Copyright January 24, 2008
ulling out all the stops, former President Bill Clinton told voters he expected his wife to lose the Saturday, Jan. 26 South Carolina Democratic primary because black voters would likely go with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Il.). What looked like a simple plea for help, was actually a calculated attempt to appeal to white voters in South Carolina and elsewhere. Bill's remarks followed an acrimonious Myrtle Beach debate Monday, Jan. 21 where front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack traded barbs, prompting former Sen. John Edwards to ask both rivals to stop “squabbling.” Edwards took a backseat to the heated exchange in which Hillary accused Obama of pandering to a Chicago slumlord, while Barack reminded voters that Hillary sat on the corporate board of Wall-Mart. Barack still faces a steep slope cutting into Hillary's national lead before Feb. 5 Super Tuesday.
Bill's remarks calling Barack a “fairytale” and Hillary praising former President Lyndon B. Johnson for signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act interjected race into the 2008 campaign. Hillary has openly used gender and appealed to women to support her candidacy especially in New Hampshire, where she defied the polls and pulled out an upset three percent win Jan. 8. When Barack won Iowa Jan. 3 by a hefty eight percent margin, panic hit Hillary's campaign, sending the former president out to attack Obama's credibility. Since then, Bill has become so nasty it prompted former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to call the former president on the carpet for piling on. Turning the tables, Bill accused Barack of a “hit job,” reminiscent of Hillary's past complaint about a “vast right wing conspiracy,” characterizing Republican efforts to impeach the former president for lying to a grand jury about Monica Lewinsky.
When Obama told the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal that former President Ronald Reagan changed the nation in a way former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton did not, he infuriated the Clintons and others on the left. Obama referred to Reagan's uncanny communication skills to appeal independents, moderates, and, yes, some Democrats. “I would never use Ronald Reagan as an example of change,” said Edwards, blasting Reagan's economic and environmental policies. Hillary brought up Obama's praise of Reagan to make Barack look hypocritical and pandering to GOP voters. Obama praised Reagan precisely because he had the capacity, regardless of policy or ideology, to forge a consensus about American tradition and values. Since Clinton took office Jan. 20, 1992, the country entered into a bitter and divisive period of partisan politics.
Seven years of President George W. Bush added to the partisanship, leaving Washington, according to GOP presidential candidate former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, “broken and dysfunctional.” Obama tried to make the point that whoever becomes the next president will operate with slim majorities in the House and Senate. Another divisive partisan leader could send the country spiraling into a lasting culture war. Hillary emphatically declared on Monday night's debate that all of Ronald Reagan's or Republican ideas were bad. Barack simply told the Reno Gazette-Journal that in 1980 voters resonated with Reagan's view that government was too big, spent too much had lost the consent of the governed. Since Barack praised Reagan Jan. 17, the Clintons have been on the warpath, taking his remarks out of context, and making Barack pay a costly political price.
Refusing to be “swiftboated,” Obama has responded to the former president's attacks. He's characterized the attacks as distorting his record, vowing to establish the “truth squad” in South Carolina. At Monday's debate, Barack said he didn't know, sometimes who he's was running against. It's unprecedented for an ex-president to campaign for a spouse, prompting Bill to get carried away attacking Hillary's chief rival. His comments about Obama winning the black vote in South Carolina come as close to race-bating as anything seen so far in the campaign. “We're in a very heated campaign, and people are coming out saying all kinds of things,” said Hillary, defending Bill and shirking off criticism that he's has been too harsh. Hillary's barbs in Monday night's debate elicited boos from the audience, believing Barack has taken some cheap shots in recent days.
Heading into Super Tuesday, Hillary still enjoys a 10% lead in national polls. While conceding South Carolina because of black voters, Bill invited white voters to join the ranks in future states. Obama still hasn't forcefully sold the idea that Hillary would launch, if president, the most bitterly divisive period in recent U.S. history. So far, with all the talk about the economy, Hillary has capitalized on name-recognition, associated with better economic times during Bill's administration. “When I was running, I didn't give a rip about what anybody said about me,” said Bill told some 200 people in Lexington, S.C. “It's weird you know, but if you love somebody, and you think that they'd be good, it's harder,” excusing his vigorous defense of Hillary. Instead of complaining about Bill, Obama should remind voters about the likely price of more rancor in a Hillary White House.
About the Author
Home || Articles || Books || The Teflon Report || Reactions || About Discobolos
©1999-2005 Discobolos Consulting Services, Inc.