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A Taste of the Slugfest

My, my, how quickly it starts. Last week I wrote about the perils of Barack Obama going negative:

As anyone not living in a cave surely knows, Obama launched his campaign for president last weekend by deriding the "smallness of our politics" and promising to change the tone of political discourse in America. But with Hillary Clinton leading Obama by an average of nearly 20 points in the six major polls taken so far this year, will Obama be able to close the gap over the coming year without playing hardball? And how can he attack Clinton without looking small himself and undermining the core rationale for his candidacy?

And now we have David Geffen, with a gleeful assist from Maureen Dowd, slicing and dicing the Clintons in the New York Times, just days after Obama once again denounced "slash and burn politics."

The Clinton camp jumped on the contradiction, as they will every time anyone associated with Obama's campaign says anything remotely negative about them.

I'm sure the left is willing to give Obama a pass, but you can see the inherent problem this poses for his candidacy. Obama's senior strategist, David Axelrod, has said that a positive campaign is "he only kind of campaign that he [Obama] really can run" and that they won't be engaging in a strategy to tear other people down. Given that Obama has made changing "smallness of our politics" the clarion call of his candidacy, he's almost obliged to have to denounce Geffen or else look like a hypocrite.

Obama's attacks, and those of his surrogates, have to stay focused on issues. I've been having a back and forth with a left-leaning reader on what those attacks might look like. Here is what he wrote:

I'm waiting for a version of this devastating remark from Obama to Hillary if it comes down to a one on one debate between them down the homestretch. It would come in response to her touting her supposed trump card over him: her "experience."
Senator, I think you're an able colleague, and an important leader of our Party. But let's recall that your "experience" hasn't helped you when you needed it most: In dealing with the most important domestic issue of our time, and the most important foreign policy issue of our time. When in President's Clinton's White House, you headed the administration's botched effort to bring all Americans national health insurance--that set back that project for 15 years. And, when faced with the fateful decision as to whether to give President Bush the authority to go to war against Iraq, you voted to do so. Senators can make those kinds of mistakes every so often, but I don't think the American people can afford to risk putting you and your "experience" in the Oval Office.

Nobody else in either party can do it. Edwards can't because he voted yes on the war, too. Richardson can't because he was part of the Clinton administration. Rudy and McCain can't because they presumably supported the war from the start. Only Obama could deliver this death blow to the Clinton campaign. Game, set, match--but does Mr. Nice guy have the guts to do it?

And here is my reply:

Yes, and i'm waiting to see how Hillary attacks Obama when he starts threatening her. It will have to be very well calibrated so as not to offend, but will also have to be a devastating indictment of his inexperience. I think I've hit on how it might happen: Bill Clinton will come out and say something to the effect that Barack Obama would make a very able cabinet secretary in a future administration. Maybe he'll say VP.

But Bubba is the one who will have to bring Obama down with a velvet hammer. He's got the skill to do it, and responding to the attack also poses a dilemma for Obama: does he really want to get in a pissing match with Bill Clinton? I don't think so.

It's going to be fascinating to watch this drama between Clinton and Obama continue to play out. And we haven't even gotten started talking about how vicious and dramatic the fight on the other side is going to be.