First of all, in my view, Clinton has done more of the fear-baiting than Obama . Some readers may disagree, but I’ve noticed “dangerous world,” “we are at war,” and other fear-provoking rhetorical devices pop up in Clinton speeches off and on throughout the campaign. Obama’s messaging is less fear-driven than Clinton’s. She is out-feared by McCain, who in turn is out-feared by President Bush, who yields in this department to ex-candidate and fearmongering-high-emperor Rudy Giuliani, he of the tagline “The Terrorists War On Us” (yes, the Giuliani press releases really did capitalize that).
There’s another reason I haven’t called out the Obama folks on their 3 a.m. ad: I think it’s so amazingly counterproductive to their campaign that they don’t need to be reprimanded further. Here’s the ad, in case you haven’t seen it:
The last line of the ad is, “In a dangerous world, it’s judgment that matters.” The problem is, as far as electoral politics are concerned, that’s simply not true. In the context of a dangerous world, most voters choose toughness and reliability, not judgment. Put on their heels, they choose the candidate who stands up to the bad guy, not the one who negotiates with him. Crisis-driven decision-making might be a strength of a prospective Obama presidency, but given Obama’s message, image and policy choices, it will inevitably be a weakness of his candidacy.
The reason Clinton’s ad bothers me so much is that it probably does work for her — at least in the primary. But these ads and speeches make lasting impressions on the public. They tilt the playing field in favor of unilateral guns and bombs types and make life harder for candidates and advocates who promote multilateral engagement and robust diplomacy, including Hillary Clinton in a general election. Clinton may derive some short-term gain from the dangerous world talking points, but they hurt her, Obama and the country in the long run. That’s why the fear-based messaging has got to go.
— Scott Paul