Bad advice from the New York Times

The New York Times joins the growing chorus of left-wing commentators who want to see Hillary Clinton bow out of the presidential campaign. Parroting Keith Olbermann and other stalwarts of the infantile left, the Times, which endorsed Clinton, writes:

It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election. . . .On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden.

The Times thinks that by raising the issue of who can best deal with bin Laden and other threats to America, Clinton “undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Mr. Obama.” In the Times’ view, to ask the question is somehow to answer it in Obama’s favor.

Perhaps recognizing the absurdity of this proposition, the Times throws in an assertion that Clinton has “not engag[ed] Mr. Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism.” It provides no evidence to support this claim and, indeed, promptly contradicts it by citing her hard-line stated position on Iran. The Times remains incapable of distinguishing between taking a position it doesn’t like and failing to engage the issue.

In reality, it would be irrational for Clinton to follow the Times’ advice and step down. Currently, she is consistently and handily defeating Obama in key primaries. Moreover, as I understand it, she is fewer than 150 delegates behind him, with many hundreds of delegates still free to support her.

The Times understands this, so it concludes by urging these delegates, the super-delegates, to do what voters consistently have eschewed — settle the race by declaring en masse for Obama.

But this action would not be terribly rational either. First, as John Podhoretz says, “it behooves [superdelegates] to have this go on as long as possible, because that is how they are going to get the most goodies.” Second, the superdelegates are mostly folks who will be running for office once or more during the next four plus years. The identity (and popularity) of the 2008 nominee has the potential to affect their electoral success at least until the 2012 election.

Right now, Obama is losing heavily to Clinton in many congressional districts. It is only his ability to carry roughly 90 percent of the black vote that is keeping him afloat. But that vote won’t be enough to elect very many of the super-delegates who remain unwilling to throw-in once-and-for-all with Obama. Most of them need the vote of non-upscale white Democrats and independents, with whom Obama has failed to demonstrate much popularity.

To be sure, the fact that Obama can’t win the vote of non-upscale white Democrats and independents in a race against Clinton doesn’t mean he can’t win those votes in the fall, much less that he will undermine the chances of other Democrats to do so. But it provides reason for doubt. The rational move for super-delegates is to obtain as much relevant evidence as possible with which to resolve these doubts one way or the other.

That means letting the primary season continue to the bitter end. However, it probably does not mean letting the race go all the way until August. For that to happen, Clinton may have to rely on Podhoretz’s “goodie” rationale, combined with inertia. I’m not sure that’s enough.

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