Monday, December 3, 2007

An Obaminable Attack

Matthew Yglesias is outraged by a recent Clinton-campaign attack on Obama. As he puts it, "Um, seriously, the Clinton administration is attacking Barack Obama based on an essay he wrote in kindergarden. They follow up with an account of something he did in third grade!"

Yes, it sounds utterly ridiculous. But if you follow his link, and actually read the statement, in context, it is a lot less unfair than Yglesias would have us believe. Obama has attacked Hillary Clinton, arguing that, unlike her, he hasn't been angling for the Presidencey for decades. Hillary Clinton's camp issued a press release which quotes Obama repeatedly telling people, from his law school classmates to his brother-in-law, that he planned to run for President. Yes, the Clinton camp cited statements he made back in kindergarten and third grade, but only as a part of a pattern on his part.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. Every American has the right to want to grow up and run for President -- most Americans get over it. Some Senators (subliminal voice: Joe Biden) ought to get over it. But if one of Obama's claimed advantages is that he only recently considered running for President, then it is surely responsive and relevant to point out a long string of contrary statements, apparently going back as far as kindergarten.

UPDATE: About ten minutes after posting this, I noticed that Glenn Reynolds has picked up the story. He links to both Robert Reich and Dan Riehl, neither of whom seems to approve. (Riehl is nice enough to link to the original press release, rather than a news story about it, which I think is the better practice. So I thank him for the link.)

I am not generally a fan of Hillary Clinton, but read in context, I think she is making a fair point. Obama says he hasn't been thinking about running for President. He claims that as an advantage, a reason why he is a better candidate than Hillary Clinton I think it's perfectly fair for her to point out a series of statements which belie his claim. There's nothing wrong with writing an essay about how you want to President in grammar school. I don't think that Hillary Clinton argues to the contrary. But if you are claiming that you never thought about running for President, the fact that you've been thinking about is since kindergarten is a pretty compelling rebuttal.

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