I tell pretty much anyone who asks these days that we're in the phase of the campaign I don't find especially interesting. Here, for example, are some things that got a lot of play recently which I don't care much about (and which I don't think have substantive implications for a future Clinton or Obama administration):
1.) The fact that Sam Power referred to Hillary as a "monster" and suggested that Obama's Iraq policy would depend on the circumstances he inherits rather than his campaign proposals (of course it would--any president's would);
2.) The fact that Hillary met with various pro-NAFTA groups while she was First Lady (of course she did--her husband was aggressively lobbying for the measure);
3.) The fact that Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee suggested to a Canadian official that Obama wouldn't be a protectionist president;
4.) The fact that Hillary didn't actually land in Tuzla amid a hail of sniper fire (would any administration have let a First Lady's plane land under such circumstances?). For what it's worth, I almost lost it last night when Chris Matthews held his 17th consecutive panel discussion on the Tuzla scandal.
Having said that, I recognize that these things often have important political consequences--entire elections have hinged on less (see Gore, Al--2000 campaign). And so, while you won't probably won't see me hyperventilating over them, I can't exactly ignore them either.
Which brings me to the latest example of something that can't be ignored, but which shouldn't make us hysterical either: Former Air Force General Tony McPeak. It was, of course, McPeak who accused former President Clinton of McCarthyite tactics last week after Clinton, referring to Hillary and John McCain, said, [I]t would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country." It wasn't the most artfully worded statement in the world, but it was hardly McCarthyism. So definitely a strike against McPeak.
It was also McPeak who, back in early February, attacked Hillary in weirdly personal terms by saying his candidate "doesn't go on television and have crying fits; he isn't discovering his voice at the age of 60." So that's actually two strikes against McPeak.
Then yesterday, the Clinton campaign sent out an article from the American Spectator website* highlighting McPeak's pattern of innocuous statements about how Israel should retreat to its 1967 borders, but also quoting from an interview McPeak gave to the Portland Oregonian in 2003, in which he accused Jews in New York City and Miami of preventing the Israelis and Palestinians from making peace--a pretty dubious charge. Do I think, as the way-over-the-top Spectator article concludes, that "Obama has a Jewish problem and McPeak's bigoted views are emblematic of what they are"? No, I don't. But I don't really trust people who complain about Jews in New York City and Miami controlling U.S. foreign policy, so in my book that's a third strike.
Which brings us back to where I started. I don't think McPeak tells us much about what kind of president Barack Obama would make. And I certainly don't think Obama endorses his views on McCarthy-ism and the outsized influence of some South Florida condo commandos. (I doubt the Obama campaign even knew about the latter before yesterday.) But I do think he's become a liability for the campaign, and that he should be canned.
*It's obviously a little ironic that the Clintonites have been embracing all sorts of Clinton conspiracy-theorists lately. The Spectator was home to the notorious "Arkansas Project," which was mostly funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, the once rabid Clinton-basher whom Hillary sat down with yesterday in Pittsburgh.