San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is one of the prettiest but alas not one of the sharpest in the Democratic pencil box. Chatting with local pundit Phil Matier, in less than two minutes on the early morning news Mayor Newsom confirms the Clinton game plan for winning the Democratic presidential nomination. "It's a very subjective thing--intelligence analysis. You can go either way," Newsom informs Matier. Since when does a city mayor know anything about national intelligence analysis? For that matter, how much do mere senators know?
The only person currently engaged in Election 2008 who can speak authoritatively on this subject is Bill Clinton. Just returned from junketing with the former President around Texas, Gavin is parroting Bill, who clearly had a good time holding forth in the back of that black Texas SUV.
"She [Hillary] is the best to go one-on-one against John McCain on the only issue that could stop us in November," Newsom says, "and that's the issue of national security."
"Do you think that's what will win the cup?" Matier asks.
Apparently, personal scandals are not an issue in Newsom's mind. It's all about leadership. "Do you think for a second the Bush Administration will take all that objective data and hesitate to manipulate it in the context of this campaign?" Newsom rejoins. Trust me--this reasoning is way too Machiavellian for the Mayor. But the Clintons? They anticipate a trumped-up terrorist scare? Or a manufactured overseas crisis that calls to John McCain's specific expertise?
"It's a very subjective thing--intelligence analysis. You can go either way. And McCain will do everything to focus attention on every little thing that's happening in Israel, North Korea or Pakistan or wherever else in the world. . . . They will play on fear. We know that fear works."
Indeed. The Clintons know. And what a national election they are crafting! McCain the fearmaster versus Clinton the fearmonger. Wait a minute. Isn't this allowing McCain and the Republicans to set the agenda for the election? Or is national security the issue--not the economy, not health care, not education--that Hillary Clinton is most looking forward to delving?
Before she plants that commander-in-chief standard, however, Clinton, like Obama, needs to hone her skill set. It was clear in the last debate, for example, that neither senator knew anything about Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev--not even the basic facts at Tim Russert's command. Clinton couldn't quite get his name, much less pronounce it. While she's mastering all things Russian, she'd better add Kazakhstan. Linking Bill Clinton to the venal Nursultan Nazarbayev could help McCain enough, without any Machiavellianism. Fear may not be needed if Bill Clinton has been engaging abroad in the kind of questionable deal-making that once got him in so much trouble at home.