As all sorts of people have noted, Hillary Clinton has been throwing everything she can think of at Barack Obama, from
pictures of him in Somali clothing (as commenters noted, this is of unknown origin) to yesterday's delightful claim that while she and McCain have a "lifetime of experience" that prepares them to be commander in chief, Obama has nothing but "a speech he made in 2002.” Obama has replied to Clinton's various charges, but he has not thrown any analogous things at her. I might, of course, have missed something, but I haven't seen Obama or his campaign introduce topics not related either to the issues or to Clinton's judgment and experience. For instance, while the Clinton campaign has tried to make hay out of the fact that Obama went to the home of William Ayers, the hateful ex-Weatherman, I have not seen the Obama campaign bring up Bill Clinton's pardons of Puerto Rican terrorists.
I'm glad Obama hasn't gone there. I expect that if Clinton continues in the race, he might go a bit further towards the negative than he has so far. I think that there are some issues of this kind that it would be quite legitimate for him to bring up. For instance, Obama has not yet made much of Clinton's refusal to release her tax returns. Personally, I would much rather see every candidate's tax returns before rather than after the nomination has been decided, and I think this is completely legitimate. Likewise, I would like to see a complete list of the donors to the Clinton library. Topics like these are, I think, fair game. But there are a lot of things that are not. I'm glad Obama hasn't gone there, and I hope he doesn't go there in future.
However, the fact that he hasn't doesn't mean that no one else will. John Aravosis, for one, is quite explicit about it:
"So, what will the Republicans throw at Hillary in the fall?
Lots. (...) I'm not going to be discussing the details of those stories today because I don't want to make our candidate damaged goods in the fall. You will notice that neither Obama's campaign nor Obama's official, or unofficial, surrogates are talking about the Clintons' past or present scandals, the Clintons' negatives, what a Clinton run for the presidency will to Democratic congressional races and governor races across the country. The Clintons are counting on the fact that none of us will write about their negatives, because we're too nice. So they can get as dirty as they want, with impunity.
Well, come Wednesday, if Hillary doesn't win 65% of the delegates in Ohio and Texas, and still insists on staying in the race and ripping our party in two, it will be time to start treating candidate Clinton with the same golden rule she is using for candidate Obama. Why? Not for revenge, but for the sake of our party and the fall election. Hillary and her campaign are in the process of turning Obama into damaged goods in the fall. They didn't have to go there, but beating Obama became more important to them than beating John McCain. So, the first question for Hillary come Wednesday, should she decide to continue risking our chances of winning in the fall even though the math says it's over, will be the question she's asking Obama today: What negatives will the Republicans throw against you in the fall? And as I've noted repeatedly, there are some negatives out there that most of you don't even know about -- but everyone in Washington knows about them, in detail. That's because even Democrats who don't love Hillary, don't go there, for the good of the party. On Wednesday, the good of the party may dictate that we do."
I hope no one goes there. We don't need to: Obama is very likely to win whatever Clinton does; besides, it would be needlessly divisive. I am not writing this to say: "Nice reputation you've got there, Senator Clinton. Shame if something happened to it ..." I do not want this to happen, and I very much hope it doesn't.
I do want to say: those stories are out there. I have heard some of them (not, for the record, from Obama supporters), and since I'm not particularly plugged in to these circles, if I've heard them, so have a lot of people. Obama can keep his people in check, but I don't see how he, or anyone, could keep a lid on an unaffiliated party like John Aravosis once he decides to dish dirt. And there are a lot of potential Aravoses out there. I hope the Clintons and their advisors consider this when they decide what to do tonight or tomorrow.
If, when the results come in, it is still overwhelmingly unlikely that Clinton wins, I hope they put the interests of the party and the nation above their own. Because this could get very ugly.