Clinton Camp Not Playing By The Rules

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., greets supporters as she makes a campaign stop at Hunter College Auditorium in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
This column was written by Michael Tobman.
Whatever the game and whatever your age, everybody knows that there are rules. My four-"no daddy, I'm four and half - almost five!"-year-old daughter knows that board games and card games have rules. How else, she explained to me earnestly, are we supposed to know whose turn it is and who wins?

Politics is no different. There are rules, and in some cases there are laws, and they cannot be changed in the middle of a campaign. This is why I'm calling foul on the Hillary Clinton campaign for their efforts to claim delegates from Florida and Michigan despite pledging - pledging! - to abide by a Democratic National Committee ruling stripping said states of their delegates as a consequence of moving their primary elections up in violation of an established calendar that intentionally favored Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Clinton campaign is doing this for one, and only one, very simple reason. They need those delegates to win, and they never thought they would. Their pledge was made at a time when they, and most everybody else, believed that the Junior Senator from New York would have the nomination sewn up early and easily. In agreeing to abide by the punishment leveled against the Sunshine State and the home of Motor City, the Clinton campaign found a way to stand with proud Iowa and New Hampshire and play nice with a central party office they (and here's one of the worst kept secrets in politics) cannot stand. But now, much to their dismay, they find that they need those delegates.

We heard the rumblings of their developing strategy early from pundits who favor the Clinton campaign: "We still need to settle the issue of the Florida and Michigan delegates," they said. There's no issue to be settled! Both Senators Clinton and Barack Obama pledged not to campaign in Florida and Michigan and agreed that those states would be stripped of their delegates. Oh, but wait, things have changed. Now Senator Clinton needs those votes. No dice. The rules are the rules and should not and cannot be changed in the middle of a campaign just because one side now needs them to be different.

Another line of argument in favor of coming to some sort of an 'arrangement' concerning the Florida and Michigan delegates goes something like this: "At the time these states and their voters moved their primaries up, certainly they had no idea that their votes would be so important. By saying they don't count, we are effectively disenfranchising them." Wrong. This was always a possibility. In the constellation of possible scenarios that should have been considered by Florida and Michigan and the candidates deciding whether to take the penalizing pledge, this should have been at the very top of the list. But staying good in Iowa and New Hampshire was more important to both Clinton and Obama. So they took the pledge. Besides, Clinton's nomination was supposed to be a cake walk, right?

The latest argument put forward by the Clinton camp just this past Sunday on the political talk shows, is "Why rush? The primaries will be going on for months more and the Democratic convention isn't until August - there's no need to settle this now." Settle what? It's been settled. The Clinton campaign and their supporters are simply trying to create a level of uncertainty around an already decided issue. That's all.

I know these people - their type and them specifically. The thought process driving their efforts focuses on language, also my tool and business. "If we can just devise the right sequence of words, the right tone, and the perfect argument, then we can move this stripped delegate issue to a place where we can insist on a compromise." Don't get me wrong, I love language. The right words can be powerful things. But some words are just hollow and meaningless. Much like when kids are making trouble and cheating, an adult needs to step in, and soon.

So back to my daughter. She and I were playing a game. "I'm thinking of a number between one and ten," she said. "Guess which one." On my first try I picked correctly and she was disappointed. So she looked me straight in the eyes and with as much sincerity and sweetness as she could muster announced: "I changed my mind. Now I'm thinking of a different number and you guessed wrong."
By Michael Tobman