Clinton and Palin have finally stopped circling one another and have collided on the national stage for the first time in a shower of sparks and rhetoric (okay, no sparks). I am reminded of the climax of the film “Highlander”. There can be only one.

It was disclosed on Tuesday that Hillary Clinton cancelled an upcoming appearance at a rally outside the United Nations protesting the appearance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. The cancellation came after Governor Sarah Palin accepted an invitation extended to her by the rally organizers on Tuesday morning. The event, scheduled for Monday, September 22nd, had been planned since August by the National Coalition to Stop Iran Now, which is a confederation of several American Jewish organizations. Clinton spokesman Phillipe Reines explained the reason behind the cancellation by saying, “Her [Palin’s] attendance was news to us, and this was never billed to us as a partisan political event. Senator Clinton will therefore not be attending." The explanation is unsatisfactory to some, myself included, who ask the question, “Why does Palin’s presence make the event partisan?” After all, Hillary Clinton is now (ostensibly) a vocal Obama supporter and a recent presidential contender herself. Her motives behind speaking at the event are certainly political, centered around pleasing her constituency and using her high profile to draw attention to the cause. Would her appearance be considered partisan? How about the long-scheduled appearance of revered author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, himself an ardent and outspoken conservative? I think the event would be partisan, Senator Clinton, if only one party was represented and the opposing view was shut out. If anything, Governor Palin’s appearance would further enhance the bipartisan credentials of the rally.

So what’s the real reason for Clinton’s sudden withdrawal? The simple answer is that the Obama campaign, in an act that is ironically the most partisan of this whole debacle, in all likelihood told her to. Their well-justified fear is that Clinton’s appearance would lend legitimacy to the Republican vice-presidential nominee. But by the time the dust had settled on Wednesday the one who came out on top was Governor Palin, who now has possession of the battlefield (read: the microphone) as a headlining speaker and the added gravitas of appearing at a foreign policy-related event that conservatives and moderates alike can support. Moreover, the Obama campaign came off looking petty and cheap, once again putting their interests ahead of larger issues of national import. A clever and biting retort by McCain campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb aimed at Senator Obama was issued: “Instead of pressuring Senator Clinton to withdraw and pressuring the event's organizers to disinvite Governor Palin, we hope Senator Obama will consider lending his own voice to this cause. And if the Senator subsequently wishes to clarify any remarks that might be misconstrued, he will have the opportunity to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions after he speaks at the UN the following day."

But don’t be fooled, I’m sure Clinton was more than happy to hand the Obama campaign the loaded gun and watch them shoot themselves in the foot.

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