The Clinton campaign released an ad today for airing in states like Ohio and Texas —those about to go to the polls for their primaries. The ad opens with an image of children sleeping safely in bed. The lights are out, the room is dim. The camera pans and zooms in and out on the faces of these sleeping children. The musical theme starts with snare drums, lush strings and muted trumpet calls that impart a vague though stirring martial sentiment (reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith's work for the movie, 'Patton') —all the while anxiety builds as a telephone is ringing —and the sober voice over:
"It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something is happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call. Whether it's someone who already knows the world's leaders, knows the military, someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world. It's 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?"
I keep hoping that there's a floor. That there is a level to which the Clinton campaign won't stoop. That there is some hope for a campaign conducted from a place of mutual respect between the rival candidates and some minimal amount of respect for the voters.
There have been glimmers —hints of that possibility where the debate or discussion could be about the distinction between two valid candidates and their policy. It was two debates ago when it seemed there might have been an end to the uglier campaigning. Senator Clinton spoke of a sense of feeling "honored" to have campaigned against her opponent. She spoke of her own core convictions and what she saw as her unique qualifications for office, this without denigrating those of Senator Obama. Frankly, it was her strongest moment in the campaign in memory.
It didn't last long. Just days later she was literally hollering "shame on you" at her opponent, feigning new shock and surprise at the opposing campaign for pointing up differences that have been at issue for months.
In the subsequent debate Senator Clinton was asked to justify and explain her shouts of "shame" and her open mockery of Obama's "hoping for the clouds to part," something about "the music of heavenly choirs." She blushed as the moderators rolled tape. Her answer then was to shrug it off as "all in good fun." She described the ranting invective and mockery directed at her opponent as a great way to unwind.
Still, even that shrugging that night might have given a reasonable person some reason to hope. When seated at the same table with Obama, Senator Clinton seemed capable of respect for her opponent. She seemed capable of honoring the deliberate decision informed voters were being asked to make. She seemed at peace with having made her case.
Now this (click the image to see the ad)
It was just two years ago when Senator Clinton was reprimanding President Bush for "playing the fear card." It was February 2006 and she spoke to the United Auto Workers convention in Washington.
"Two weeks ago, [White House political director] Karl Rove ... was telling the National Republican Committee 'Here's your game plan, folks, here's how you're gonna win - we're gonna win by getting everybody scared again,'" Clinton said. "This crowd [says] 'All we've got is fear and we are going to keep playing the fear card.'"
Perhaps that's the most disturbing aspect of this latest Clinton campaign maneuver, Senator Hillary Clinton knows better. She's simply not opting for better. She has read what she calls "Karl Rove's playbook" and she's willing to give it a try.
As Senator Clinton's ad comes to a close, the telephone stops ringing. Then the most damning aspect of this episode comes through loud and clear. It's Senator Clinton's own voice admitting "that she approved this message."