Friday, January 25, 2008

Back and Forth Lash

A Washington Post story followed up on the unrest being caused by the Billary distortions:

Harpootlian, a prominent voice in South Carolina politics and a onetime Clinton supporter, said the Clintons' recent tactics have been "all about deceit."
"This is harmful to the party, it's harmful to the state. And I understand they want to win, but this is about -- should be about -- a competition of ideas, not who can pull the hammer harder," he said.

For some rank-and-file Democrats, the tack against Obama is prompting a reevaluation of Clinton and her husband. Bill Clinton gained enormous popularity among Democrats in the 1990s partly because of his ability to achieve tactical triumphs over Republicans. Now, watching the use of rough-edged tactics against a fellow Democrat, some of those who supported him then are having second thoughts.

"They're obvious distortions," said Ralph Byrd, a retired electrical engineer in Greenville, S.C., who voted for Clinton in 1992 and 1996. "We've had enough spin in the White House the last eight years, and we don't need any more. It's deliberate distortion that we don't need."

And even in its editorial endorsing Hillary, the New York Times commented:
As strongly as we back her candidacy, we urge Mrs. Clinton to take the lead in changing the tone of the campaign. It 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.)
Joining the chorus is former Clinton Sec. of Labor Robert Reich, who begins a blog entry (jeez, he's uses a Blogger template just like me, except I'd never use that one):
I write this more out of sadness than anger. Bill Clinton’s ill-tempered and ill-founded attacks on Barack Obama are doing no credit to the former President, his legacy, or his wife’s campaign. Nor are they helping the Democratic party.
Moreover, columnist E.J. Dionne recalled a moment when another candidate referred to Reagan kindly, and gave credit to his ideas, as Billary accuse Obama of doing. The candidate was Bill Clinton in 1991. "I have been thinking about that episode ever since Hillary Clinton's campaign started unloading on Barack Obama for making statements about Reagan that were, if anything, more measured than Bill Clinton's 1991 comments." Dionne writes in the Washington Post. "Obama's not particularly original insight was a central premise of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. Clinton argued over and over that Democrats could not win without new ideas of their own."
After joining in the criticism of Billary for distortion and division, Dionne puts the whole charge in the proper perspective: And with both Clintons on record saying kind things about Reagan, why go after Obama on the point? Honestly: If Obama is a Reaganite, then I am a salamander. "
Now as the voting day comes nearer in South Carolina, the Clinton campaign has withdrawn their latest attack radio ad, and the Obama campaign has withdrawn its response. But that often happens this close to voting, and doesn't mean much for the future. They called one truce, after all, and Billary broke it immediately. I wonder however if those scurrilous direct mails are going out again, accusing Obama of being weak on choice. Hillary's hope in SC is women, and also in siphoning off enough African Americans (now largely for Obama) and white voters (now splitting for Edwards) with appeals like the new radio ad featuring Bill Clinton, talking about the good economic times when he was President, and saying Hillary will do it again. This is their ultimate argument and could move some undecideds their way--if Bill has any credibility left.

Who's your wonk? Speaking of the economy, Congress and the Smirk agreed on a quick economic stimulus package Thursday which more closely resembles the proposal Barack Obama made a couple of weeks ago than Hillary's, although by the time the package was being negotiated, Hillary had come around to Obama's position on rebates. Obama said that the package should have included extension of unemployment benefits, which he also proposed.

Who's your GOPer? I didn't watch the Republican debate--I saw a moving performance by talented high school kids of Arthur Miller's The Crucible instead. But I did see some of the MSNBC pundits afterwards, and they thought Romney won the debate, hands down. Elsewhere on the web I've seen similar opinions, though Hotline thought McCain did well but so did Romney. Apparently they all mention Hillary many times. The MSNBCers talked about how Romney is running as an outsider, so much like GOPer Obama that he used one of Barack's signature lines. (But then Hillary does that, too, and now Obama has begun talking about being ready on Day One, Hillary's big deal.) They see Romney as drawing a sharp contrast with Hillary and maybe winning. Somebody said that Democrats seeing how enthused the GOPers are to run against Hillary--it helps them raise money for one thing--that this helps Obama.
(Interesting that MSNBC had Chris Matthews running the post-debate show without Keith, and that Keith will pair with somebody else for the South Carolina primary coverage, and will do the next Dem debate by himself.)

Anyway, it does seem that if Romney wins Florida, he is likely to win the GOPer nomination. Nobody gives Rudy a chance anymore, and McCain is already having money troubles, so it's hard to see how he remains competitive on Tsunami Tuesday if he doesn't win Florida. Even then he has to hope for a big cash infusion. This is apparently not just his problem, but a problem for all Republicans--the enthusiasm to contribute to their campaigns just isn't there. Which is why Romney could still win it all.

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