Like the Bushes, the Clintons seem to believe they have some special entitlement to the White House, and thus whatever they do to get there is justified. The two ruling families function with a monarchical air that is unique – or foreign – to the American experience.

George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have enjoyed wearing baseball caps emblazoned with “41” and “43” respectively, signifying their numerical claims on the U.S. presidency. It is still not known what articles of clothing the Clintons might embroider with “42” and “44.”

But like the Bushes, who bullied their way back into the White House by shutting down vote-counting in Florida in December 2000, the Clintons also seem to view their claim on the presidency as a right. Any serious challenger must be treated as a pretender guilty of the crime of insolence.

So, even as Hillary Clinton’s cornerstone argument – her “ready on Day One” superior management skills – has crumbled amid the wreckage of her inept campaign, she sends her surrogates out to attack Barack Obama over trivial matters, like whether he adopted a rhetorical argument that his friend, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, once used.

Though politicians often borrow phrases – and policies – from one another, the Clinton campaign accused Obama of “plagiarism,” an over-the-top attack on his character. It didn’t seem to matter that Obama and Patrick had discussed the use of the phrasing and that the Massachusetts governor – an Obama campaign co-chair – wasn’t complaining.

Nor did it seem to matter that the substance of the Obama/Patrick argument was correct – that inspiring words can be crucial in rallying citizens in a democracy to join in an important cause or to overcome entrenched interests.

In her recent stump speeches, Hillary Clinton has demeaned the power of words to put down Obama, who clearly has an oratorical advantage. She said: “There’s a difference between speeches and solutions, between talk and action. I was raised to believe that actions speak louder than words.”

Responding to that argument in a speech in Milwaukee on Feb. 16, Obama said, “Don’t tell me words don’t matter. ‘I have a dream.’ Just words? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Just words? ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words? Just speeches?”

In a way, of course, Clinton is right. Her recent action – dispatching her spokesmen to attack Obama’s character over trivial issues – does speak volumes. It underscores that the Clintons are prepared to sink to any depth and create bitter divisions within the electorate to secure what they regard as their entitlement, the presidency of the United States.

[For more on this topic, see the Washington Post, Feb. 19, 2008, or Consortiumnews.com’s “How Far Will the Clintons Go?” and “The Clinton Audacity.”]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

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