A Clean Hit

The Huffington Post is asking readers whether Hillary Clinton’s mocking of Barack Obama at a recent Rhode Island campaign stop will help or hurt her campaign. Since I’m about as far as possible from the median voter, I try to not offer opinions on these things. Readers can judge for themselves.

I’m an Obama supporter, and thus not very sympathetic to the Clinton campaign. But it seems to me that this is a pretty clean hit, as far as campaigns go. All Clinton is doing is questioning whether Obama’s strategy of unity is realistic. She’s also ridiculing the whole world view that informs it. But that’s what campaigns do. Saying that your opponent is naive is pretty mild stuff.

This is particularly important for Obama supporters. Obama’s arguments for a new politics do not imply that you shouldn’t criticize your opponents: instead, they say that criticisms should be accurate and not personal. As is traditional, the MSM simply refuses to understand this. There’s nothing wrong with “going negative” if it’s accurate, not personal, and newsworthy. There’s nothing wrong with saying that John McCain’s campaign is run by lobbyists, that his best political friends are lobbyists, that he favors all of George W. Bush’s policies, that he wants to keep us in Iraq for 100 years, that he wants to raise taxes (by removing the health insurance deduction) and that his policies would literally deprive millions of Americans of their health insurance (again, by removing the deduction).

We need to be prepared for this because the Obama Campaign is going to go negative on McCain&#8212at least I hope so. There’s a lot to be negative about.

Ridicule is also important. Jonathan Kulick and I disagree on this: I think that ridicule is a very powerful and very legitimate strategy when your opponent’s politics are, well, ridiculous. McCain should be ridiculed.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.