The Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign's attempt to make Barack Obama’s self-admitted high school drug use an issue is a defining moment: That is the reality that Mrs. Clinton not only has the steely resolve to be president, but is so calculatedly vicious that the prospect of her wielding the vast powers that come with the Oval Office is truly frightening.
I have made no secret of my dislike for Mrs. Clinton although my politics are usually left of center and I certainly have looked forward to the end of the Republican presidential interregnum. I will hold my nose and vote for her if the Republican nominee is even less acceptable.
As the race heats up, the quantity of mud being slung will increase in direct proportion to the desperation of the candidates who find themselves falling behind too much or not gaining enough. That is a given, and it is obvious that the woman who has been running like an incumbent and whom the mainstream media had all but crowned as the nominee is hearing Obama’s footsteps.
Mrs. Clinton did not bring up Obama's use of cocaine and marijuana as a teenager, which he has written and spoken about with refreshing candor. The spear chucker was Billy Shaheen, her
campaign manager, the husband of Governor Jean Shaheen and a likely candidate for the Senate next year. New Hampshire
Billy Shaheen disingenuously cloaked the drug "issue" in terms of candidates' electability. He whined that Obama is far less experienced than Christopher Dodd or Joe Biden, yet is a frontrunner unlike those veteran pols.
He predicted that Republicans surely would seize on the "issue."
"It’ll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?' " Shaheen said. "There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It’s hard to overcome."
The line about selling drugs is especially vile since, to the best of my recollection, no one has asked any white politicians who have acknowledged drug use whether they sold what they were smoking or snorting.
Don't give me any stuff about Shaheen's remarks being unauthorized; the man is constantly at
's side when she campaigns in Mrs. Clinton and is well aware of how far over the line he is allowed to go. New Hampshire
Shaheen should have fired himself, or Mrs. Clinton could have shown him the door when she apologized. That would have been a nifty way of assuring Democrats -- especially the many Democrats who have negative views of her -- that her campaign will not take a page from the Bush playbook and use the politics of fear and character assassination.
But he didn't and she didn't. (UPDATE: Shaheen has now resigned from the campaign.)
Comparing what Mrs. Clinton says and does to what her husband said and did does not typically play with this voter. But it should be noted that Bill Clinton never made a clean breast of his serial philandering, which nearly destroyed his presidency, or his own recreational drug use. He says he didn't inhale; Obama wryly notes that of course he himself inhaled, that's why you smoke pot, right?
Will this abomination blow up in Mrs. Clinton's face? I certainly hope so, especially as it applies to black voters who may be on the fence, but it's too soon to tell. Besides which, in another few days the holidays will be upon us and few people will be listening to anything the candidates are saying, let alone the offal emanating from the Clinton campaign with increasing regularity.