Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Hillary Clinton decided to use her Election Day Good Morning America interview to say that if Iran nuked Israel "we will attack Iran" and "we would be able to totally obliterate them."

As Eric Kleefeld of Talking Points Memo notes, the promise to protect Israel is a standard one for U.S. administrations. The language, however, has a bellicose self-satisfaction about it.

And there's the problem. I know this is calculated for the moment: Clinton is trying to portray herself as the tough broad running against an effete girly-man. I know that she would presumably run a different kind of campaign against McCain if she managed to win the nomination. But if Obama of late hasn't seemed very good at protecting his right flank, the Clintons have been known to be too good at that.

At the very least, if Clinton does get the nomination, the video clip of this quote will never die. And I think she'd be more likely to try to overcorrect for the Democratic stereotype of being "Kumbaya" singers by overdoing the bellicosity all through the fall.

And that's where she'd start losing members of the base -- hardcore Democrats for whom the desperate need for a new foreign-policy approach is the #1 issue -- as well as many of the voters who've newly registered during this campaign, a lot of whom feel the same way.

I don't expect Ralph Nader to do much as a third-party candidate this year -- his vote totals declined a lot between 2000 and 2004 -- but I don't think it's inevitable that his vote will decline even more this time, not with the Iraq War dragging on. He'll certainly run harder, and win at least a few more converts, against a Hillary Clinton who saber-rattles like this than against a Barack Obama who doesn't.

But the bigger risk is that some war-weary voters will just stay home. Right now the conventional wisdom is that Obama will lose the white working-class boilermaker drinkers but Clinton might not lose anybody in the party's coalition. This is one reason I don't buy that.

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