a misguided occupation, and a recession. A machine that seeks to retain its power not by seeking to solve our common problems but by appealing to our fear and greed.

As many of you know, last week Senator McCain drove his Straight Talk Express to the White House to receive the endorsement of George W. Bush.

Just a few days earlier, a panel of economic experts converged on the capitol to deliver the kind of Straight Talk that John McCain doesn't want you to hear.

The panel told a congressional committee that the war and occupation of Iraq could wind up costing American taxpayers three trillion dollars. Three trillion dollars. This is the same war and occupation we were told was going to pay for itself. The same war and occupation that has been funded by a massive federal deficit. The same war and occupation that John McCain is ready to prolong, he assures us, for 'a hundred years' if necessary.

Here's some more Straight Talk John McCain doesn't want you to hear. It's more like Straight Math, really. With the taxpayer money we spend each day on this occupation, we could do enroll 58,000 children in Head Start for a year, or pay for a year of college for 160,000 low-income students, or pay the annual salaries of 14,000 more police officers. And that's just one day, people. The $3 trillion we'll eventually spend in Iraq would have been enough, according to these experts, to stabilize Social Security for decades.

The most astonishing aspect of all this is the fact that the Bush administration and its congressional enablers cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans with our troops on the ground. John McCain showed the integrity to oppose those cuts initially. He now supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent. That's how it works in George Bush and John McCain's America: the citizens forced to sacrifice are those who can least afford to -- the working poor, the young, the sick, and especially those who serve in our military.

So if you folks in the press corps want a real fight, that's the one I'll be waging for the next six months. It has nothing to do with political scare tactics and fake scandals. It's a fight for our children's future, for a reclamation of our decency as a people, for the very soul of this nation."

Let your rage be precise and righteous.

Your (still) unpaid advisor,

Steve Almond

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