Jonathan Chait on Hillary's newly escalated Florida-and-Michigan rhetoric:
This gambit by Clinton is simply an attempt to steal the nomination. It's obviously not going to work, because Democratic superdelegates don't want to commit suicide. But this episode is very revealing about Clinton's character. I try not to make moralistic characterological judgments about politicians, because all politicians compromise their ideals in the pursuit of power. There are no angels in this business. Clinton's gambit, however, truly is breathtaking.
If she's consciously lying, it's a shockingly cynical move. I don't think she's lying. I think she's so convinced of her own morality and historical importance that she can whip herself into a moralistic fervor to support nearly any position that might benefit her, however crass and sleazy. It's not just that she's convinced herself it's okay to try to steal the nomination, she has also appropriated the most sacred legacies of liberalism for her effort to do so. She is proving herself temperamentally unfit for the presidency.
With regard to why her "attempt to steal the nomination" is "obviously not going to work," it isn't just because the supers "don't want to commit suicide"; it's also because the math just isn't there for Hillary. Even if Florida and Michigan are seated according to her best-case scenario, Obama only needs 19 percent of the undeclared supers to secure the nomination. Given that many of those supers are already in the tank for one candidate or the other -- i.e., they're not undecided, just undeclared -- it's inconceivable that Obama won't get at least 19% of them. So he's got the nomination wrapped up, no matter what happens with Florida and Michigan.
What, then, is Hillary playing at? I have a theory. She appears to be racheting up her rhetoric to the point where, if the Rules & Bylaws Committee does anything other than seat the Florida and Michigan delegations with full voting rights and in complete accordance with the rogue primary results, she can declare that decision an anti-democratic outrage that must be remedied, irrespective of its significance to the nomination battle, and thus use it as an excuse to keep fighting all the way to the convention, even after Obama secures the nomination by any and all mathematical standards (whether the magic number is 2,025, 2,210, or something in between). In this scenario, Hillary would most likely "suspend" her campaign, but refrain from endorsing Obama or "releasing" her delegates, and then lie in wait for the next three months, hoping some political calamity befalls him in the mean time, at which point she can sweep in like a "white knight" and take the nomination away from him.
So, you might ask, why doesn't Obama just surrender on Florida & Michigan -- since he's going to have a majority either way -- in order to deny Hillary that phony rationale for continuing her campaign? The answer is that, even if he does surrender, the Rules & Bylaws Committee won't. As I mentioned yesterday, more than just the current nomination fight is at stake here. The party's very credibility, its ability to meaningfully enforce its calendar and its rules, is on trial. Again: "the Democrats cannot simply seat Michigan and Florida, with full voting rights, in exact accordance with the results of the states' primaries, in direct contradiction of the previously imposed sanctions. If the party does this, it would completely undermine, forevermore, its ability to control the primary & caucus calendar in any way. Such an action would be abject surrender to chaos. The 2012 New Hampshire primary would be sometime in fall of 2009. They can't do it. They won't."
Hillary knows this. But instead of laying the groundwork for a reasonable compromise, she's dropping the rhetorical equivalent of nuclear bombs in the party's path, insinuating that no middle ground is possible because anything less than a complete recognition of the rogue primaries would be an affront to democracy on par with the 2000 election, the denial of women's suffrage, segregation, slavery, etc. (!!) These are the words of a person who doesn't want a problem to be solved.
This is her path forward, people: to keep her campaign going all the way to Denver, ostensibly not because she wants the nomination, but because she wants to make sure that Michigan's and Florida's "voices are heard." It's an incredibly cynical, dishonest, destructive tactic. It will deny Democrats the ability to unify behind their nominee all summer long. It will perpetuate, particularly among low-information voters who aren't familiar with the math, the notion that Obama is trying to win the nomination illegitimately. It will degrade people's faith in the electoral process for no good reason. It will create a (false) image of the Democratic Party leadership as disenfranchisers and vote-stealers. But it's her best shot at constructing a rationale for staying in the race -- so that she can take advantage of any "July surprise" that might befall Obama -- once he has the nomination mathematically secured beyond all doubt, which will happen shortly after June 3. And since Hillary cares only about herself, it seems reasonable to presume that this is precisely what she'll do.
P.S. A Huffington Post article suggests it's quite possible Hillary will lose at the Rules and Bylaws Committee by a vote of 15-13. Hmm. You don't suppose, do you, that she might compare such an outcome to the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore, and use the closeness of the vote as an excuse to soldier on to the Credentials Committee, with rhetoric along the lines of "2.3 million voices were silenced by the votes of two unelected party officials"? Nah, she can't be that shameless... [/sarcasm]