Phyllis Bennis says the key issue for both parties is the war
NEWS SHOW HOST: It is the closest thing we have to a national primary. This is Super Tuesday.
NEWS SHOW HOST: It’s the biggest primary election day this country has ever seen.
NEWS SHOW HOST: Super Tuesday, Super Duper Tuesday, you can call it what you will.
ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: So, Phyllis, Super Tuesday has come and gone. What trends did you see emerging last night?
PHYLLIS BENNIS, SENIOR ANALYST, INSTT. FOR POLICY STUDIES: Well, it appears that McCain is more and more likely to be the Republican candidate, which means that he’s going to run defending the war, he’s going to run on the war, supporting the war, and run on his war record. His claim to fame, despite the fact that a lot of the right wing of the Republican party, the social conservatives, don’t like him because he’s not conservative enough for them on immigration, gay rights, and some other social issues, he more than any other candidate has supported Bush’s war from the beginning. He was famously known for having sung, when he was asked what he thought about policy towards Iran, he answered with a song: ♫ Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran ♫. That was his theme song of how to deal with Iran. It got him into trouble, but it’s out there. It clearly represents his view. Now, on the Democratic side, the race is very much still in play, because the method of the Democrats for picking their nominees is very, very complicated. It’s not just about who wins each state, but how many congressional districts they win within the state. It’s not winner-take-all in most areas, but they get some extras if they win the state. It’s a very complicated, messy procedure. So it still isn’t clear. Both Obama and Clinton could emerge victorious out of this. Now, what’s interesting is if we compare their likely positions on the war to that of McCain, the polls indicate right now that McCain beats Hillary Clinton; Obama beats McCain. And I think that has to do with the views of the war. It seems likely to me that if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, she’s going to run to the right. She’s going to try to compete with McCain—she could run the war better; she could win it and end it after victory. Something like that. If Obama wins, I think he’s more likely to run to the left, distinguishing himself from McCain’s longstanding support for the war. Now, in recent months, of course, Hillary Clinton also has claimed an antiwar position, but hers is far shakier politically than Obama’s, who’s been much more consistent in opposing the war. Their actual plans for ending the war, for how they would deal with Iraq the day after taking office are not very different, in fact, but they differ quite widely in how they portray the war and how they build the war at the center or not at the center of their candidacy.
ZAA: Now, seeing the fact that McCain didn’t win in a lot of southern states, how do you see this affecting his campaign going forward?
BENNIS: Well, I think that that reflects the power of the evangelical right wing of the Republican Party, who came out for Huckabee, who they see as one of their own. He is in fact a right-wing, fundamentalist evangelical, and they like that. On the other hand, I think there’s some recognition in the mainstream of the Republican Party that it’s very unlikely that Huckabee could win in November. So I think a lot of Republicans are saying, “Well, we don’t really like McCain, he’s not right-wing enough for us, but we’ll vote for him.” In the south, in what’s known as the Bible Belt, white evangelicals in the southern part of the United States, I think, stuck to their positions and went for Huckabee on that basis. It may force McCain to reach out even more to that right-wing evangelical base of the Republican Party, which means he may try to trumpet his pro-war positions even more. I think we’ll be hearing more and more about his experience in Vietnam. What we’ll hear about is his experience as a prisoner of war, where he was mistreated very badly and tortured, in fact. Now, I think that he’s likely to play to that base by trumpeting his war record as something worthy of their support.
ZAA: One last quick question. Hillary secured more delegates than Obama, but he won more states. How does this affect both of their campaigns going forward?
BENNIS: It means that both of them are still in play. Hillary Clinton won the two big states of California and New York, but in both of those states they are not winner-take-all. So she wins a certain number of delegates for winning the state, but the rest, the majority of the delegates from those two states are chosen on the basis of congressional districts, and districts vary widely. So her lead over Obama was not that big. So she may not emerge with enough delegates, even after winning California and New York, to trump his victories in several other medium-sized states. So I think that what it means is all of this is still in play, and we’re going to see very fierce campaigning for the next couple of months.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.