Don't Talk About the War

Lots of interesting material in Michelle Cottle's notebook dump on what various Clintonistas think the campaign did wrong. Two small points before I get to my big point. One:

"Devastating vulnerabilities such as Obama's associations with Wright and Ayers were not unearthed by the campaign's vaunted research team in time to be fully taken advantage of--despite being readily available in the public domain."

I'd heard about Wright and Ayers from Clinton supporters long before the Clinton campaign started officially pushing these issues. I simply don't believe that the "vaunted research team" hadn't "unearthed" this information. Rather, I think the campaign thought it would be sleazy and counterproductive to start campaigning on this stuff until they got truly desperate. And I think they were right.

Two -- when you lose a big race by a close margin there are a million things you can second guess and no one true answer.

Big point -- it's fascinating to me that nobody mentioned the war. Clinton supported the war. In retrospect, the war was a terrible idea. Her support for it was a mistake. What's more, it's inconceivable to me that Obama's campaign could have gotten off the ground had Clinton spent 2002 and 2003 as a lonely liberal voice speaking out against the war, then spent 2005 and 2006 being completely vindicated in her judgment. It's not just that Obama wouldn't have beaten her, he wouldn't have run at all -- it would have been preposterous. She would have faced a from-the-right challenge in the primary that would have gotten some attention but never posed any real threat.

But Clinton's error on the war opened up serious doubts about her substantive and political judgment about one of the highest-profile issues of the moment. In many ways it's a testament to how brilliant her campaign was all throughout 2007 and 2008 that they never allowed the war issue to bury her, considering that an overwhelming majority of Democratic primary voters think she made a mistake.