THE BLOG
05/28/2008 08:50 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Assassination Remark and Hillary's "Moral Authority" Problem

How can Sen. Clinton expect to restore America's "moral authority", which has been damaged by a series of actions during President Bush's administration, by using negative campaign tactics and suggesting that something might happen to her rival Barack Obama as one of the reasons of staying in race?

What the new president will do during the next four years is not separate from the values he or she presents in the primary elections. During the endless primary race, Clinton has repeatedly used negative tactics against her opponent. It's fair to say her main campaign strategy has been the continuous use of "the ends justify the means." This is the same strategy the Bush administration has used to justify many of its actions during the past eight years, from waging an unjustifiable war in Iraq, to using torture in Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib, to supporting anti-Iran terrorist groups in Northern Iraq, to taking side with dictators like General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan and King Fahd in Saudi Arabia.

Consequently, this administration's irresponsible and immoral leadership, seemingly inconsistent with American values, has people from the streets of Baghdad, Cairo and Beirut to Paris, Madrid and Rome believing that the United States is incapable of leading the world.
This makes respecting America's core values that are promised in the constitution an eminent priority for the next president, and many voters, use the primary campaign as an indication of the future president's actions during the next four years.

Clinton's comments did not do much to enhance her credibility as a president who could restore the United States' "moral authority". In the past eight years, the United States government has practiced unilateralism and violated basic human rights and international laws while simultaneously expecting people to believe its rhetoric of democracy and freedom. U.S. Leaders will not be able to solve problems in the world today by continuing this policy. If there is one thing that can disarm dictators in their fight with the United States and bring about negotiations between the two parties it is the level of "moral authority" the U.S. leaders present not just the use of force itself.

Also, millions of people beyond the U.S. borders will follow this year's presidential elections. Senator Clinton's use of negative tactics is at odds with her message of bringing an "end the George W. Bush course". How can people trust someone who basis her continuance in the primary race on a suggestion that something might happen to her rival similar to what happened to Bobby Kennedy in June 1968?

In the last few months Sen. Clinton has done everything to damage the image of Sen. Obama. She was among the rare presidential candidates who praised the candidate of the other party at the expense of her rival in the Democratic Party. But, Obama's reaction to the "assassination gaffe" indicates a shift away from the old politics of the Bush administration and Clinton campaign. Rather than attacking Clinton, Obama gave her the benefit of the doubt and brushed aside the comment. His reaction is notably different than Clinton's reaction to the "bitter" comment before the Pennsylvania primary.

Now the main question is if Clinton cannot use moral tactics to gain the nomination, how can she expect to gain the trust of millions of people as a moral president?

Clinton's poor reference to a tragic incident may be just a terrible mistake, but, nevertheless, it does not reflect values that would enhance the United States "moral authority" should she go to the White House.