Saturday, October 04, 2008

McCain Advertisement Disses Hillary

McCain's has an advertisement featuring Biden's supposed gaffes. The whole notion that a handful of stupid-sounding comments taken out of context form a sound basis for evaluating a candidate strikes me as silly, but I won't dwell on that because there are a lot of silly political advertisements out there. What I find striking about this one is that one of the supposedly embarrassing clips in one in which Biden says that, "Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am" to be Vice President.

I know that the far right has spent the last 15 years trying to demonize the Clintons, but after watching Clinton's performance in the Democratic primary I don't see how anyone could believe that she's not qualified to be President or Vice President. I've been critical of Clinton at times, but her command of the issues and her ability to lead have never been in doubt. So when McCain releases an advertisement premised on the notion that Clinton is not qualified to be Vice President, I have to wonder what was going through McCain's mind when he approved the ad. Does he really think that Clinton is unqualified? Or is he pretending to think that in order to appeal to the Republican base?

To give McCain the benefit of every possible doubt, I suppose it is possible to interpret McCain as saying that Biden shouldn't say that Clinton is qualified even if she is. But that interpretation leaves McCain saying something that doesn't make any sense. Clinton, like the majority of people who run for President, didn't actually win. What she did accomplish was to demonstrate that gender is not a disqualification for the Presidency. Remember the 3 AM ad? It may or may not have persuaded any voters to vote for Clinton, but the fact that Clinton could run it demonstrated what Clinton had already accomplished. By spending years studying foreign policy issues, and explaining them to the public in ways that the public could understand, Clinton made people understand that she would have an idea of how to deal with the crisis, no matter what it was.

Contrast that to Palin's recent performance. Republicans are pleased that whenever Palin got a question that she couldn't answer during the Vice Presidential debate, she simply ignored the question and talked about something else. Being able to smoothly change the topic is an excellent ability for a hostess to have, but a President who gets a 3 AM phone call can't make the problem go away by talking about how wonderful her five children are. Palin's performance would be feeding every stereotype saying that woman can't lead if it weren't for Hillary Clinton. But because of what Clinton accomplished, it's crystal clear that Palin's problem isn't that she's a woman; it's that she's running for a position that would require her to deal with issues that she's never been interested in.

Given the significance of Clinton's campaign, and the need to bring the Democratic party together after a hard-fought primary campaign, there was every reason for Biden to acknowledge what Clinton had accomplished.

That leaves us with the obvious interpretation of McCain's ad: McCain, whether he believes it or not, is saying that Clinton is not qualified to be Vice President. Given the historical significance of Clinton's campaign, I suspect that there is a bit of misogyny behind that position. If there are any Hillary supporters who are still considering voting for McCain, I hope they see this ad.