01/17/2008 12:52 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Audacity of Denial

The Washington campaign book of the Clintons tells them to criticize other candidates in areas where Hillary is either the weakest candidate or has had by far the worst record.

It started with the very premise of her campaign, claiming she was the candidate with the most "experience." Of course this was an absurd claim for someone to have made, considering that her entire public service experience consists of one term in the United States Senate. But thanks to Mark Penn and a host of other pollsters and strategists from the 90s, she was able to sell herself as the candidate with most experience. One wonders how the people could have possibly bought the idea that she was more experienced than Joe Biden, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, as the polls showed. She has been counting her years in the White House as legitimate experience. That is the classic argument used by monarchists who use similar learning-through-osmosis justifications to say that ultimately, the prince or a family member of a ruling dynasty would be the best natural choice to rule over the underlying people. It is both ironic and tragic that some have actually bought this argument in the only country that rightly claims to be the oldest democracy in the world.

Another weakness in her past, on which she has criticized other candidates is her record on Iraq. Despite her short time in Congress, she managed to get on board with arguably the biggest foreign policy disaster in America's history since World War II, voting for the Iraq resolution. Ever since mission accomplished started to look more like mission impossible, instead of avoiding the topic and focusing on what she did right in Congress, she has refused to take responsibility for her part in the disaster. Instead, she has been claiming that the vote was one for diplomacy. Give me a break; if that is the case, why is it that both Kerry and Edwards have apologized for their votes for the same resolution? She either believed the vote was one for the use of force, which means she chose to cave instead of asking the tough questions. Or she thought it was a vote for diplomacy, which means she interpreted the resolution differently than just about every other senator who voted for it, which makes one wonder what other documents and resolutions she's going to get tricked into misreading and misunderstanding as president.

In addition to all of this maneuvering, she and Bill Clinton have now gone on a mission to criticize Senator Obama on Iraq, who has consistently opposed the war from the beginning at a time when he was running for the Senate and had everything to lose. Is the best thing the Clintons have gotten to counter Obama's audacity of hope is the audacity of denial and smear? As it turns out, denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Despite her success in branding herself as the 'experience candidate,' Hillary learned in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses and over the past few weeks that every poll has been showing that in this election, change -- Barack Obama's message from the beginning -- is disproportionately what people are looking for in this campaign over any other attribute. In addition, with John Kerry and a host of other highly intelligent and experienced policy-makers coming out to support Barack Obama over the past week, the Clintons' argument that Obama doesn't have the experience to be president has effectively been neutralized. After all, how can Obama not have experience if all of these heavy-weights in elected offices, from liberal New England senators to red state women governors are saying that Obama is the best candidate to lead the country?

So on Tuesday night, the Clintons once again began firing the pistons of their machine and came up with at least two new approaches to try to restrain Obama. First, Bill Clinton decided to go Karl Rove on the fact that Hillary is rightly considered the establishment candidate while Obama is the new face with the best opportunity to bring about progressive change. About a month ago, Karl Rove famously claimed that it was the Democrats who pushed Bush into war! Of course telling such a flat-out lie with a straight face is not designed to immediately convince anyone of its merits. This tactic is rather designed to "plant the seed" and inject an idea into the public discourse and have people talk about it -- be it in support of or opposition to it. After a couple of months, there will end up being more people believing in what was originally considered to be the biggest lie ever told. On Wednesday, Bill Clinton made such a radically baseless suggestion, saying that Obama was the establishment candidate while Hillary is the candidate of change, completely reversing what they were saying as recently as three weeks ago! Speaking of fairy tales, we know Bill Clinton likes them so much that as president, he went on national TV to tell one to the American people during primetime; Remember "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"? But never has a former president stooped so low after two terms as president to get back to the White House.

And the second recent product of the Clinton machine is one that rescued Hillary right before NH, and that is her Bush-style fearmongering. Right before the primary, she suggested that should there be a terrorist attack right after the president is elected, she would be the fittest candidate to respond. First of all, with the way she was easily distracted from Al Qaeda following 9/11 when she followed the rest of the herd that took us to Iraq, Hillary is far from being the natural choice to have in the Oval office if there is an attack. Secondly, this is especially a suggestion she should not make, because if anything, Al Qaeda and other radicals are more likely to stage an attack against the United States if this country elects a woman president. This, of course, does not mean we should support candidates based on who may or may not attack us. But the notion that we would be better off with Hillary as president in terms of national security is both historically and logically unfounded and awfully reminiscent of the Bush/Rove style of scaring voters into submission.