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Commentary: Clinton mixes messages on Obama

  • Story Highlights
  • Clinton blasts Obama as inexperienced, but talks of "Dream Ticket" with him as v.p.
  • Obama: "If I am not ready, why do you think I would be ... a great vice president?"
  • Clinton camp can't decide if Americans should remember the '90s or forget them
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By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
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SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- Harvard professor Samantha Powers, a former foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama, abruptly resigned last week after she was quoted in a Scottish newspaper calling Hillary Clinton a monster.

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Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign says Obama's not ready, yet suggests a joint ticket.

Powers got it wrong. Hillary isn't the monster. Her campaign is the monster. And it's the two-headed kind.

Just look at the mixed messages it sends. Recent examples involve talk of a Dream Ticket and what some Democrats consider the nightmare of the Ken Starr investigation in the 1990s.

One minute, Clinton blasts her opponent, Barack Obama, as so wet behind the ears that he wouldn't be able to handle a 3 a.m. phone call as president, and implies that he is trying to mask his inexperience with speeches and "rhetorical flourishes."

The next minute, she suggests that a joint ticket between herself and Obama "may be where this is headed." Just days ago, former President Bill Clinton called a joint ticket "almost unstoppable" and suggested that Clinton is "very open to" pairing up with Obama.

So after arguing that Obama can't be trusted with the presidency, the Clintons would trust him to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?

Obama himself seized upon the contradiction Monday while campaigning in Columbus, Mississippi. "I don't understand," Obama said. "If I am not ready, why do you think I would be such a great vice president?" Obama asked the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation.

"You can't say he is not ready on Day One, then you want him to be your vice president," he continued. "I just want everybody to be absolutely clear: I am not running for vice president. I am running to be president of the United States of America."

Obama isn't even toying with talk of a joint ticket. In fact, his advisers seem baffled at the Clinton chutzpah.

Former Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, a co-chair of the Obama campaign, put it well on a Sunday morning talk show. "It's really a rare occurrence, maybe the first time in history," Daschle said, "that the person who's running No. 2 would offer the person who's running No. 1 the No. 2 position."

On another score, the Clintonistas can't decide whether they want us to remember the 1990s, or forget them.

Clinton boasts about economic prosperity during her husband's administration -- (remember) -- but she won't facilitate the release of memos, calendars, phone logs, appointment records and other documents related to her tenure as first lady -- (forget).

The stash is at the National Archives, which conveniently claims that it won't be able to release the papers until the November election is finished.

Nor has Clinton released her most recent tax returns, although her campaign says she plans to do so before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

When Barack Obama, who has released his returns, recently made an issue of that, Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson accused the Illinois senator of "imitating Ken Starr." That's silly -- and dangerous.

Why would anyone in the Clinton camp invoke the name Ken Starr? Doesn't the former independent prosecutor and his report fall into that part of the 1990s that Team Clinton would like us to erase from memory?

That won't be easy. There are probably millions of Americans, including many Democrats, who look back on the Monica Lewinsky scandal as a national embarrassment.

Those voters may already be flocking to Obama. So why help them along? These mixed messages only reinforce the perception that Hillary Clinton will say anything to win. That could explain why she is having trouble accomplishing just that.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist. Read his column here.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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