Having taken yesterday off, I'm late on this one. But these comments by Hillary Clinton are inexcusable:
"“I think that since we now know Sen. (John) McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that. And I think it’s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold,” the New York senator told reporters crowded into an infant’s bedroom-sized hotel conference room in Washington.
“I believe that I’ve done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you’ll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy,” she said.
Calling McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee a good friend and a “distinguished man with a great history of service to our country,” Clinton said, “Both of us will be on that stage having crossed that threshold. That is a critical criterion for the next Democratic nominee to deal with.” (...)
She and McCain “bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, Clinton said, while “Sen. Obama will bring a speech he gave in 2002,” stating his opposition to the Iraq war as an Illinois state senator."
It's not that I think one candidate can't ever say this about a candidate in his or her own party. It could happen that some candidate in one's own party was obviously unsuited to be President. (Jack the Ripper. Hitler. Pick your own imaginary nightmare candidate.) If that candidate seemed at all likely to win, I think one should say say: listen, this would be a complete disaster. The reason I think Clinton's comments are out of line is that Barack Obama is not, by any measure, that imaginary candidate. Moreover, I assume that she knows this.
However, let's assume, for the sake of argument, that she actually believes that Barack Obama cannot "cross the commander-in-chief threshold." One of the most important jobs a President has is to defend the country. If she thinks that Barack Obama is not qualified to do that job, then she should not support him over anyone who can. Specifically, she should support McCain over Obama.
That's why I think some enterprising reporter should ask her whether she would support Barack Obama if he were nominated. If she would, then she should be asked why she would be willing to support someone she does not believe is qualified to be commander in chief.
Whatever her answer, it would tell us something we need to know: either that her doubts about Obama are so serious that she would not be willing to support the nominee of her own party, or that she would support someone she thinks is unfit to serve, or that she does not believe a word she said about Obama, and is willing to impugn a fellow Democrat's fitness to serve as President because her own interests matter more to her than her party's or the nation's.