1.26.2008

Bill Clinton continues to be the campaign's current defining controversy

A few hours from polls opening in South Carolina, the candidates are already looking ahead to future contests and setting up their arguments for the fight to Super Tuesday. The most contested argument, of course, is what role Bill Clinton should occupy on the campaign trail, and whether his recent outbursts against Obama and his rants against the media are crossing the line of what a candidate's spouse should say.

Both sides appear to genuinely believe they have a winner here, which is what makes the Bill Clinton question so fascinating. Obama's camp believes that Bill Clinton's involvement in the campaign fits their narrative of the dangers of the Clinton dynasty and could remind many voters of what they disliked about the 1990s, in particular the constant political warfare, scandals and bickering. They also think that they will be a backlash among Democratic voters, especially among women who might take offense that Hillary needs her husband to come to her rescue to this extent.

The Clinton campaign, however, appears to believe none of this. Her camp is convinced that Bill remains very popular among Democratic voters and that not only is he keeping Obama off-message, but he is also keeping his wife in the news even when she is busy campaigning in other places. Boosted by plenty of polls showing Bill Clinton's popularity stays rocket high, Hillary's aides are showing no intention of pulling Bill out and getting him to tone down a little. If anything, they have been adamant that they will continue using Bill on the trail.

Since the Clintonites are the ones who control what Bill does, they are probably feeling good about his impact on Hillary's number -- otherwise they would have gotten him to tone down at least a little. And the Obama campaign's rhetoric is clearly stepping up to counter the danger of being thrown completely off-message. And to respond Hillary's biggest surrogate, Obama has dispatched one of his major backers, John Kerry. The 2004 nominee lashed out at Clinton today: Kerry said, "I think you had an abuse of the truth, is what happened. …I mean, being an ex-president does not give you license to abuse the truth, and I think that over the last days it's been over the top." He went on to talk about "the franticness in the air."

And the criticism is spreading to many outside of Obama's circle. The New York Times penned a strong editorial yesterday endorsing Hillary Clinton (which many were surprised by) but included this warning:

The tone of the campaign... is not good for the country, the Democratic Party or for Mrs. Clinton, who is often tagged as divisive, in part because of bitter feeling about her husband’s administration and the so-called permanent campaign. (Indeed, Bill Clinton’s overheated comments are feeding those resentments and could do long-term damage to her candidacy if he continues this way.)

And Bill Clinton is now also causing controversies in the Republican race! The former President said today that McCain and Hillary like each other and would run a positive campaign against each other: "They always laugh that if they wound up being the nominees of their party, it would be the most civilized election in American history, and they're afraid they'd put the voters to sleep because they like and respect each other." Mitt Romney has already been using the remarks to question McCain's conservative credentials. Not that this will get that much play in the local Florida press, but considering McCain's main challenge in the next 4 days is convince conservatives that he is one of them, this can't be very helpful.

3 Comments:

  • Isn't the biggest problem with Bill Clinton's coments what may happen after either Obama or H Clinton get the nomination? I am old enough to remember great bitterness among McCarthy supporters (myself included) after Humphrey received the nomination at a Chicago convention that, to say the least, showed no respect for those of us not in sync with the Democratic machine. I was not old enough to vote; but had I been, I would have had difficulty voting for Humphrey- and might have not voted at all

    By Anonymous as, At 26 January, 2008 11:51  

  • I absolutely agree with what you've said. It's clear that the Clintons don't care if everyone cannabilizes each other, just as long as they (and it's clear that it's a they) win. We've gone from a renewed sense of hope and optimism post-Iowa to the same muckraking, win-at-all-costs, lies and deceptions that have characterized our governemnt for 7 years. Hillary doesn't care about our country, its reputation or the unity of its populace—she just wants what she thinks is her due. But, hey, Hillary, the country didn't cheat on you or deprive you of your place in history—that was the old man! We know he made a deal with you to get you elected if you'd stand by him and forget the blue dress—but since when did your deal include taking the country down into the gutter with you? Fact is, voters don't owe you anything! It comes down to this: forget gender, forget, race; think about how we as a nation felt that Friday morning after Iowa; how proud and happily surprised we were by the open-mindedness of our fellow countrymen and women. Now think of how you feel when you see an ex-president taking cheap swipes at a truly exceptional, inspiring person, regardless of whether or not you like Obama's politics. As a voter, ask yourself, what kind of America do you want to wake up to next November? What values do you respect in a leader? For me, it's simple: truth v. lies; decency v. indecency; inspiration v. demeanment; hard work v. cheap shots. To your point, I'm a white, female democrat who, after the past two weeks, would rather vote republican or not vote at all if that weasel in a pantsuit and her lackey lie, cheat, and squirm their way into the nomination.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 26 January, 2008 15:36  

  • I just hope and pray the United States of America vote for Hillary Clinton,because she is the most intelligent candiate of all, but it seems like we have been putting the wrong president in the White House lately. We are now in a mess. I wish people would stop baggering Hillary. I think she is great, honest, and sincere.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 29 January, 2008 02:19  

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