Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a wide-ranging interview today with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporters and editors, said she would have left her church if her pastor made the sort of inflammatory remarks Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor made.
"He would not have been my pastor," Clinton said. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."
The Clinton campaign had refrained from getting involved in the Wright controversy, but Clinton herself, responding to a question this morning, denounced what she said was "hate speech."
The problem for Hillary is that this plays into the larger metanarrative about her campaign, that she'll do or say anything to get elected. She's smart enough to realize that dragging the Rev. Wright matter back into the news makes her look petty and despicable, but in the end it's probably the best option she has for two reasons.
For one, slinging mud out of sheer desperation reinforces a negative perception, but it's a more favorable one than the emerging storyline that she's a chronic liar whose falsehoods cut to the very notion of her campaign strategy that she's more "experienced" (Never mind the fact that were she to be judged by her own definition of "experience", she'll lose to John McCain in November). Moreover, for a lot of Clinton's supporters, her willingness to engage in character assassination is considered an asset in November. For Obama supporters, this makes her look like an asshole, but Clinton's base (the "fight fire with fire" wing of the DNC) will see this as another example of her being "tough".
Of course, the other upside for Clinton is that in distracting attention away from embarrassing news, she refocuses attention on the emerging right-wing meta-narrative that Barack Obama is unpatriotic. This has been the thread that unites many of the right-wing smears against Obama, from the "lapel pin" flap, to Michelle Obama's comments about being proud of America "for the first time", to the Obama singing the national anthem without his hand over his heart, to Rev. Wright's "God Damn America" comments.
Now in their efforts to use the "Tonya Harding option" against Obama, the Clintons have resorted to doing the GOP's work for them. Just last week, Bill implied that Obama, unlike McCain and Hillary, doesn't "love this country". Now Hillary is dragging the Wright matter back into the spotlight. These sort of attacks make perfect sense for the party that turned a yellow ribbon magnet into a form of wartime sacrifice, but are Bill and Hillary Clinton really buing into the notion that a patriot should be judged by his ostentatious and self-aware displays of nationalistic fervor? Or are they just throwing a bunch of shit at the wall and hoping something sticks?
Contrasting the two dominant meta-narratives, it seems that Obama is the one with the upper hand here. After all, unlike Hillary Clinton's weasely admission that she merely "misspoke" in her tall tales on the stump, Obama has already addressed the Wright matter in a straightforward manner (as more than 3 million YouTube viewers can attest). Bringing this up again runs the risk of making Hillary look foolish, like in the Ohio debate when she criticized Obama for "denouncing", but not "rejecting", Louis Farrakhan. Rather than get caught up in Hillary's silly word games, Obama just pithily insisted that he would "reject and denounce". It was a moment in which a nation's eyes rolled in unison. Whatever, Hillary.
While the "Obama isn't patriotic" storyline will have some staying power (if only to give the bobbleheads a way to burn-up airtime between commercials until November), the notion that Obama doesn't sufficiently love his country is pretty stupid on its face and will only really have legs with voters who would never vote for him in the first place. Like the Farrakhan exchange, it's a narrative so childish that it can only be rejected through mockery. "Sure," I can imagine Obama saying, "I hate America so much...I'm running for President."
Yet, here we are, in the tail end of a primary season in which the losing challenger for the Democratic nomination has sunk to reinforcing right-wing smears against her party's likely nominee in a transparent attempt to distract the media from the fact that she's been caught in multiple lies about her experience. Granted, Hillary Clinton lost her chance to win my vote long ago, but I can't help but wonder how favorably superdelegates will look upon a former frontrunner cutting off her nose to spite her face.