The Clinton-Obama fight is turning increasingly nasty and personal. In Washington, there is much talk about how the party can be put together again after the primaries. Tensions have been raised still further today with a prominent black supporter of the Clintons, the prominent entrepreneur Bob Johnson, appearing to raise both Obama’s youthful drug use and the question of how ‘black’ he is.
Johnson told an audience in South Carolina, which is a must-win state for Obama: Johnson also went off on a bizarre riff comparing Obama to Sidney Poitier in the movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, a film about a black man dating a white woman.
“I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that–- I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in his book."
The Clinton campaign are doing damage control and sent out a statement from Johnson
saying that he was only referring to Obama’s community work. But following Bill Shaheen’s speculation
about whether Obama would be asked if he had ever dealt drugs and Hillary strategist Mark Penn dropping the word “cocaine”
into an interview about Shaheen’s comments it is hard to give the Clinton campaign the benefit of the doubt on this. Ever since Obama entered the race, the Clintons have abided by the old campaign adage that your opponent can’t speak while they’ve got your fist in their mouth. This has been a huge strategic mistake. They would have been much better off hugging Obama to death. Hillary should have talked about how exciting a figure he was, how she hoped that he would play a crucial role in her administration and the like. That would have persuaded Democratic primary voters that, to borrow a phrase, they could buy one and get one free
The split results in Iowa and New Hampshire suggest that Democrartic voters want both experience and inspiration. If Hillary had hinted that she saw Obama as the future of the party, she could have persuaded people that a vote for her would allow them to have both.