What do Obama, Clinton care about, their party or personal ambitions?

The idea of a political party is simple: a group of people with similar ideas banding together to help elect public officials who share their political beliefs; a team dedicated to helping shape the country’s policies around the beliefs of its members.

Considering the current Democratic presidential nomination race, however, it seems that the true purpose of a political party is to serve as a personal springboard for ambitious politicians to obtain their dreams.

While the Republicans, for better or worse, have lined up behind Sen. John McCain for the general election, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue the seemingly interminable battle for the Democratic nomination.

This race itself is not really a problem, because healthy competitions usually bring benefits rather than harm. But in this instance, the competition has ceased to benefit the true purposes of the Democratic Party.

When Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is forced to speak with both campaigns about calming down their attacks against each other, it is clear that the overly competitive race is hurting the party and its members.

As Clinton has fallen further behind in the race, her harsh attacks on Obama and his camp’s equally unrestrained responses would never make one think they are playing for the same team.

Finding negatives in a candidate is always an on-going process, but the Democrats seem bound to speed it up to give their real opponents, the Republicans, time to exploit and find more problems.

Every week, a new photo, video or quote comes from somewhere that implies Obama is somehow anti-American.

Recently, the public has seen new information about Obama’s pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his views on every subject known to man.

The implication that Obama must agree with his pastor’s opinions because he continued to attend the congregation is simply invalid.

In reality, very few people ever agree with every single thing their religious leader says. While Reverend Wright’s quotes are extremely alarming, the idea that Obama should have simply left the church is a vast over-simplification of what a church is and how it operates on a personal and professional level.

The real problem is not the veracity of the campaign rhetoric, but that these very issues are being used to attack candidates within their own party, which only serves to damage the party itself.

Since securing the Republican nomination, McCain has been vigorously touting his own merits while his future opponents have done all of the political mud-slinging for him.

The truth is, Clinton and Obama are putting their own political ambitions in front of the good of their party with the ongoing squabbles. Unless both can begin to campaign in a way that won’t damage the party, they are both betraying the trust of fellow Democrats. The candidates are looking out only for themselves when they attempt to blatantly harm the potential future nominee from their own party.

Unless Obama and Clinton believe so strongly in each other’s villainy, they are doing their party no favors with their current battle. It is clear though that in this instance, neither really despises each other’s character or policies. Rather, both seem dedicated to put their own presidential ambitions ahead of the good of the party.

Unfortunately for their party, it is too late to take back what has already been said and undo the damage already done. Hopefully for these two candidates and the party they represent, their self-imposed handicaps sprung from personal ambitions won’t lead to another four years of Republican occupation in the White House.

Tim Riley is a mechanical engineering junior. E-mail opinions