"I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate. I hope she's the candidate because nothing will energize my (constituency) like Hillary Clinton. If Lucifer ran, he wouldn't."
And so began the fury of "he said", "no he didn't say", last week.
A few days ago, the Rev. Jerry Falwell speaking from the podium and addressing a conference of evangelical activists made that gem of a statement. The crowd was assembled by the Family Research Council.
The media had a field day with this one. "Falwell calls Hillary the devil," is the one I heard over and over. To address that statement, NO HE DIDN'T. Now before you stop reading this column and figure that I slipped on my own cow pie and received brain damage when I hit the ground, read on.
Falwell said a presidential campaign by Hillary would energize his base. Running against the devil for president would energize his base. But Hillary could motivate the base more. Now personally, I don't think it's true. But of all the folks mentioned in the Democratic party, no one would excite the GOP and motivate them to work their tales off then the junior senator from New York receiving her party's nomination.
In the latest poll, Hillary's positives and negative are about equal. (Heck, so are Bush's and he was re-elected.) Most politicians after being out in the national public eye for a decade or so would be at 50-50% or close to it.
Now for the GOP, that statement will get people excited. It seems, as has been proven during the W. administration, that if we focus on the negatives of the other side, we win. Really. Bush wouldn't have won the election in '04 without the swift boat ads and most folks know it. And Kerry was (in Bush's own words) the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate. That shows me there isn't much there for positives. But we know that most politics is about the negatives of the other candidate rather than the positives of another. See the Max Cleland vs. Saxby Chambliss race in Georgia in 2002.
Democrats can continue characterizing Falwell as a spokesperson for the "Religious Right" and say that we cannot let the country get into the hands of folks that would say: "AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals" and who could forget this gem: "I am such a strong admirer and supporter of George W. Bush that if he suggested eliminating the income tax or doubling it, I would vote yes on first blush."
But Jerry does make a good target for the left. And Hillary would make a good target for the right. And all of this negative campaigning and rhetoric does nothing to solve the issues in our country. Heck, it doesn't even address them.
I guess Falwell's comments are just great news copy. Stoke a fire under your supporters using his words against him or by agreeing with him. But realize both sides love negative ads. It is what folks remember when they go to the polls. Sad but true.
That would be the case even if Lucifer was running.