Clintonian Tactics on Display
Hillary Clinton's "Meet the Press" appearance this morning was one of the most overt displays of the old Clintonian attack politics I've seen in this campaign. Her blatant and transparent attempts to blame Obama's campaign for "deliberately distorting" unfortunate remarks she, her husband, and others associated with her campaign have been making in recent days were, frankly, sickening and unworthy of a candidate for high national office.
Last Monday, Mrs. Clinton brought up Martin Luther King Jr. during an interview on Fox News. Here's how the New York Times described her comments: "'Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964,' Mrs. Clinton said in trying to make the case that her experience should mean more to voters than the uplifting words of Mr. Obama. 'It took a president to get it done.'" Understandably, she quickly came to see how that remark - probably unintentional - could have been perceived as a slight to King. She "returned to the subject at a later stop, recalling how Dr. King was beaten and jailed and how he worked with Johnson to pass the landmark law. Clinton advisers said her first remark had not captured what she meant to convey. And they said she would never detract from a movement that has driven her own public service."
Fine. But it is also understandable that people might have been offended by her remark, including Rep. James Clyburn, a SC heavyweight who has remained neutral in the presidential campaign (so far). He said of Mrs. Clinton's comment "We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics. It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal."
Today on "Meet," Hillary blamed the Obama campaign for continuing to bring up her comment, quickly growing heated with Tim Russert when he brought it up. "I think it such an unfair and unwarranted attempt to misinterpret and mischaracterize what I said," said the senator from New York. "This is an unfortunate storyline that the Obama campaign has pushed very selectively."
Actually if she wants to blame anybody for pushing the story, it ought to be the media, but that wouldn't serve her purpose quite as well, so she goes after Obama (and, by association, Representative Clyburn).
On another front too she attacked her rival, suggesting that he has somehow changed his views on the Iraq War from 2002 to today. He's done no such thing so far as I can tell by any objective measure; yes, he's voted to fund and support the troops already fighting there (while maintaining his view that they should be brought home), but he among the major candidates was the only one in 2002 who had the judgment to oppose invading Iraq. It was this narrative - of Obama's longstanding opposition to the war - which Bill Clinton recently (and inexplicably) called "a fairy tale." It's true, the former president wasn't talking about Obama's race when he made those comments, and race shouldn't play into the evaluation of them, but it is also true that the Clintonian truth-twisting is getting pretty tiring (again).
Hillary's assault on Obama continued as she belittled his senatorial accomplishments (which do include the most far-reaching ethics reform package since Watergate) while refusing to come right out and call him a "showhorse" after making much of her so-called "workhorse" reputation.
Senator Obama, in a conference call with reporters on Sunday, responded this way, according to Hotline On Call:
"This is fascinating to me. I mean I think what we saw this morning is why the American people are tired of Washington politicians and the games they play. But Senator Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill-advised remark, about King and Lyndon Johnson. I didn’t make the statement. I haven’t remarked on it, and she I think offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King’s role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act.
She is free to explain that, but the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous. I have to point out that instead of telling the American people about her positive vision for America, Senator Clinton spent an hour talking about me and my record in a way that was flat out wrong.
She suggested that I didn’t clearly and unambiguously oppose the war in Iraq when it is absolutely clear and anyone who has followed this knows that I did. I stood up against the war when she was voting for it, at a time when she didn’t read the intelligence reports or give diplomacy a chance. She belittled the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate despite the fact that she stood on the sidelines during that negotiations on that bill.
I have to say that she started this campaign saying that she wanted to make history and lately she has been spending a lot of time rewriting it. I know that in Washington it is acceptable to say or do anything it takes to get elected but I really don’t think that is the kind of politics that is good for our party and I don’t think it is good for our country and I think that the American people will reject it in this election."
The Clinton campaign's remarks and their new efforts to twist them around and blame Obama for their own missteps are just the kind of outdated politics we need to rid ourselves of in this country. I'm sick and tired of it, and I don't think I'm the only one.
Oh, and by the way, another Obama endorsement this morning: from Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill.