Some advice for the new, get-tough Barack


After he got creamed Tuesday, except in regard to the small matter of delegates, Barack Obama put out the word.

Amid speculation that he can't much deliver or take a punch, he said he would be giving Hillary Clinton some of her own medicine. It would no more Mr. Nice Guy.

I liked half of what he indicated he had in mind.

First he signaled that he'd be criticizing Clinton for not releasing her income tax returns.

So let me tell you how she would handle that: She would release her income tax returns, which she has promised to do on or about April 15.

That ought to shut him up.

These returns aren't going to tell us what we need to know about conflicts between the Clinton household and a new Clinton presidency. Bill can report speaking and other outside income generally. The Clintons have made a lot of money on books and such. We already know that.

The real problem with the Clintons' intended return to the presidency is the matter of unlimited international contributions to Bill's foundation and presidential center. Lathering millions on the American president's spouse is how foreign governments or individuals could seek to curry favor.

A greater criticism from Obama, then, would be based on the potential conflicts of that foundation. That, in turn, could be folded into something broader, meaning widespread concerns that Americans are getting into an unhealthy rut by shifting the presidency back and forth between two families over 30 years.

People were worrying about that until Hillary redirected their attention to concerns about Obama's greenness.

Such an emphasis from Obama would have the convenient effect of enhancing his message, which is change, and undercutting hers, which is experience.

Speaking of her experience, Obama also indicated that he would be raising the question of just what experience Hillary has, anyway, in answering that red phone at 3 a.m. in the White House.

You know the phone I mean -- the one to which Hillary famously referred in an attack ad against Obama last week.

This one I like. It's a good question.

Did this White House hot line ever ring in her husband's eight years as president? If so, what in the world was she doing answering it? Where the heck was he?

And if she was simply hanging around when it rang, what relevant experience is that, anyhow? A handyman's wife doesn't necessarily know how to do wiring and plumbing because a tenant calls at 3 a.m. about some household emergency.

Or the other way around. It could be a handywoman, and her husband could be clueless about wiring and plumbing.

I'm learning to navigate this gender minefield.

Experience is not all it's cracked up to be. JFK didn't have much, but got through the Cuban missile crisis.

The New York Mets had tons of baseball experience in 1962. They played 160 games, in fact. Why, they were compiling baseball experience practically every day of the week.

One thing, though. They lost 120 of those games.

If Obama really wants to get tough, he might invite voters to take a long look at this White House experience Clinton claims.

She ran her health care task force in secret and produced a measure never taken seriously enough to warrant a congressional committee vote. She leaned on White House aides to fire the travel office staff so her pals could be brought in. She insisted that her husband bring to the Justice Department her law partner from Little Rock named Webb Hubbell, who, it turned out, had been bilking his law partners.

Yes, the man Hillary put at Justice wound up in the penitentiary.

John Brummett is an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock and author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton's first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.

 

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