As a long-time watcher of US politics I’ve often been left wondering why the Democrats have a propensity to self-destruct at crucial moments.

Both during the race to capture the White House and when they finally makes it into the Oval Office, the Democrats have perfected the less than subtle art of shooting themselves in the foot.

Whether it is the Commander in Chief seemingly unable to keep his own little soldier under control, or a party-wide failure to back Al Gore in his failed Presidential bid when a stronger stance over the Florida count could have swung things their way, the Democrats have often proved their own worst enemy.

The latest piece of civil strife to beset the party involves two Presidential candidates with genuine and realistic aspirations.

From this side of the Atlantic at least, a growing number believe either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama could win the race for the White House. Of course, what we think is largely irrelevant and the picture in the US is far from clear.

Both candidates will face more than their fair share of media and opposition grilling in the coming months – how they stand up to the scrutiny will arguably be just as important as their policy pronouncements.

Although very much early stages, surely the party heirarchy have been rubbing their hands in anticipation of having two strong, resilient and diverse candidates?

But now we get news of what looks like a very unseemly spat springing up around Hillary and Barack.

It isn’t too surprising to discover that money is at the root of this particular problem. The decision of Hollywood mogul to jump from the Clinton’s ship – he was a staunch supporter and productivefundraiser for Bill during his Presidency – to Mr Obama has led to a few fractious comments.

Mr Geffen himself described Mrs Clinton as “too polarising” to be a realistic candidate. Hillary’s camp responded with all the grace and subtlety of adonkey on roller blades by accusing Barack’s people of descending into the “politics of trash”.

All rather unseemly and deeply unnecessary. But just the kind of self-destructing tendency we’ve seen before and just the type of internal feud the Republicans will lap up and use against the Democrats.

While no-one is expecting Hillary and Barack to be best buddies – politics is far too ugly for that – surely they are both experienced and astute enough to know that using personal attacks to defeat each other will do them no favours when it comes to taking on the Republicans?

If the internal battles get too brutal, then it is doubtful the Democrats will have any fight left in them for the race for the White House itself.

The vehemency of the attacks is an indication of just how crucial every last dollar is these days to a political campaign.

But it is also an indication of just how bloody and significant this particular sideshow could get that such personal attacks represent nothing more than a minor spat at this stage. It could escalate just as quickly as it has begun, however, and the Democratic party itself could end up the major casualty.

The Democrats are still in celebratory mood after their recent mid-term successes, yet despite the impressive strides forward it made during those elections it could still be tripped up badly by something as avoidable as this spat.

It needs a senior party figure to act as peacemaker and to do so quickly.

Allowing this rather trivial war of words over relatively minor amounts of funding to develop into something more serious could prove very costly.


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