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Wednesday, Apr 2, 2008, 2:25 pm

In Support of the Long, Cold Winter

By Jarrett Dapier
I've decided that this long drawn out contest b/w Barack and Hillary is a good thing and it should go on as long as possible. Here's why: I think the longer they spar the longer the media will scrutinize the minutiae of their petty day-to-day battles. The more time the media covers the Dems, and the longer things go without a clear Dem nominee, the less time the GOP has to launch an effective surrogate smear campaign from the likes of the Swiftboat Menace and the incessant rabid squirrels of the DCI Group. The less time these GOP smear-buffoons have to define the Dem candidate the less hope they have, once the Dems choose their nominee, of infecting public discourse with the image of the Dem-as-Islamist, the Dem-as-America-Hater, or the Dem-as-pansy-who-can't-bowl. And, the less hope they have of a smear campaign working the less hope they have of winning at all. Really - though my mind may change in an hour on this, I think a grand, Swiftboat-style, campaign of mendacity and suggestion is the only thing that can save McCain, provided the Dems go after him effectively once we hit Fall, 2008. And that's key: the Dems must come out fighting - united and hard-hitting - after the nomination. They must accuse him of opportunism, flip-flopping, they must paint him as the closet Dem, a secret-Romney, (to rankle the Christian Fundies), they must paint him as a pitifully out-of-touch, dangerous, and cavalier hothead. They should go for the Rove tactic of attacking his perceived strengths. Throw in a persistent cry of "this guy's Bush, Part III" and it's done. 'Course where this whole argument falls apart is if Hillary spends all the time between now and August doing the work for the Swiftboaters - going low in attacks on Obama and basically lighting a torch that can easily be passed off to the GOP if she goes down.

Whether or not he is the nominee, this drawn out bout b/w Hill and B-rock is making B a better candidate. It's pushing him, training him, making him think on his feet and, being an intelligent, probing, talented person, he is learning on the fly: taking blows, hitting back, taking another blow, floating, circling, and stepping back in to hit again. The race speech proved he knows how to shunt us off-guard with clarity and intelligence, it proved, to me at least, that he's usually about two steps ahead of the rest of us. His compled race speech, the subsequent speech on Iraq a day later, and his economy speech were strong ranging to extraordinary. And he stepped to this new level because he's been pushed there by Hillary . I think she's fighting to win, and she has the right to, but I also think that by doing so she's shaping him. She's not damaging him, she's making him fight two fronts at once - which is sort of like Rocky training in Siberia in "Rocky IV" - and it's only making him stronger. But, if he hits a wall, if he can't keep up and finally caves, then he shouldn't be the nominee anyway. Since we're going to have at least one of them on the ticket come November, we might as well make sure whoever it is is in top fighting-form come Fall.

Jarrett Dapier is a former assistant publisher at In These Times. Previous work for ITT includes interviews with playwright Christopher Shinn and Fugazi guitarist, Ian Mackaye. He currently works with teens at the Evanston Public Library where he runs a recycled drumming program and directs stage adaptations of young adult literature. He lives in Evanston, IL.

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