Friday, January 25, 2008

Political Blogging - Good Cop, Bad Cop, Bad Politics

There is a bad moon arising. The continued good cop, bad cop routine by Hillary and Bill Clinton respectively adds up to only one thing, bad politics.

In the beginning of Hillary Clinton's race Bill Clinton was going to, naturally, be an advisor, and Hillary Clinton as running as first and foremost Hillary Clinton. Yet, as Barack Obama retorted during Monday night's debate, "I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes." Bill's recent ubiquity is a problem, and undermines Hillary's original campaign promise. As the New York Times op-ed writer Gail Collins wrote yesterday, "Now, Bill’s role as Chief Attack Dog undermines all that. If he’s all over her campaign, he’s going to be all over her administration. Instead of the original promise of the thoroughly educated Hillary, we’re being offered the worst-case scenario — that the pair of them are going to return to Pennsylvania Avenue and recreate the old Clinton chaos."

In the past few primaries she has apologized for how her husband has acted, playing the innocent good cop, now all veils of naivety have fallen. The New York Times reporter Patrick Healy wrote, "Advisers to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton say they have concluded that Bill Clinton’s aggressive politicking against Senator Barack Obama is resonating with voters, and they intend to keep him on the campaign trail in a major role after the South Carolina primary." And this is in the primary! This isn't politics, this is professional wrestling, and it isn't change, it's exactly that type of push-polling Bush did to McCain in 2000 in South Carolina, its mud-trowing at its worst.

Yet, all are not silent. The recently minted radio attack ad aired by Clinton in South Carolina was pulled after only one day following a rancorous outcry by many who saw the ad as unduly misleading. All of this reminds one of the New Hampshire debate where Edwards stated, "Anytime you speak out powerfully for change the forces of status quo attack, every time." The dynamic interplay of the 'two-headed' monster is not what presidential politics should be about. In December I wrote "What's in a Poll" that 13% chose "Married to Bill Clinton" as the number positive personal quality in who they were supporting (i.e. Hillary). As I said before this is a staggeringly stupid reason. There is a reason for term-limits. And lest we again not forget that for the last 20 years the President of the United States has either been a 'Bush' or 'Clinton'. Democracy is about eroding dynasties and monarchies, not sustaining them.

The Clinton years were not much than the Bush years; in that they were typified by political partisanship that knew no end. Clinton has obviously and unequivocally chosen to run a caustic campaign. Her good cop, bad cop campaign style is only bad politics. If nominated she will run a general election campaign that will surely focus on winning nothing more than 50.0001% of the electorate; losers be damned.

Don't believe me? Read op-ed from the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan. She writes, "In Dillon, S.C., according to the Associated Press, on Thursday Mr. Clinton "predicted that many voters will be guided mainly by gender and race loyalties" and suggested his wife may lose Saturday's primary because black voters will side with Mr. Obama. Who is raising race as an issue? Bill Clinton knows. It's the press, and Mr. Obama. "Shame on you," Mr. Clinton said to a CNN reporter. The same day the Web site believed to be the backdoor of the Clinton war room unveiled a new name for the senator from Illinois: "Sticky Fingers Obama." Bill Clinton, with his trembly, red-faced rage, makes John McCain look young. His divisive and destructive daily comportment—this is a former president of the United States—is a civic embarrassment."

However, perhaps most telling of how far (too far) the Clintons have gone can be found in her home state, and party's paper, the New York Times. The weak worded and almost conciliatory Clinton endorsement by the Times reads, "The idea of the first African-American nominee of a major party also is exhilarating, and so is the prospect of the first woman nominee. “Firstness” is not a reason to choose. The times that false choice has been raised, more often by Mrs. Clinton, have tarnished the campaign." Further down the editorial board write, "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.)"

It is telling that Obama opened a 'truth squad' in South Carolina so as to ensure that Obama's positions are not distorted. The effort, led by former-senator Tom Daschle, was reported by "First Read" at MSNBC. All of this says one thing: the Clinton good cop, bad cop routine is just bad politics.


Update:
Read John Kerry's take on ex-president Bill Clinton's recent smears toward Barack Obama, as reported by the National Journal On Air.

Also, read the spoof article by the Onion that, as always, edges a little to close for comfort; humorously entitled, "Bill Clinton: 'Screw It, I'm Running.'" This article was cited by The New Republic blog written by Noam Scheiber who also things this is becoming Bill's rather than Hillary's race.

Finally, if I could write as well and elegant (and as informed) as professionals I would have written this piece in the National Review, penned by Peter Wehner. The article chronicles all the reason we should be truly appauled if just not confused by how the Clintons are acting (attaking).

To bastion the argument read Bob Herbert's op-ed printed in Saturday's New York Times. He writes, "The Clinton camp knows what it’s doing, and its slimy maneuvers have been working... What kind of people are the Clintons? What role will Bill Clinton play in a new Clinton White House? Can they look beyond winning to a wounded nation’s need for healing and unifying?" Indeed.

6 comments:

Mark said...

Jason, being that I'm outside of the United States, my perspective on things in the political campaign isn't nearly as clear or update as yours. Politics from country to country is drunk with the local water and breathed in the collective air, but doesn't mean what you're drinking is what should be shared or declared as "right." I'm not really sure how to respond to your attack on the Clintons. I worry that you are falling into a classic, American trap about interpreting Clinton and Clinton years.
One of the central things that irritates me is the fact that most Americans, in spite of all the good things and the good years under President Clinton, hate Bill Clinton. I would even go so far as to say that Americans irrationally hate Bill Clinton. The Clinton years were tarnished by a media-witch hunt and Republican-driving tarnishing of the political life of the former president due to, let's be honest here, what he did in his private life. I honestly feel sorry for Bill Clinton, because for me, he remains a humanitarian man that has been and continues to be a man of moral, political and humanitarian aid. (If you need additional "proof," check out his TED Talk on his health project for creating universal health care, a project he was unable to create in the US, at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/85) Sure, he lied under oath, but what were we expecting to find in examining someone's private life, a portrait of Biblical roses and honey-filled goodness? Come on, this is a man and ultimately a couple that has had enough mud smeared on their lives to merit a little aggression and some occasional anger, in particular towards first, the media that spurred on this "private life" questions, second, the Republicans who payed for and fueled this witch-hunt for sperm-y trousers, and finally, everyone else that has followed along in collectively tarnishing a life that should be praised not spat on repeatedly by people who should know better, who should be capable of letting the private stay private. I really don't understand what Americans have against Bill Clinton. As my brother told me recently, concerning one reason why he wouldn't vote for Hilary, "She should have divorced Bill Clinton during the whole "sex scandal"...that just wasn't right." Bill Clinton is ally for any political or worldly team. He was and is a great man with a politically-difficult but morally-necessary vision of healing the world. I'm not sure how to take their seemingly "anything goes" policy during the campaign. But his and her anger are justified. Whether Hilary Clinton or Obama wins the presidential, I would prefer they keep Bill Clinton as an adviser, if not more. Hilary Clinton being elected means we get a double presidency, but in a world that is increasingly complicated, where is the problem with having two good heads than just one? (Just look at Argentina that recently elected a husband-wife combination)

The Catholic Atheist said...

Mark,

Thanks for the thoughts. I think there are few things that should be addressed that I might not have made clear:

1) You couldn't have found a bigger fan of Bill Clinton than I, until about a month ago. Of course the Republican party was vicious, vehement and unrelentingly antagonistic toward the Clinton White House. Through it all I loved Bill Clinton, and the high light of my early college days was being able to hear him speak at a fund-raiser for then Congressional candidate Rahm Emanuel. Now Rahm who worked in the Clinton White House as his Congressional hatchet-man, and Sr. Senator Kennedy have told the Clinton's to stop the smear campaign. Read the report here, http://www.newsweek.com/id/96385.

Bill Clinton should be admired a former President, but his conduct and Hillary's are deplorable, and should rightful be admonished.

I don't want to presidents, the framers, for good reason, chose one person to head the executive branch, and I want that clear chain-of-command to be upheld. We also made term-limits, and for good reason.

I don't know how to take your response that their anger is justified, why?

I will with two points that are the crux of my contentions:

1) If I am to take anything from the Clintons' 'anything goes' policy (btw, the Clinton campaign manager for the 92' race said their campaign strategy was, 'win the damn thing, at any cost') is simply indicative of the reality that they want to claim the office of the president more than uphold the position of the office of the president. Subtle, I don't think so, but I think it has to do with ends and means, and I think Kant happens to right on this measure.

2) I don't mean to be incendiary when I say this but Hillary Clinton is just a liberal George Bush; she will polarize the nation, eschewing anyone in the minority. I want a president that can construct, support and ultimately while in the White House, defend a coalition of citizens that is larger than a mere razor-thin majority. I think the only two candidates who are making efforts on this end are Barack Obama and to a lesser degree, John McCain.

Mark said...

You act as though Obama is pure and blameless in a political sphere run by "win-at-any-cost" politics. Middle-of-the-way politics gets you mediocre results, because you're forced to walk the line between things that shouldn't and logically can't go together. I'm just not impressed with Obama, because his ideas seem to say what we want to hear, probably to the same extent we hear it from almost everyone in politics. Admittedly, the American public won't, like me, vote for a radical like Kucinich or Nader, but maybe that's what appeals to me about Hilary Clinton. She's been forced to play the political game with all its labels and pre-established notions by "changing her image." My hope is that if elected she'll finally be in the position to do "what's need" in a way that does "what's right." We would have a much easier time voting for her if she hadn't voted for the war in Iraq. This is, in my opinion, the major strike held against her. But I think she voted for the war to show that she was "tough" in the male-dominated political world. Both the Clintons have been working on "improving the world" for a long time. Their objectives are clear and long-standing. And for you to bring up term limits that were established AFTER the framers as a reason to not vote for Hilary Clinton is to misrepresent the fact that term limits aren't the issue but picking the "best" candidate is.

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