What Hillary Said

April 25, 2008

News item: Hillary Clinton says as president she would “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. Clinton made the comment as people in Pennsylvania voted in the Democratic primary.

I’ve become painfully accustomed to Clinton saying and doing anything to defeat Barack Obama. That her supporters seem all the more fervent as she ratchets up her rhetoric says much about them, I suppose. At least she’s making the choice between Democratic candidates all the more stark. According to the Clinton narrative, she’s displaying her toughness. I’ve known tough people who were weak leaders.

Clinton’s “as far as I know” comment in response to a question onĀ 60 Minutes about whether Obama is a Muslim still burns like bile climbing up my throat. “Totally obliterate” is altogether different. It reminds me of how I felt when I was a kid and my next-door neighbor showed me a book with photos of Holocaust victims. They were strewn in jumbled stacks, naked, and dead in a pit.

The idea that someone seeking the most powerful job on the planet would so glibly vow to destroy a nation of 71 million people is difficult to comprehend. It’s all the more difficult because she said it trying to win votes.

Why not this instead: “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from attacking Israel and seek peace in the Middle East. But make no mistake, the United States will treat an attack on its allies as an attack on itself.” Would that have cost her votes? Aren’t certain awful prospects better left unstated? Isn’t subtlety strength when everyone knows your strong? Putting such a thing to words feels like defilement.

The next time Clinton’s asked about Iran’s threat to Israel, perhaps in Indiana where the race is tight, maybe she’ll make the same vow. Maybe it will happen at a photo op, like the one in Pennsylvania where she threw back a shot of whiskey to appeal to the “common folk.” Only this time she’ll say it, gulp the liquor, and hurl the glass against the nearest wall to laughter and applause.

Then she’ll be off to her next campaign stops, a church service (a rarity except when she’s seeking votes), and a hunting adventure with good old boys. Communion followed by gutting a fresh-killed deer.