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Author and anti-war activist Tom Hayden tells The Real News Network that the “Nixon-like tactics” of Sen. Hillary Clinton have attempted to make Sen. Barack Obama seem unelectable, but her tactics have also hurt her own campaign, creating a “downward death spiral” for the Democratic Party heading into the November election.

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Democrat battle advantage for McCain.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D): It’s a long road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and it runs right through the heart of Pennsylvania.


Philadelphia, PA
April 23, 2008

MATTHEW PALEVSKY, JOURNALIST, TRNN: Senator Clinton nearly pulled off a double-digit win in Pennsylvania yesterday, but at what cost to the Democratic Party? It’s become a more divisive and vicious campaign here, and many Hillary supporters say they might not be able to get behind Obama if he is to win the nomination. To talk about this campaign, I’m joined by longtime antiwar activist Tom Hayden. Tom, what’s catalyzed this new, vacuous, divisive debate that the Democrats are having in this primary?

TOM HAYDEN, ACTIVIST AND AUTHOR: Well, probably the length of the nominating process, the tightness of it puts people on edge. And increasingly the really negative, Nixon-like tactics of Senator Clinton, who seemed to be collaborating with Fox News in feeding questions to, you know, the ABC debaters suggesting that Obama is not ready, that he cannot be commander-in-chief, that [inaudible] of his pastor, that he has suspicious ties to the Weather Underground, and so on. She has to know that that plays well to the 10 or 15 percent of racist voters and many Reagan Democrats, conservative Democrats. And then she’s going to appeal to the superdelegates that he’s not electable, having rendered him unelectable. But in the process, she becomes swamped with more negative numbers as well, I suspect. And so you have a death spiral, a downward death spiral going on here. But you’d have to be foolish to think it doesn’t give a huge advantage to John McCain if this goes on for 12 more weeks or eight more weeks, which is the Clinton plan at this point.

PALEVSKY: So Senator Clinton seems like she’s getting increasingly desperate as this campaign goes on and she’s not getting enough delegates. And recently she went so far as to say she’d be willing to obliterate Iran if they ever attacked Israel. What is she trying to gain from these comments?

HAYDEN: I don’t know, but I’m very glad that you bring that up. The other news media has utterly failed in this regard. She first said that she would use massive retaliation against Iran in the ABC debate, and she extended the concept of massive retaliation, the NATO doctrine, to the United Arab Emirates, and the Saudis, and another Arab country, an ally of the United States. This was quite shocking. For somebody of my generation, “massive retaliation” means atomic or nuclear weapons. She may not mean that—nobody asked her, including Senator Obama. She seemed to be saying that she would do this unilaterally—there was no discussion of getting the consent of the Senate, the Congress. This is a substantive issue, and Obama can’t fail to have noticed it—it was right in his face. So we’ll see what happens.

PALEVSKY: Tom, do you have any inclination of whom she’s pandering to with these comments?

HAYDEN: No, I don’t. But it’s in keeping with—there’s a slow-burning project for the Israelis, or the Americans, or both, to attack Iran before the end of this presidential election or the Bush administration. You’ll notice when General Petraeus was testifying, he went out of his way—and Ambassador Crocker—several times to say that Iran, the Revolutionary Guard of Iran, was behind the killing of Americans in Iraq, was behind the fighting in Basra, was behind the shelling of the Green Zone. Now, Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman and others voted for that Senate resolution—Obama did not—which designated the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. So it’s all in place. If you have a general testifying that a designated terrorist organization is killing American soldiers that is a pretext for war. So she may be trying to get ahead of the curve, she may be anticipating that there will be a strike against Iran, and she wants to be in a told-you-so mode.

PALEVSKY: So to bring this back to the primary, does it seem like Obama’s missing these current events? Should he be holding her accountable? And is he not defending himself against her attacks as well as he was at the beginning?

HAYDEN: I watched him in North Carolina this week. I was there for three or four days. And he came off that debate where he was like a punching bag, but he was in fine form. He talked for a couple of hours, answered questions; went on to another two-hour meeting, smiling, laughing. He’s going to win North Carolina by 10 or 20 points. He’s going to win or lose Indiana by a close margin. So in two weeks, unless something happens, he will still be marginally ahead, but ahead, in the pledged delegate count, ahead by a half-million votes in the overall vote, well ahead in the number of primary states and caucuses that he’s won. It doesn’t mean that she will surrender; it means that she will become more ferocious in trying to scratch and claw and take him down in order to argue that he’s unelectable. Having done the deed herself, it’s hard for me to understand why the superdelegates will turn to her as the bright and shining hope of the Democratic Party.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Tom Hayden is an American social and political activist and politician, most famous for his involvement in the antiwar and civil rights movements of the 1960s. Hayden served in the California State Assembly and the State Senate. His books include Rebel: A Personal History of the 1960s; Ending the War in Iraq.