… the ad also raises a new question the Clinton campaign has been stressing over the last few days: Who has been tested? The ad asks which candidate has faced the extended pressure of a crisis that might prepare him or her for the far larger pressures and crises he or she will face as president.
I love this question and am glad the Clinton team raised it. The problem is that they’re not so great at answering. When I asked campaign staffers for examples of Clinton being tested by a foreign-policy challenge, their response was pretty weak. As Patrick Healy reported in the New York Times, Hillary Clinton did not have a security clearance during her husband’s administration, so she wasn’t in the room for the brutal moments he faced. Her aides named the slew of uniformed retired military officials who have endorsed her, including several four-star generals. That’s nice, but it’s not proof of her mettle. When you make an ad like this, your case for your woman should be stronger than a list of endorsements.
Mark Penn pointed me to Clinton’s 1995 speech in Beijing, in which she declared that women’s rights were human rights. A fine speech and a great message, and boy, I bet her hosts didn’t like it one bit, but that doesn’t really constitute the testing that this powerful ad brings to mind. Also, if we’re talking about speeches, then I think Obama has that covered. He has been arguing for some time that he made a speech in 2002 about why the Iraq war was a bad idea. And hasn’t the Clinton team been knocking that back as just a speech?
A Clinton spokesperson on Hardball tonight claimed that Senator Clinton had proved her mettle under fire by attending the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing. I’m serious.
Update: See also Matt Yglesias.