- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hillary’s mistake

“If (although I strongly suspect the right word is ‘when’) Hillary Clinton loses [today’s] New Hampshire primary, there will be a few proto-obituaries for her campaign and many more stories about how it will be ‘shaken up’ or ‘relaunched,’ ” Robert Shrum writes in the New York Daily News.

“Scapegoats will be found and exiled: Mark Penn, the pollster and strategist, foremost among them. After all, the candidate can’t very well dispense with the uberstrategist who also happens to be her husband and who was fully complicit in designing and driving her message,” said Mr. Shrum, who was senior strategist in the Al Gore and John Kerry presidential campaigns.

“The flaw wasn’t just the attempt to go back to the future, to the 1990s, but that the Clintons picked the wrong year in that decade. Instead of 1992, when Bill was the personification of change, their model was 1996. So Hillary ran as a pseudo-incumbent, with a selection of bite-size proposals and an abundance of caution and transparent calculation.

“Why would any campaign ever explicitly announce a tour to make the candidate ‘likable’? Or, as happened when the beleaguered Clinton machine sputtered into New Hampshire, that they now had a plan for her to be spontaneous and actually answer audience questions?

“The Clinton industry, encrusted with the beneficiaries and acolytes of the first and probably only Clinton presidency, has turned Hillary into a product whose sell-by date has passed. In a year of change, she has been positioned as the establishment candidate. The relentless appeal to ‘experience’ reinforces that — and too often elides into a dubious attempt to take credit for some of Bill’s accomplishments.”

The final days

“The Obama wave, which has been building for months, reached the proportions of a tidal wave after Iowa. It is now about to submerge, sink and drown the Clinton campaign, and with it, the Clinton era will come, finally, to a close,” Peter Wehner writes in a blog at www.commentary magazine.com.

“The Clinton years lasted from 1992 to 2007. In the early days of January 2008, a young, graceful senator from Illinois, liberal and likeable, with only a few years of experience in the U.S. Senate, stood up to Hillary and Bill Clinton and the vaunted Clinton machine and ran rings around all of them. Every effort to try to derail Obama came back to hurt them. …

“I have said before that to watch Obama v. Clinton is to be reminded of watching Ali v. Foreman. The de facto knockout blow is about to be delivered [today] in the snowy streets of New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton certainly won’t drop out after her loss; she will stagger on but prove unable to stop Obama. And to watch the Clintons’ rage and desperation grow in the last days of this campaign will not be pretty. They will lash out at everyone, including Obama, the media, her own campaign, and maybe, eventually, each other.”

Kemp’s choice

Former Rep. Jack Kemp, the architect of the Reagan tax cuts, endorsed Sen. John McCain yesterday, but top Republican policy strategists said it wasn’t because Mr. Kemp thinks the Arizona Republican will cut taxes further.

Republicans who are close to Mr. Kemp were surprised by the endorsement, because Mr. McCain not only voted against President Bush’s tax cuts, which he now supports, but unlike several of his rivals for the nomination, the Arizona budget hawk is not calling for deeper tax reductions.

These Republicans told The Washington Times yesterday that the big reason behind Mr. Kemp’s endorsement is the former New York congressman’s discomfort with the hard line that Mitt Romney and other presidential hopefuls have taken on immigration. Mr. Kemp supports a guest-worker program that includes a path to citizenship.

Mr. Kemp had not planned to endorse anyone, but the tone of the Republicans’ debate on immigration pushed him into Mr. McCain’s corner, Kemp allies told The Times.

“John McCain is the only candidate who can be trusted to cut taxes, eliminate wasteful spending and enact conservative, pro-growth policies to expand the economy,” Mr. Kemp said in making the endorsement.

But that’s not the way former Rep. Vin Weber — a tax-cut leader who was a chief policy adviser to Mr. McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign but is now backing Mr. Romney — sees things.

“Jack doesn’t believe John McCain is a supply-sider unless he’s changed his mind in the last month. This is all about immigration. Jack wants to support an immigration ‘liberal,’ but that’s not the image McCain wants to convey,” Mr. Weber told The Times yesterday.

Obama’s delusion

“There’s a truth the Democratic presidential candidates can’t handle: the success of the ‘surge’ in Iraq,” Fred Barnes writes at www.weeklystandard.com.

“The addition of American troops and the adoption of a new strategy of protecting the civilian population has now dramatically reduced the level of violence in Baghdad and pacified other parts of Iraq as well. But the Democratic candidates insist on pretending otherwise,” Mr. Barnes said.

“It isn’t clear whether they were uninformed, out of touch, mistaken, politically fearful, or knowingly dishonest when they were asked to comment on the surge during an ABC television debate Saturday night in New Hampshire. In any case, their refusal to acknowledge success in Iraq marked a low point in the Democratic campaign.

“The most disappointing answer came from Barack Obama, the front-runner in the race and a candidate who touts himself as one who would end political polarization in Washington and forge bipartisan solutions. But he’s not likely to produce any bipartisanship on Iraq.

“Obama claimed the decision by Sunnis in Iraq to embrace American forces was a response to the Democratic capture of Congress in the 2006 election. Sunnis in Anbar province ‘started to see, after the Democrats were elected in 2006, you know what?’ They saw the likelihood of a withdrawal of U.S. troops and feared they ‘would be left very vulnerable to the Shias,’ Obama said. So they joined the Americans.

“This is a figment of Obama’s imagination. There’s no evidence for this explanation — quite the contrary. Even before the 2006 election, Sunnis had begun to turn against al Qaeda, their one-time ally in the insurgency, and its brutal tactics. Their rebellion against al Qaeda even has a name, the Sunni Awakening. Desperate for help against al Qaeda terrorists that they turned to Americans.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes .com.

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