Obama's Clinton Education

Blogger notes: I think not only now Obama knows how the rest of us feel, but he is confronted with a nasty battle. Good thing he is not alone in this. What do you think? Please post your comment.

Obama's Clinton Education

January 23, 2008; Page A24

One of our favorite Bill Clinton anecdotes involves a confrontation he had with Bob Dole in the Oval Office after the 1996 election. Mr. Dole protested Mr. Clinton's attack ads claiming the Republican wanted to harm Medicare, but the President merely smiled that Bubba grin and said, "You gotta do what you gotta do."

We're reminded of that story listening to Barack Obama protest his treatment by the now ex-President Clinton on behalf of his wanna-be-President wife. "You know the former President, who I think all of us have a lot of regard for, has taken his advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling," Mr. Obama told a TV interviewer. "He continues to make statements that are not supported by the facts -- whether it's about my record of opposition to the war in Iraq or our approach to organizing in Las Vegas."

Now he knows how the rest of us feel.

The Illinois Senator is still a young man, but not so young as to have missed the 1990s. He nonetheless seems to be awakening slowly to what everyone else already knows about the Clintons, which is that they will say and do whatever they "gotta" say or do to win. Listen closely to Mr. Obama, and you can almost hear the echoes of Bob Dole at the end of the 1996 campaign asking, "Where's the outrage?"

This has been the core of the conservative critique of the Clintons for years. So it is illuminating to hear the same critique coming from Mr. Obama and his supporters now that his candidacy poses a threat to the return of the Clinton dynasty. Even Democrats are now admitting the Clintons don't tell the truth -- at least until Mrs. Clinton wins the nomination.

Mr. Obama's two examples are instructive because they are so wonderfully Clintonian. On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, Mr. Clinton attacked Mr. Obama's claims of having opposed the Iraq war all along as a "fairy tale." This is a tough charge coming from a two-term Democratic President in a Democratic primary, and it probably helped turn some voters against Mr. Obama.

But it was also a classic distortion intended to turn voter attention away from his wife's own Iraq fairy tale. She's the candidate who voted for the war and backed it for years before she decided she had to be sort of against it, only to later become really against it, and now to favor a withdrawal starting in 60 days. We think Mr. Obama is dangerously wrong about Iraq, but compared to Mrs. Clinton he's a model of consistency.

Then there's Mr. Clinton's moaning before Saturday's Nevada caucuses that his wife's supporters were being strong-armed by pro-Obama unions at casino voting sites.

Clinton campaign allies sued and lost on the matter, and the former President sounded like a Chicago ward heeler as he told reporters about the Obama campaign's voter-intimidation tactics. Yet on the day of the vote Mrs. Clinton won at seven of the nine casino sites, and the Obama campaign was left asking if its vote had been suppressed. It wouldn't be the first time Mr. Clinton accused an opponent of doing something his own campaign was planning to do.

Some in the press corps argue that Mr. Clinton's attacks are hurting his wife. But if they were, he'd stop. His behavior is part of the familiar Clinton playbook of letting others do the dirty work so the candidate can stay above the fray. Hillary and other surrogates took on the task of saving her husband from his lies under oath by inventing the specter of the "vast right-wing conspiracy," calling Paula Jones trailer trash, and portraying the widely respected Ken Starr as a rabid partisan.

Now Bill is returning the favor by attacking Mr. Obama; at the same time, other surrogates raise his long-ago cocaine use, only to apologize after it's been widely reported. News reports also say that so-called robo-calls in Nevada repeatedly referred to Mr. Obama by his middle name, "Hussein." And emails suddenly appeared last week on Jewish lists accusing the African-American Senator of being fond of Louis Farrakhan. Mr. Obama had to disavow Mr. Farrakhan and his associates.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton can claim to disapprove of these attacks, and even assert that she herself is being unfairly picked on by the media because she's a woman. She wants to make the primary contest about race and gender, rather than about Mr. Obama's larger, more inspiring message of change. She can then diminish Mr. Obama and make the choice a trench fight for the votes of typical Democratic constituencies. You gotta do what you gotta do.

"I understand him wanting to promote his wife's candidacy," Mr. Obama added on Sunday, referring to Bill Clinton. "She's got a record that she can run on. But I think it's important that we try to maintain some -- you know, level of honesty and candor during the course of the campaign. If we don't, then we feed the cynicism that has led so many Americans to be turned off to politics."

Welcome to the education of Barack Obama.


Josh said...

None of the spouses are getting such attention as Hillary's, not even Edwards' wife who campaigns with him with her diagnosed cancer. I think Bill should watch what he says, for the sake of the Democratic Party, if not for his own image.

David said...

I voted for Bill twice. I can not be fooled again. If Hillary is nominated, the border will be wide open. She is courting all the illegal immigrants. I am not blind and will not tolerate such violation of our rights. Illegals' votes obviously count more than the welfare of this country or the Clintons' integrity. Wake up! People.

Ronnie said...

Too Late! Bill has already "damaged" his image.
I supported him twice as well,but now I see his true colors,I am sickened by his actions.
Anybody but Hillary is my attitude.
Thanks Bill!