Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Madman Strategy

Hillary's plan at this point appears to be to threaten to fight a fruitless and destructive battle until the convention and to use that threat as leverage to get something from Obama. In this context, her non-concession speech tonight was disheartening but not surprising.

On the other hand, Terry McAuliffe's behavior in his Daily Show appearance tonight--recorded earlier in the day--was completely baffling. In what at first appeared to be a bizarre self-parody, he insisted that Hillary will be the nominee. Then, in an impromptu role play where Jon Stewart was Obama, McAuliffe actually said, "Kiss my ass, Barack."

Upon reflection, I see two possible explanations here. One is that McAullife has lost his marbles and isn't considering the consequences of his actions. The other is a variation on Nixon's "Madman Strategy." Just as Nixon wanted the North Vietnamese to think he might be nuts enough to nuke them, McAullife wants Obama to think he will become a raving lunatic opponent to the Obama candidacy if Hillary doesn't get what she wants, whatever that is.

Update: Stewart put it more simply during the interview "Your strategy appears to be, 'If we act deranged enough maybe they'll just give us the country.'"

Update 2: A third possibility is that McAullife (and Clinton) really do intend to sabotage Obama's candidacy so that Clinton can run as the "I Told You So" candidate in 2012. See some discussion on this possibility from Brendan Nyhan here.

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