Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Clinton's latest "Osama I mean Obama" Outrageous Ad

by Norman Markowitz

The Pennsylvania primary will be over by this evening and the votes will be counted. But the Clinton campaign has once more disgraced itself with a last minute TV ad. On the blog, I recently wrote an article on the ABC debate comparing Hillary Clinton to Richard Nixon. This time she has sunk I think lower than that to the level of Joe McCarthy.

At the 1952 Republican Convention McCarthy attacked the Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson by saying "Alger, I mean Adlai" a reference to former New Dealer and State Department official Alger Hiss, who had been successfully portrayed as a Soviet spy and convicted of perjury in a major political show trial a few years earlier. The Clinton ad wasn't directly comparing Bin Laden with Obama but it was playing on , as the Obama campaign noted, "the politics of fear" (which by the was also the title of a classic study of McCarthy and
McCarthyism by Robert Griffith, The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate).

From press reports , the ad throws together flashes of a sinister bin laden and the September 11 attacks with newsreel clips of the Stock Market crash, the Pearl Harbor Attack, the "fall of the Berlin Wall," and Hurricane Katrina. That these events have nothing to do with each other(and that "fall of the Berlin Wall" was something that was hailed in the capitalist world) doesn't matter to Clinton. What matters is that all of these events are meant to invoke fear.

What are the fears? Obama campaign workers are still running across people who think that he is Muslim, which of course the Osama reference is meant to strengthen that, since advertisers operate from the principle that people are not rational and that the best way to sell anything is through often hidden messages that the product will make them glamorous, athletic, rich and successful, or that the competitor will make life miserable for them. Senator Obama again answered these ugly attacks the way a serious statesman, not a self-promoting politician would, when he said "it frustrates me that people would even ask a question like that, because they don't ask the same questions of some of the other candidates....if they don't vote for me, it should be because they think that Senator Clinton or Senator McCain have better ideas. It shouldn't be because they think that I am less patriotic or because they question what my religion is."

But Hillary Clinton really doesn't care. That she is in effect using coded language to play to centuries of institutional and ideological racism which made African-Americans invisible when it was not either demonizing them as dangerous violent people or trivializing them as comedy relief characters who could never attain the skills and "experience" of whites (however they acted) because they were inferior people doesn't matter to her. That the commercial that she is using against Obama could be used against her as a women by McCain at the drop of a hat doesn't matter to her.

Instead she is staying on message as her campaign slings mud against her opponent. I have experience and he doesn't, she claims, although what the experience is and what achievements it produced aren't really mentioned. We did it better in the 1990s, she claims, sharing "credit" for her husband's administration, when we created millions of new jobs (no mention that they were largely low skill job like those under Reagan), and began to reduce the federal debt (true, but through fiscal conservative policies that were better for Wall Street than Bush's policies, and pretty good for the corporations and the wealthy although no where near as good as Reagan or W. Bush, but not so good for working people in comparison with previous democratic administrations). What does it all come down to? You can trust me even if I am a woman because you know that my husband was president and I am white, coded appeals which are both racist and sexist.

Hopefully the voters of Pennsylvania will see through the "politics of fear" and not give Clinton the big victory she needs in the primary to keep her alive for the nomination. If they don't it will be objectively a defeat for the anti-rightwing forces in the U.S. because it will become harder for the progressive core constituencies of the Democratic party to actively support Clinton as the nominee against McCain (except passively as the lesser of the two evils) and her politics of fear tactics will almost certainly be turned against her by McCain, losing her support from the centrist voters whom she has consistently courted while she has taken the support of progressives for granted.


wilfrido said...

Do Marxists believe in Conspiracy-theories? I thought not, but your last post challenges my belief. Norman, sometimes an Ad about leadership in Crises is actually an Ad about Leadership in Crises.

The Obama camp getting grumpy because the working class isn't going to pan out their way?

Anonymous said...

I don't get your point Wilfredo. Clinton is throwing the kitchen sink at Obama in a vicious way in these ads. I don't see it as part of any conspiracy but simple dirty baiting politics. Obama is a progressive Democrat as I see it and Clinton isn't.
Also, the Obama camp has been too busy defending itself to get grumpy and. what on earth has Clinton come up with in this campaign that is positive in terms of the working class in regard to issues?
Why is it that by now virtually the entire progressive wing of the Democratic party is supporting Obama? Inside the Democratic party, inside the unions, this primary battle has really become a left right split, which is why Clinton is increasingly appealing to rightwing propaganda tactics(including flattering the working class as patriotic conservative Americans and attacking progressives as arrogant elitists) in the campaign. Why should anyone on the left or in the center-left, unless they expect patronage jobs from her, have any sympathy for a Democratic Leadership Council Democrat, a Center-right Democrat, which is what Hillary Clinton is and which is also why, along with Obama's abilities, that he has so far done so well against her.

If she is successful, I think it can only have very negative consequences for the struggle against McCain and hte GOP
Norman Markowitz

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Progressives will have to decide if they will vote for the lesser of two evils, as usual, in the general election. Within the Democratic Party they also have a lesser of two evils choice. Why are you so anti-Clinton. She has a better position on health care-- otherwise they are about the same. They will both keep troops in Iraq no matter what they are saying now. If you want to stop McCain you need the most electable Democrat not just the most popular Democrat with other Democrats. It might be Clinton, I don't know. But the way you talk about her as a Nixon or a McCarthy, if people were foolish enough to believe that it might make them skip the general election and McCain would slip in!
As a Marxist you seem a little too enamored with Obama who is, after all, a representative of US Imperialism.

Anonymous said...

Anon, you are making some reasonable points.
We will have to have Clinton as the nominee if she wins, but I am responding to both the nature of her campaign and the record that she has. If I am harsh in my criticisms, it is a response to both her campaign, her record as a Senator, and her identification with her husband's conservative and largely failed presidency.
These are good reasons to be less than enamored of her. I am also looking at political forces that have coalesced behind Obama both inside and outside the Democratic party and I would say that his defeat at this time would be a setback.

If Clinton wins the main task will be to defeat McCain and I and I hope everyone else will act to achieve that goal. But, it makes little sense not to support Obama at this point as strongly as possible.
As for health care, a national health service, a system of socialized medicine, without the Insurance Companies and the HMOs is the only solution. Neither candidate supports that. I think that Obama, because he is much more open and much more experimental, can move in that direction.
As for being a representative of imperialism, Obama's stands on foreign policy questions are more consistent and less militaristic by far than Clinton.
As a Marxist, I don't take the position that all non socialist politicians are the same, that mass forces supporting or opposing specific candidates don't matter. With Obama in the White House, I see much more chances for economic and political gains by the working class.
I would also say that the stronger the forces that are supporting Obama are, the more they stand up to Clinton, the more she, even if she does eventually win the nomination(and Obama is still in the lead)it will be harder for her to dismiss progressives generally as her husband did in 1992 American politics is not about standing on the sideliness and not taking sides. Its also not about being a foot soldier for the Democrats or any other party, accepting lesser of two evils politics in an uncritical way.If we, meaning Marxists, Communists, the broad left, wish to be taken seriously in electoral politics, we have got to participate in it, supporting candidates who are closer to us than others and then really struggling to be gain strength from the successes of those candidates to advance our politics, which is what happened when we did make great gains for the working class and for an organized and influential left in the New Deal era.
Norman Markowitz