Is The Clinton Team On the Road To Self-destruction As Well As Moral Obloquy?

Is Bill Clinton's attack-dog campaign strategy just the tip of the iceberg?

A number of articles and political commentaries take up this question today, in the aftermath of the South Carolina election. I am providing links to them with some excerpt. They are well worth reading in their entirety. The Democratic Party must repudiate the Clintons sinking so low that they are willing to court a racist vote in order to defeat Barack Obama.

As Democrats, we well remember how Karl Rove orchestrated a finely tuned series of vicious personal attacks against the Clinton’s during Bill Clinton’s two terms in office. It seems like Hillary and Bill learned all the wrong lessons from that experience. They are now trying to out-Rove Rove with their current racist smear campaign against Barack Obama, and they have hired a master dirty-ops PR heavy, Mark Penn, CEO of firm Burson-Marsteller to oversee the job.

Here's an example taken from Bill Clinton’s comments on Obama's win inthe South Carolina primary yesterday. Note his not so subtle equation of Obama’s campaign for president with Jesse Jackson's run for the president in the 1980's on with a campaign program centered on race issues. This was a coninuation of the Clinton's not so subliminal effort to label Obama as a "race" candidate.

ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper reported the following interchange between Clinton and ABC New’s David Wright yesterday:

Bubba: Obama Is Just Like Jesse Jackson

January 26, 2008 8:18 PM

Said Bill Clinton today in Columbia, SC: "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."

This was in response to a question from ABC News' David Wright about it taking "two Clintons to beat" Obama. Jackson had not been mentioned.

Boy, I can't understand why anyone would think the Clintons are running a race-baiting campaign to paint Obama as "the black candidate."

A slightly different take on Bill Clinton’s remarks comes from Merle Black a professor at Emory University in Atlanta. According to the Bloomberg campaign roundup, he said."The implicit comparison is that Jackson won but he didn't win the nomination. That is just another round of trying to devalue what Obama has achieved."

Paul Rogat, a political commentator from Alaska, has done an excellent job in assembling the profile of the underside of Clinton’s campaign committee, Does Hillary Clinton Cross Ethical Lines?. He reflects the growing concern throughout the Democratic Party of the damage that the Clinton’s are willing to inflict on the party to guarantee a win:

Hillary Clinton's campaign has crossed so many ethical lines it risks embittering so many potential supporters as to cost the Democrats the November election. If all the new voters that Obama's bringing in are so angered they decide to stay home, it's going to be extremely difficult for the Democrats to beat a candidate like McCain, particularly if the Republicans have Hillary to mobilize against. …

We've seen plenty of recent examples of ways that Clinton and her political allies have embraced an approach in which truth and fairness become expendable. But the pattern of questionable approaches runs deeper than just the most recent arguments. You're probably familiar with many. But it's the broader pattern that disturbs me--how much the Clinton campaign goes beyond drawing legitimate political lines to an all-too-Rovian approach where they'll do whatever's deemed necessary to take down her competitors. Here's a representative list of actions that, taken together, offer a disturbing portent, even if Clinton does get in.

What does the future hold.? I believe that many in the leadership of the Democratic Party agree with Majority Whip Jim Clyburn who said on CNN yesterday that he was hoping to see a brokered Democratic Party Convention at which the party leadership would have a chance to join in selection of the nominee. This will occur if there is a three-way vote split. The following statistics assembled by The Nation show that Clinton is no where near capturing a majority of campaign delegates at this point. Seventy-three percent of South Carolina’s voted against her yesterday. Here is their tally of the percentage of votes in primary elections so far so far:

Sixty-five percent of delegates chosen so far in Democratic primaries and caucuses have gone to Hillary Clinton's opponents. Of course, the opposition is divided between Barack Obama, with 63, and John Edwards, with 26. But when you add those totals together -- the most likely calculation in the eyes of anyone who has been watching the subtle cooperation between the Obama and Edwards campaigns -- they don't just trump Clinton's 48. They obliterate it.

I the Clinton's do lock up the nomination then the unthinkable might happen again--a Republican victory. It isn't only the future of the Democratic Party or even of the United States, but the whole damned world will be up for grabs. Global warming is a looming catastrophe, but the effects of four more years of a Republican president may well be more than the planet can sustain.

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is complicit in the whole situation, by sensationalizing every encounter with Bill Clinton. When you listen to what he actually says, vs what is being reported -- and the tone it is being reported in -- you can see and hear the media setting the tone.

I am just SOOOOOO sick of all of this.

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If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little. ~ George Carlin

Roxy, I don't think we can afford to step away from the ugliness of the media scene or the ugliness of the aspects of the campaign itself.

If the remarks of the Clinton's are being distorted by the media they can demand time or command it through advertisements and condemn the way the race card is being used by the media. I don't happen to see the situation as just another example of media spin.

I think that the voters in South Carolina, who have had opportunities to hear and see the candidates up front and personal, switched so dramatically to give Obama and overwhelming show of support, then that is a message that is important to listen to. The campaign in South Carolina was conducted with plenty of grass roots participation and if an individual missed meeting the candidates it would still have been the case that community leaders whom he or she respected were on hand to judge and report back.

I am prepared to vote for the Democratic nominee whoever that may be, but I am very concerned that we are not walking into a trap which will spring shut should Hillary Clinton be elected. I don't like the crowd the Clinton's are playing with and I don't like the way Bill Clinton has slipped into being the co-presidential candidate.

carol

crap that is being spun on top of an already heated issue and too early to say at this point.

Where to begin?

Bill didn't do himself or Hillary any favors by answering the question with Jackson's caucus wins in 1984 and 1988.

The media has been pushing to make more of an issue of race from the beginning. How do we account for their role in the final outcome? And there is no question that the media wants a story above everything else. Many of the media and the pundits would tap dance on the Clinton's graves if given the opportunity. No doubt they are hurting Obama, Clinton and the democratic process. I'd like to see them reined in as much as anyone in this mess.

Do the Clintons play rough? Damn right they do and have for years. Personally, I'd like to see some more of this by our Democrats in Congress but that is for another conversation. Have the Clintons gone so far as to doing damage to the Democratic party? I think it's too early to say and it might depend on how the latest is resolved. I feel that there have been other instances where fouls about race where made when they should not have been which has probably increased the sensitivity of everyone on the issue.

I think it is way to early to make a prediction that a Clinton nomination would secure a Republican victory in the fall. We don't know yet who the Republican nominee will be and quite frankly, their field of candidates is not very strong. There is a lot of infighting going on within the Republican party that is not helping them either. The Republican turnout has been much less than the Democratic turnout so far in the primaries. Is this something that will carry through to the fall? Again, can't say yet it does appear their party is very discouraged at the least. Would a Clinton nomination change coalesce the Republicans enough to increase their turnout or are they so discouraged they will stay home regardless of who is on the Democratic ticket?

And sorry, but I have read too much of the elevated rhetoric that the Clintons are the equivalent of Rove in the liberal blogosphere. Penn was a bad choice and continues to be a bad choice but not sure he rises to the level of Rove. Do we do ourselves any service by reducing our level of discourse to that of the Republicans? The Obama campaign has run a cleaner campaign in comparison yet it has not been perfect either. He courted the African American vote hard in South Carolina, even using a highly controversial homosexual bigot to reach out to the very conservative African American Christian community there. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s comments evoked race and sexism in his comments about Hillary. Michelle Obama has had some remarks that worked in race and sex that could have come under more scrutiny but there was little outrage over them. And I have read articles that nail both campaigns trying to work the press to go after stories that would be damaging to the other campaign.

I think the real loser in this is the voter and our electoral process. And as far as the Democratic party is concerned, I'm as discouraged with them as ever. Yes, they are better than the Republican party but I'm not convinced either has the best interests of the American people at heart yet. This current battle that we are seeing between Clinton and Obama for the nomination is being played out on level for the American people. There is another battle I sense going on within the Democratic party itself that I sense is equally, if not more important, that no one seems to be digging into at this point. I have a feeling that is a story that none of our elected representatives want to share with us.

The last point that disturbs me is that all of this focus on the Clintons is not helping us learn more about Obama. We know enough, if not all, the negatives that come with the Clintons. There is a lot that we don't know about Obama yet. One big concern I have and see others express is how committed to the Democratic base or progressive values is he beyond his campaign rhetoric?

I think Edwards would be a better choice, but I don't think that the media has ganged up on Clinton. More to the point in my view is the refusal to treat Edwards as a serious candidate.

You might want to consider the role of Harry Reid in shaping the Democratic agenda in the congress and note that his son is playing a leading role in Hillary's campaign. Well not being a fundy myself I don't believe in holding sons or fathers responsible for the sins of their fathers or sons. Seriously, the Clinton's have a lot of wait among both House and Senate Democrats. I believe Bill Clinton, as the last sitting Dem president is the titular leader of the party. Maybe I am wrong about this but IMO it is something worth thinking about.

It is difficult me to hold my ground between a natural desire to wash my hands on the whole thing, and an equally powerful anger to see how self-destructive the present situation is within the Democratic Party.

I am not a member of the Democratic party nor have I ever been though I did do some precinct work for Kerry in 2004, and organized a local independants for Kerry campaign. But I see no viable alternative to a Democratic victory in 2008 that I would be prepared to support. In other words I think the only third party option that is likely to surface would be a McCain-Lieberman bi-partisan ticket, or perhaps a run by Mayor Bloomberg. Neither of these options looks right to me now, certainly not one with McCain and or Lieberman on the ticket.

Not to make this comment unreadably long I am going to post separately a comment based on Frank Rich's Op Ed in the Times which makes a strong case that I am not off-the-wall in my expressed fears.

carol

Obama's "flip/flopping" on issues. No doubt he has been back and forth on some issues as has Hillary but I remember all too well the viciousness of job that was done on Kerry. Interestingly he has weighed in on this, calling the Clinton attacks an example of "speed-boating" Barack Obama at the time he announced he was supporting Obama.

Now I may have issues with how Kerry fought his campaign but there is no way he can be put in the same pot as "the media."

carol

your concerns and don't mean to downplay them. I think my concerns go beyond that of worrying which Democrat will be elected in the fall to the disappointment in the Democratic party overall. I am not a registered Democrat. I don't have to be one in my state and if I did have to register would choose Independent.

I think Edward's message is probably the strongest in terms of being progressive and populist. Then again, I am not as well versed on the distinctions of different philosophies as some. I also believe that he never stood a chance. I don't say that to be rude or insensitive. He started as an outsider with no support from the establishment within the Democratic party in a primary where I think the decision had already been made that the choice was between Hillary and the anti-Hillary candidate. Obama was chosen to be the anti-Hillary candidate and received the support (party insiders and donors) that made him a legitimate candidate.

My concerns are broken down into two parts. First, the nation is in need of a president to take the reins and turn this horse around. The talk about change, hope and optimism are fine but not worth a damn if we end up with someone who isn't up to the job. I think the New York Times has given the best breakdown between Obama and Clinton in terms of who is ready now in their endorsement of Clinton with strong praise for Obama. The Clintons might have some advantage when it comes to knowing how to leverage themselves with Congress. Obama may be at risk of making some of the same mistakes that Bill Clinton made in his first couple of years since he lacks that experience. Which is better? I don't know but it's worth considering. And will his inexperience give more leverage to the Democrats in Congress who have been fairly disappointing in their own right?

My second concern is with the what the Democratic party will have to gain with either of the two viable candidates. For some reason, Bill Clinton has been anointed the defacto head of the party. It might be that he is the last sitting president, he is still a very popular figure in spite of past problems and this is probably a little crass but as frank as I can be, he has a set and not many in others in the party can make that claim. He could be a help or a hindrance to Hillary where she to be elected. But both Clinton and Obama operate from the center and are attached to the money that has taken control of politics. I hear many wonderful ideas of how Obama is going to bring change and I just don't see it myself. I see the same people, same money and same policies all wrapped up in a new package that is being marketed in a different way to the American people. I am afraid we are being fooled by Obama and all that will truly change is the figurehead of an organization or machine.

I think the Clinton's are more of a known factor than Obama, and both are presently playing to the center.

Remember that I too think Edwards is the strongest candidate.

If it turns out to be Obama it might be an Obama/Edwards ticket which would be interesting. With Ted Kennedy supporting Edwards then he will have a good deal of institutional knowledge behind him. This should be set in balance against the admittedly first-hand knowledge of the lay of the land that the Clintons have.

He is building an interesting from-the-ground up campaign organization, drawing in younger people. That is promising and apparently is what paid off for him in South Carolina, because the Clinton's had a lot of institutional support from the Black community locally and nationally.

But what trumps it all is that it cannot continue to be the same old ball game because it ain't going to be the same old world. We are in a massive economic melt-down with lots of consequences to come.

I would like to know what happened to Nancy Pelosi, who seemed to be promising to begin with and then ... ouch. Still mulling your question about what is going on behind the scenes in the National Democratic Party. What role have the Clintons played in shaping the unwillingness or inability of the House and Senate Dems to effectively counter Bush.

carol

Frank Rich has an Op Ed in today's New York Times, The Billary Road to Republican Victory that I think needs to be considered carefully.

Absent from this debate is any sober recognition that a Hillary Clinton nomination, if it happens, will send the Democrats into the general election with a new and huge peril that may well dwarf the current wars over race, gender and who said what about Ronald Reagan. Absent from this debate is any sober recognition that a Hillary Clinton nomination, if it happens, will send the Democrats into the general election with a new and huge peril that may well dwarf the current wars over race, gender and who said what about Ronald Reagan.

What has gone unspoken is this: Up until this moment, Hillary has successfully deflected rough questions about Bill by saying, “I’m running on my own” or, as she snapped at Barack Obama in the last debate, “Well, I’m here; he’s not.” This sleight of hand became officially inoperative once her husband became a co-candidate, even to the point of taking over entirely when she vacated South Carolina last week. With “two for the price of one” back as the unabashed modus operandi, both Clintons are in play.

He develops two arguments: one being the lack of transparency of records that have still not released by the Clinton Library and the second that McCain would be a very strong candidate against the Clintons because of his outsider record in the Republican party and his military experience.

carol

Balance the opinion columns with an analysis of the polls. And I believe the use of the word "Billary" in his writing should give anyone pause before giving too much credence to his true concern for the Democratic party.

I don't care who the Democrats nominate, there will be a well funded machine out there trying to throw up everything possible about the Democratic candidate. And McCain could even be a drag on the Republican ticket with the way the so-called "conservatives" are going after him right now. Plus McCain has his own baggage that has not been covered as much since he is the current media darling of the Republican candidates. Another factor that will likely play a big role in the general is the direction of the economy and war in Iraq. A lot could change between now and November on those issues. McCain is fully vested in not only the Iraq war but keeping our troops there for another 100 years. That dog won't hunt well with the electorate unless something changes drastically.

But I still say it's too early to let the press and pundits put us into full blown panic mode here. That is what they would like to have happen. I think it's fairly safe to say that the race the press would like to see is McCain vs. Obama. If that is what the voters decide, then that is the ticket we should have in November. I would just prefer that we also send a message to the press to stop interfering in our elections and trying to choose our candidates for us. Look how well they did for us in 2000 and 2004.

Here is a link to Real Clear Politics National Head-to-Head polls. I like it because it combines the latest polls for a better sense of where positions stand as reflected by multiple polls.

I book-marked the link, thanks. I absolutely agree with you about the panic stuff. It was not my intention to spread panic.

I have been thinking about what you said about the inter-party debate. Seems according to a recent news flash that Senator Kennedy has announced that he will formally endorse Obama tomorrow afternoon at an Obama rally in DC.

I think things are moving in the direction of a brokered convention. Of course a lot of things will no doubt be in place before the actual date of the convention, but I don't think the next candidate will be decided on the basis of a popularity poll per se however the media would like to shape things. IMO this would be a good thing, and it brings us back to your point about the need to know what kind of discussion is going on within Democratic Party circles.

carol