Commentary Magazine


Topic: James Carville

Blame Obama for Blaming Bush

Jonathan Martin reports:

After three consecutive losses in statewide races, some top Democrats are questioning a tactic aimed at boosting the party’s candidates in each of those contests: Bush-bashing. . . “Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”

Almost on cue, James Carville pops up to counsel: “Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the health-care debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”

There is one big problem with shifting tactics: the “not Bush” strategy comes right from Obama and is frankly more an obsession than a strategy. Starting with his Inaugural Address, continuing through his announcement on stem-cell research, barreling on through his ill-advised anti-terror policies and Middle East gambit (more daylight between the U.S. and Israel!), and casting blame for the jobless recovery, Obama has reflexively blamed Bush for nearly everything. It is how he got elected and now he can’t seem to give it up. It fills in the time, of course, when he’s not passing his own agenda and not succeeding in any foreign-policy effort.

It was stunningly petty conduct by Obama, behavior we really haven’t seen from any other president once in office. It is part of Obama’s larger failing — the inability or unwillingness to transition from a campaign partisan to an effective chief executive. While the “blame Bush” tactic was never effective, now it looks counterproductive and tone deaf. Martin explains:

“This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,” wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. “Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.”

Further, given the flurry of major steps Obama has taken in the year since he took office — from the stimulus to more bailouts to health care — Bush looks even more distant in the public’s rearview mirror.

“Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,” explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.

The excuse mongering only reinforces the growing perception that Obama is isolated, disconnected, and in over his head. Whether he is willing to give up the security blanket of blaming Bush for his travails remains to be seen. But until he moves on, his fellow Democrats will have a hard time doing so. They can add that to the list of their Obama-induced woes this election year.

Jonathan Martin reports:

After three consecutive losses in statewide races, some top Democrats are questioning a tactic aimed at boosting the party’s candidates in each of those contests: Bush-bashing. . . “Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”

Almost on cue, James Carville pops up to counsel: “Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the health-care debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”

There is one big problem with shifting tactics: the “not Bush” strategy comes right from Obama and is frankly more an obsession than a strategy. Starting with his Inaugural Address, continuing through his announcement on stem-cell research, barreling on through his ill-advised anti-terror policies and Middle East gambit (more daylight between the U.S. and Israel!), and casting blame for the jobless recovery, Obama has reflexively blamed Bush for nearly everything. It is how he got elected and now he can’t seem to give it up. It fills in the time, of course, when he’s not passing his own agenda and not succeeding in any foreign-policy effort.

It was stunningly petty conduct by Obama, behavior we really haven’t seen from any other president once in office. It is part of Obama’s larger failing — the inability or unwillingness to transition from a campaign partisan to an effective chief executive. While the “blame Bush” tactic was never effective, now it looks counterproductive and tone deaf. Martin explains:

“This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,” wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. “Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.”

Further, given the flurry of major steps Obama has taken in the year since he took office — from the stimulus to more bailouts to health care — Bush looks even more distant in the public’s rearview mirror.

“Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,” explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.

The excuse mongering only reinforces the growing perception that Obama is isolated, disconnected, and in over his head. Whether he is willing to give up the security blanket of blaming Bush for his travails remains to be seen. But until he moves on, his fellow Democrats will have a hard time doing so. They can add that to the list of their Obama-induced woes this election year.

Read Less

Once-Triumphalist Democrats Face Bleak Election Outlook

The widely respected political analyst Charlie Cook, writing in the wake of political developments throughout the last week, says this:

In the world of economics, a virtuous circle is created when a series of positive events triggers a self-perpetuating pattern of other good occurrences — a positive feedback loop, in other words. A vicious circle, of course, is just the opposite and appears to be what Democrats are caught in these days.

Cook goes on to say that in the House, he is still forecasting that Democrats will lose “only” 20 to 30 seats (when Republicans lost 30 seats in 2006, it was said to be a landslide). But he adds:

Another half-dozen or more retirements in tough districts, however, perhaps combined with another party switch or two, would reduce Democrats’ chances of holding the House to only an even-money bet. We rate 217 seats either “Solid Democratic” or “Likely Democratic,” meaning that the GOP would have to win every single race now thought to be competitive to reach 218, the barest possible majority. But if Democrats suffer much more erosion in their “Solid” and “Likely” columns, control of the House will suddenly be up for grabs.

The political troubles for Obama and the Democrats continue to mount, so much so that many people would not be surprised by a repeat of what happened in the 1994 mid-term elections, where Democrats lost more than 50 House seats and control of the House of Representatives. Today’s Democratic Party is in worse shape — and arguably considerably worse shape — now than it was then.

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville not all that long ago, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Sidney Blumenthal, author of The Strange Death of Republican America, declared, “No one can even envision when the Republicans will control the presidency and both houses of the Congress as they did as recently as 2006.” And Michael Lind added this: “The election of Barack Obama to the presidency may signal more than the end of an era of Republican presidential dominance and conservative ideology. It may mark the beginning of a Fourth Republic of the United States.”

If so, the Fourth Republic of the United States — unlike the French Fourth Republic – will not have lasted long or turned out well.

Republicans should not succumb to the same intoxication that Democrats did in 2008. Politics is a fluid business; a lot can change in a hurry. But right now there is no question that Obamaism and the Democratic Party are in very dangerous territory — and if present trends continue, 2010 will be a monumentally bad year for both.

The widely respected political analyst Charlie Cook, writing in the wake of political developments throughout the last week, says this:

In the world of economics, a virtuous circle is created when a series of positive events triggers a self-perpetuating pattern of other good occurrences — a positive feedback loop, in other words. A vicious circle, of course, is just the opposite and appears to be what Democrats are caught in these days.

Cook goes on to say that in the House, he is still forecasting that Democrats will lose “only” 20 to 30 seats (when Republicans lost 30 seats in 2006, it was said to be a landslide). But he adds:

Another half-dozen or more retirements in tough districts, however, perhaps combined with another party switch or two, would reduce Democrats’ chances of holding the House to only an even-money bet. We rate 217 seats either “Solid Democratic” or “Likely Democratic,” meaning that the GOP would have to win every single race now thought to be competitive to reach 218, the barest possible majority. But if Democrats suffer much more erosion in their “Solid” and “Likely” columns, control of the House will suddenly be up for grabs.

The political troubles for Obama and the Democrats continue to mount, so much so that many people would not be surprised by a repeat of what happened in the 1994 mid-term elections, where Democrats lost more than 50 House seats and control of the House of Representatives. Today’s Democratic Party is in worse shape — and arguably considerably worse shape — now than it was then.

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville not all that long ago, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Sidney Blumenthal, author of The Strange Death of Republican America, declared, “No one can even envision when the Republicans will control the presidency and both houses of the Congress as they did as recently as 2006.” And Michael Lind added this: “The election of Barack Obama to the presidency may signal more than the end of an era of Republican presidential dominance and conservative ideology. It may mark the beginning of a Fourth Republic of the United States.”

If so, the Fourth Republic of the United States — unlike the French Fourth Republic – will not have lasted long or turned out well.

Republicans should not succumb to the same intoxication that Democrats did in 2008. Politics is a fluid business; a lot can change in a hurry. But right now there is no question that Obamaism and the Democratic Party are in very dangerous territory — and if present trends continue, 2010 will be a monumentally bad year for both.

Read Less

RE: Another Summit

I could hardly agree more with Jennifer that the Obama administration is clueless regarding how to repair the American economy and get the unemployment numbers moving in the right direction. Unwilling to do what needs to be done, they hold “summits” instead, as if enough photo-ops will do the trick.

But they better do something — and fast — as their poll numbers are doing a very passable imitation of the Titanic. As Byron York points out, even Democratic strategists such as James Carville and Stanley Greenberg are now seeing the unmistakable signs of an impending election disaster next year.

Tomorrow morning the unemployment figures for November will be released. Since April 2008, when the rate was 5 percent, it has been rising inexorably. It was flat in September 2008, when it was at 6.2 percent, and declined in July 2009, from 9.5 to 9.4. Otherwise it’s been up, up, up until now it’s at 10.2 percent, up .4 percent from the previous month.

If there’s another sizable uptick tomorrow morning, can the Obami really just keep whistling and devote all their political energies — photo-ops aside — to passing a hugely expensive health-care bill?

We’ll see.

I could hardly agree more with Jennifer that the Obama administration is clueless regarding how to repair the American economy and get the unemployment numbers moving in the right direction. Unwilling to do what needs to be done, they hold “summits” instead, as if enough photo-ops will do the trick.

But they better do something — and fast — as their poll numbers are doing a very passable imitation of the Titanic. As Byron York points out, even Democratic strategists such as James Carville and Stanley Greenberg are now seeing the unmistakable signs of an impending election disaster next year.

Tomorrow morning the unemployment figures for November will be released. Since April 2008, when the rate was 5 percent, it has been rising inexorably. It was flat in September 2008, when it was at 6.2 percent, and declined in July 2009, from 9.5 to 9.4. Otherwise it’s been up, up, up until now it’s at 10.2 percent, up .4 percent from the previous month.

If there’s another sizable uptick tomorrow morning, can the Obami really just keep whistling and devote all their political energies — photo-ops aside — to passing a hugely expensive health-care bill?

We’ll see.

Read Less

Consumer Confidence and Barack Obama

Today, the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence, after months of decline, is at a near 16-year low. This comes, of course, as no surprise. Recent polls have shown that Americans are overwhelmingly convinced that the economy is in catastrophic shape; Alan Greenspan is on record discussing the “the most wrenching” financial crisis since World War II. But what exactly accounts for this degree of despair?

Two weeks ago, in the Wall Street Journal, Zachary Karabell wrote:

[I]t would be a stretch to rank the current problems as especially notable or dramatic. Something else is going on–namely a cultural rut of pessimism that is draining our collective energy, blinding us to possibilities, and eroding our position in the world.

Right now we have an unemployment rate of 5% and headline inflation topping 4%. We have economic growth of 0.6%, extremely low consumer confidence and weakening consumer spending, small business optimism at a 28-year low, and of course a housing market that is showing declines in excess of 20% in some parts of the country.

These are hardly statistics to celebrate, but they are a far cry from the crises of the 20th century. Next time someone compares the present to the Great Depression, stop them.

Stopping all the people who make that claim these days wouldn’t leave you much time to do anything else. Karabell went on:

It is also common today to hear comparisons to the stagflation and grim economy of the 1970s. Here too perspective is in order.

For all the present talk of volatility, in 1973 and 1974 the economy expanded 10% in the first quarter of 1973, contracted 2.1% in the third quarter, went up 3.9% in the fourth quarter, went down 3.4% in the first quarter of 1974, then up 1.2% in the second quarter – continuing like a bouncing ball for another year.

The unemployment rate went from 4.9% in 1973 to 8.5% in 1977, and then nearly broke 10% in 1982. Meanwhile the stock market went from 1067 in January 1973 to 570 in December 1974, a drop of 46%. And there was double-digit inflation and a sharp rise in the price of oil, which represented a higher percentage of consumer spending than today.

Victor Davis Hanson has noted the same insistence over evidence that it’s almost breadline time:

Last week, I asked a fierce Bush critic what he thought were the current unemployment rate, the mortgage default rate, the latest economic growth figures, interest rates and the status of the stock market.

He blurted out the common campaign pessimism: “Recession! Worst since the Depression!”

Then he scoffed when I suggested that the answer was really a 5 percent joblessness rate in April that was lower than the March figure; 95 to 96 percent of mortgages not entering foreclosure in this year’s first quarter; .6 percent growth during the quarter (weak, but not recession level); historically low interest rates; and sky-high stock market prices.

There are serious problems–high fuel costs, rising food prices, staggering foreign debt, unfunded entitlements, and annual deficits. Yet a president or vice president running for office (and covered incessantly by the media) would at least make the argument that there is a lot of good news . . .

This gets to the heart of the matter. In 2004, James Carville astutely noted the following:

And by and large, our message has been we can manage problems, while the Republicans, although they will say we can solve problems, they produce a narrative. We produce a litany. They say, “I’m going to protect you from the terrorists in Tehran and the homos in Hollywood.” We say, “We’re for clean air, better schools, more health care.” And so there’s a Republican narrative, a story, and there’s a Democratic litany.

Carville is one of the Clinton faithful, but there’s no doubt that it’s Barack Obama who hit on the right narrative and figured out how to sell it. Couched in language about hope and change, Obama’s message is ultimately one of abjection and despair. From his routine stump speech to his time-stopping epic on race in America, Obama wants you to know that Americans have it bad, worse than you realized, and he’s going to get us out of it. Americans work every shift and still can’t pay their bills; they go hungry to pay for chemotherapy. But if he’s elected, together, under his audacious guidance, we just might make it through. He is a remarkably talented narrator and as we’ve seen his audience is rapt. The fact that there is some genuine financial concern in America lends legitimacy to his exaggeration. The vicious cycle is in place. We’re told the economy is dismal, we say so in polls, we read the poll results as confirmation of what we’ve been told, we look to the candidate for change who tells us the economy is dismal.

In 1992, Bill Clinton became president by convincing voters that the economy was tanking. It mattered not at all that that year’s growth rate was above the yearly average since 1945. As Americans continue to despair about the catastrophe that isn’t, Barack Obama inches ever closer to the White House.

Today, the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence, after months of decline, is at a near 16-year low. This comes, of course, as no surprise. Recent polls have shown that Americans are overwhelmingly convinced that the economy is in catastrophic shape; Alan Greenspan is on record discussing the “the most wrenching” financial crisis since World War II. But what exactly accounts for this degree of despair?

Two weeks ago, in the Wall Street Journal, Zachary Karabell wrote:

[I]t would be a stretch to rank the current problems as especially notable or dramatic. Something else is going on–namely a cultural rut of pessimism that is draining our collective energy, blinding us to possibilities, and eroding our position in the world.

Right now we have an unemployment rate of 5% and headline inflation topping 4%. We have economic growth of 0.6%, extremely low consumer confidence and weakening consumer spending, small business optimism at a 28-year low, and of course a housing market that is showing declines in excess of 20% in some parts of the country.

These are hardly statistics to celebrate, but they are a far cry from the crises of the 20th century. Next time someone compares the present to the Great Depression, stop them.

Stopping all the people who make that claim these days wouldn’t leave you much time to do anything else. Karabell went on:

It is also common today to hear comparisons to the stagflation and grim economy of the 1970s. Here too perspective is in order.

For all the present talk of volatility, in 1973 and 1974 the economy expanded 10% in the first quarter of 1973, contracted 2.1% in the third quarter, went up 3.9% in the fourth quarter, went down 3.4% in the first quarter of 1974, then up 1.2% in the second quarter – continuing like a bouncing ball for another year.

The unemployment rate went from 4.9% in 1973 to 8.5% in 1977, and then nearly broke 10% in 1982. Meanwhile the stock market went from 1067 in January 1973 to 570 in December 1974, a drop of 46%. And there was double-digit inflation and a sharp rise in the price of oil, which represented a higher percentage of consumer spending than today.

Victor Davis Hanson has noted the same insistence over evidence that it’s almost breadline time:

Last week, I asked a fierce Bush critic what he thought were the current unemployment rate, the mortgage default rate, the latest economic growth figures, interest rates and the status of the stock market.

He blurted out the common campaign pessimism: “Recession! Worst since the Depression!”

Then he scoffed when I suggested that the answer was really a 5 percent joblessness rate in April that was lower than the March figure; 95 to 96 percent of mortgages not entering foreclosure in this year’s first quarter; .6 percent growth during the quarter (weak, but not recession level); historically low interest rates; and sky-high stock market prices.

There are serious problems–high fuel costs, rising food prices, staggering foreign debt, unfunded entitlements, and annual deficits. Yet a president or vice president running for office (and covered incessantly by the media) would at least make the argument that there is a lot of good news . . .

This gets to the heart of the matter. In 2004, James Carville astutely noted the following:

And by and large, our message has been we can manage problems, while the Republicans, although they will say we can solve problems, they produce a narrative. We produce a litany. They say, “I’m going to protect you from the terrorists in Tehran and the homos in Hollywood.” We say, “We’re for clean air, better schools, more health care.” And so there’s a Republican narrative, a story, and there’s a Democratic litany.

Carville is one of the Clinton faithful, but there’s no doubt that it’s Barack Obama who hit on the right narrative and figured out how to sell it. Couched in language about hope and change, Obama’s message is ultimately one of abjection and despair. From his routine stump speech to his time-stopping epic on race in America, Obama wants you to know that Americans have it bad, worse than you realized, and he’s going to get us out of it. Americans work every shift and still can’t pay their bills; they go hungry to pay for chemotherapy. But if he’s elected, together, under his audacious guidance, we just might make it through. He is a remarkably talented narrator and as we’ve seen his audience is rapt. The fact that there is some genuine financial concern in America lends legitimacy to his exaggeration. The vicious cycle is in place. We’re told the economy is dismal, we say so in polls, we read the poll results as confirmation of what we’ve been told, we look to the candidate for change who tells us the economy is dismal.

In 1992, Bill Clinton became president by convincing voters that the economy was tanking. It mattered not at all that that year’s growth rate was above the yearly average since 1945. As Americans continue to despair about the catastrophe that isn’t, Barack Obama inches ever closer to the White House.

Read Less

Why Doesn’t This Work?

This ad, a fairly blatant attempt to repair Snob-gate damage, almost seems to worsen the fix Barack Obama is now in. “End the division” flashes on the screen. Really? His nasty put-down of rural Pennsylvanians to a crowd of San Francisco donors is precisely the type of divisive politics the ad is criticizing.

Obama’s billing as the post-racial, post-partisan Agent of Change seems to have lost its punch somewhere between Reverend Wright’s sermons and Obama’s dishing the dirt on rural folk with the in-crowd in San Francisco. The problem with being all things to all people (liberation theology congregant to black Chicago, erudite sociologist to Bay Area liberals, and Great Uniter to the rest of the country) is that, in the age of new media, anyone can all put the pieces together and reach a fairly obvious conclusion: Obama is telling everyone a different story. (He might do better to follow James Carville’s advice.) How old school. How–dare I say it?–Clintonian.

This ad, a fairly blatant attempt to repair Snob-gate damage, almost seems to worsen the fix Barack Obama is now in. “End the division” flashes on the screen. Really? His nasty put-down of rural Pennsylvanians to a crowd of San Francisco donors is precisely the type of divisive politics the ad is criticizing.

Obama’s billing as the post-racial, post-partisan Agent of Change seems to have lost its punch somewhere between Reverend Wright’s sermons and Obama’s dishing the dirt on rural folk with the in-crowd in San Francisco. The problem with being all things to all people (liberation theology congregant to black Chicago, erudite sociologist to Bay Area liberals, and Great Uniter to the rest of the country) is that, in the age of new media, anyone can all put the pieces together and reach a fairly obvious conclusion: Obama is telling everyone a different story. (He might do better to follow James Carville’s advice.) How old school. How–dare I say it?–Clintonian.

Read Less

Penn Left An Indelible Mark

Mark Penn is out as Clinton’s top campaign strategist. Not for frittering away her lead, not for running on the “experience” message in a “change” election, not for engendering the hatred of peers, and not for his foul mouth. (His most memorable exchange with Harold Ickes? “F*** You!” “F*** You!” “F*** You!”). No, he was ousted because he was caught representing the government of Colombia in the trade deal Clinton opposes.

Despite his numerous errors, it was not until he became actively disloyal that Clinton could muster the nerve to fire him. Loyalty, James Carville reminds us, is a “cardinal virtue” so it therefore follows that Penn finally committed the only cardinal sin known to the Clintons, disloyalty.

Will this help Clinton? Impossible to say for sure. If she still loses, the gurus will say Penn’s damage was irreparable. If she somehow emerges victorious, there will be dozens of other reasons (including failures on the other side). Needless to say, Penn’s continued presence has been evidence that Clinton’s “experience” does not extend to things managerial and that her “competence” is as fictitious as the Bosnian gunfire. His belated departure only proves that loyalty trumps all, in Hillaryland.

Mark Penn is out as Clinton’s top campaign strategist. Not for frittering away her lead, not for running on the “experience” message in a “change” election, not for engendering the hatred of peers, and not for his foul mouth. (His most memorable exchange with Harold Ickes? “F*** You!” “F*** You!” “F*** You!”). No, he was ousted because he was caught representing the government of Colombia in the trade deal Clinton opposes.

Despite his numerous errors, it was not until he became actively disloyal that Clinton could muster the nerve to fire him. Loyalty, James Carville reminds us, is a “cardinal virtue” so it therefore follows that Penn finally committed the only cardinal sin known to the Clintons, disloyalty.

Will this help Clinton? Impossible to say for sure. If she still loses, the gurus will say Penn’s damage was irreparable. If she somehow emerges victorious, there will be dozens of other reasons (including failures on the other side). Needless to say, Penn’s continued presence has been evidence that Clinton’s “experience” does not extend to things managerial and that her “competence” is as fictitious as the Bosnian gunfire. His belated departure only proves that loyalty trumps all, in Hillaryland.

Read Less

Bill’s Blowing Hillary’s Superdelegate Chances

A piece on sfgate offers a telling glimpse of Clinton rage. Last weekend, Bill Clinton flew in from Chicago to California and schmoozed with superdelegates at a state convention. Mingling with the party elite, he was all grins and eye-bags until someone mentioned Hillary defector Bill Richardson:

Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how “sorry” she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a “Judas” for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

“Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that,” a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media’s unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

Let’s be honest: if Obama was conclusively behind delegate-wise and in the popular vote (as Hillary is) the only question the media would be asking him is, “to what do you attribute your loss?” Yes, Obama has received a big fat pass from the press and they softball him at every turn. But the ongoing assumption that Hillary has some legitimate claim to her continued fight is sustained by little more than the Clinton phenomenon itself. And Bill and Hillary are only called out when their antics go so far beyond the pale as to slip into tabloid-land. Speaking of, here’s more from Bill’s blow-up.

It was very, very intense,” said one attendee. “Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns.”

When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.

At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.

“It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to ‘chill out,’ ” one delegate told us.

“We couldn’t help but think he was also talking to himself.”

Isn’t he always. It’s called solipsism. The Clintons function in a world of their own. It’s what enables Bill to explode and then urge people to “chill out.” It’s what allows Hillary to recall a routine helicopter landing as a scene from Rambo. It’s what drives them to treat the desperately-needed superdelegates with the same contempt to which they subjected the regular Democratic electorate. With trademark class, Bill had someone else call Ms. Binah later in the day and apologize for him.

A piece on sfgate offers a telling glimpse of Clinton rage. Last weekend, Bill Clinton flew in from Chicago to California and schmoozed with superdelegates at a state convention. Mingling with the party elite, he was all grins and eye-bags until someone mentioned Hillary defector Bill Richardson:

Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how “sorry” she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a “Judas” for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

“Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that,” a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media’s unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

Let’s be honest: if Obama was conclusively behind delegate-wise and in the popular vote (as Hillary is) the only question the media would be asking him is, “to what do you attribute your loss?” Yes, Obama has received a big fat pass from the press and they softball him at every turn. But the ongoing assumption that Hillary has some legitimate claim to her continued fight is sustained by little more than the Clinton phenomenon itself. And Bill and Hillary are only called out when their antics go so far beyond the pale as to slip into tabloid-land. Speaking of, here’s more from Bill’s blow-up.

It was very, very intense,” said one attendee. “Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns.”

When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.

At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.

“It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to ‘chill out,’ ” one delegate told us.

“We couldn’t help but think he was also talking to himself.”

Isn’t he always. It’s called solipsism. The Clintons function in a world of their own. It’s what enables Bill to explode and then urge people to “chill out.” It’s what allows Hillary to recall a routine helicopter landing as a scene from Rambo. It’s what drives them to treat the desperately-needed superdelegates with the same contempt to which they subjected the regular Democratic electorate. With trademark class, Bill had someone else call Ms. Binah later in the day and apologize for him.

Read Less

Carville on Carville

Today’s Washington Post has a piece by James Carville, who defends his “Judas” comment about Gov. Bill Richardson. When Gov. Richardson, a longtime Clintonite, endorsed Barack Obama last week, Carville said:

Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic[.]

In defending his statement Carville claims it was silly that everyone called his words offensive and ugly (Bill O’Reilly was “appalled”.) I agree with Carville. There’s nothing “appalling” about speaking in extreme metaphors. All things considered, a dig with a learned biblical reference can hardly be said to have lowered the tone of this Democratic primary.

However, what is frightening, and what Carville fails to address, is the sentiment behind the comparison. Carville actually believes that Bill Richardson’s obligation to the Clintons should have trumped any policy considerations or party consequences. Being on board with the Clintons means you go down with the boat. Period.

What’s always been amusing is the juxtaposition between the intensity of those who adopt this code and the revulsion of those who do jump ship. Carville is a throwback – a Clinton true believer. And in a year when so many of the Clintons’ sullied Washington supporters have decided to take an “Obama shower,” in Dennis Miller’s coinage, Carville finds himself in a deep crisis.

There is no language strong enough to convey the outrage that comes when prophecy fails. But in this piece Carville did manage to strike that uniquely Clintonian note of hypocritical victimization:

Politics is a messy business, but campaigning prepares you for governing. It prepares you to get hit, stand strong and, if necessary, hit back. I’ve worked on enough campaigns to know that the most aggrieved candidate rarely emerges victorious. And for all of the hypersensitivity we’re seeing this cycle, this campaign has not been particularly negative or nasty compared with previous elections.

Well, it wasn’t Barack Obama who broke down crying during a spiel about the rigors of campaigning.

And if James Carville says the Clintons have not run a “particularly negative” campaign against Obama, we can only imagine what’s coming in the last futile lap.

Today’s Washington Post has a piece by James Carville, who defends his “Judas” comment about Gov. Bill Richardson. When Gov. Richardson, a longtime Clintonite, endorsed Barack Obama last week, Carville said:

Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic[.]

In defending his statement Carville claims it was silly that everyone called his words offensive and ugly (Bill O’Reilly was “appalled”.) I agree with Carville. There’s nothing “appalling” about speaking in extreme metaphors. All things considered, a dig with a learned biblical reference can hardly be said to have lowered the tone of this Democratic primary.

However, what is frightening, and what Carville fails to address, is the sentiment behind the comparison. Carville actually believes that Bill Richardson’s obligation to the Clintons should have trumped any policy considerations or party consequences. Being on board with the Clintons means you go down with the boat. Period.

What’s always been amusing is the juxtaposition between the intensity of those who adopt this code and the revulsion of those who do jump ship. Carville is a throwback – a Clinton true believer. And in a year when so many of the Clintons’ sullied Washington supporters have decided to take an “Obama shower,” in Dennis Miller’s coinage, Carville finds himself in a deep crisis.

There is no language strong enough to convey the outrage that comes when prophecy fails. But in this piece Carville did manage to strike that uniquely Clintonian note of hypocritical victimization:

Politics is a messy business, but campaigning prepares you for governing. It prepares you to get hit, stand strong and, if necessary, hit back. I’ve worked on enough campaigns to know that the most aggrieved candidate rarely emerges victorious. And for all of the hypersensitivity we’re seeing this cycle, this campaign has not been particularly negative or nasty compared with previous elections.

Well, it wasn’t Barack Obama who broke down crying during a spiel about the rigors of campaigning.

And if James Carville says the Clintons have not run a “particularly negative” campaign against Obama, we can only imagine what’s coming in the last futile lap.

Read Less

Still More Clinton Collapse

As things get desperate, the Clinton campaign is taking on Brittany Spears-like media undulations. Fox News reports that former Bill Clinton advisors James Carville and Paul Begala have been added to Hillary’s team.

Carville and Begala will serve as top strategists on politics and communication and likely overshadow the current role of Mark Penn, Hillary’s senior strategist, and Patty Solis Doyle, Hillary’s current campaign manager.

Yet, when contacted, Carville had this to say:

Fox was, is and will continue to be an asinine and ignorant network. I have not spoken to anyone in the Clinton campaign about this. I have not done domestic political consulting since President Clinton was elected. I’m not getting back into domestic political consulting. If I do go back, it would be safe to say that I’m the biggest liar in America.

Hail Marys, rumors, and denials. The machine that turned image management into religion and redefined spin has lost control. If Carville and Begala do come back it should be noted that Hillary can’t very well continue to call herself an agent of change by bringing in the old guard to steady the ship.

As things get desperate, the Clinton campaign is taking on Brittany Spears-like media undulations. Fox News reports that former Bill Clinton advisors James Carville and Paul Begala have been added to Hillary’s team.

Carville and Begala will serve as top strategists on politics and communication and likely overshadow the current role of Mark Penn, Hillary’s senior strategist, and Patty Solis Doyle, Hillary’s current campaign manager.

Yet, when contacted, Carville had this to say:

Fox was, is and will continue to be an asinine and ignorant network. I have not spoken to anyone in the Clinton campaign about this. I have not done domestic political consulting since President Clinton was elected. I’m not getting back into domestic political consulting. If I do go back, it would be safe to say that I’m the biggest liar in America.

Hail Marys, rumors, and denials. The machine that turned image management into religion and redefined spin has lost control. If Carville and Begala do come back it should be noted that Hillary can’t very well continue to call herself an agent of change by bringing in the old guard to steady the ship.

Read Less

Rove’s Unused Gift

Mike Gerson, David Frum, Carl Cannon, and many others have offered their view of how history will judge Karl Rove’s contribution as political strategist and White House aide. All of them overlook what was perhaps Rove’s greatest—and least utilized—skill: explaining and advocating the Administration’s policies. Since the outset, the Bush White House has done a terrible job of defending itself in public. On political talk shows, Republican spokesmen were as likely to criticize the White House as they were their Democratic counterparts. Too often Scott McClellan, the ineffective White House spokesman, was the only voice making the case for the Administration. (By the time the far savvier Tony Snow arrived, most people had stopped listening.)

It was a stunning failure of imagination not to have given Rove a more prominent role as White House spokesman, and instead to have dispatched him to endless party-building activities. Rove was not merely a master of policy detail, but a compelling and persuasive debater. Democrats who saw him merely as a Republican James Carville never saw him speak before an audience. While Carville could deliver only partisan hyperbole, Rove was especially effective in front of skeptical audiences, whom he mesmerized with cool but passionate presentations of facts, history, and data. A year ago I saw him receive a standing ovation at the hyper-liberal Aspen Festival of Ideas. When he spoke there this year, making what sounded like an irrefutable case for the surge in Iraq, one of the prominent locals stood up and asked: “Why haven’t we heard these arguments before?” Why indeed.

Mike Gerson, David Frum, Carl Cannon, and many others have offered their view of how history will judge Karl Rove’s contribution as political strategist and White House aide. All of them overlook what was perhaps Rove’s greatest—and least utilized—skill: explaining and advocating the Administration’s policies. Since the outset, the Bush White House has done a terrible job of defending itself in public. On political talk shows, Republican spokesmen were as likely to criticize the White House as they were their Democratic counterparts. Too often Scott McClellan, the ineffective White House spokesman, was the only voice making the case for the Administration. (By the time the far savvier Tony Snow arrived, most people had stopped listening.)

It was a stunning failure of imagination not to have given Rove a more prominent role as White House spokesman, and instead to have dispatched him to endless party-building activities. Rove was not merely a master of policy detail, but a compelling and persuasive debater. Democrats who saw him merely as a Republican James Carville never saw him speak before an audience. While Carville could deliver only partisan hyperbole, Rove was especially effective in front of skeptical audiences, whom he mesmerized with cool but passionate presentations of facts, history, and data. A year ago I saw him receive a standing ovation at the hyper-liberal Aspen Festival of Ideas. When he spoke there this year, making what sounded like an irrefutable case for the surge in Iraq, one of the prominent locals stood up and asked: “Why haven’t we heard these arguments before?” Why indeed.

Read Less

Be A Divider, Not A Uniter

Yesterday’s Washington Post reported that Senator Barack Obama claims he can move the country out of “ideological gridlock” and bring the country together more effectively than can Senator Hillary Clinton. This declaration is consistent with Obama’s broader claim, which is that he will put an end to “polarizing politics.”

Obama is attempting to tap into something real, which is the reluctance on the part of many Americans to be drawn back into the psychodramas of the Clinton years: Ken Starr and Kathleen Willey; private investigators hired to look into the private lives of women alleged to have had affairs with Bill Clinton; the (still-resonating) charge of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”; and the brass-knuckle tactics of James Carville, Paul Begala, Sidney Blumenthal, and others. Most of us would like that chapter of American politics to stay closed.

At the same time, the claim that a divided America is somehow “bad” is itself intellectually sloppy. Most of us prefer social harmony to discord—but unity is not the only, or even the highest good in politics. Was there a more divisive and reviled president than Lincoln, who uprooted the centuries-old institution of slavery? The biographer Robert Jackson wrote that after Franklin Roosevelt had been in office for a brief period, “the lines began to separate between those in whom he inspired an all-out devotion and those in whom he aroused an implacable hatred.” Martin Luther King, Jr. was “the object of bitter hatred.” And in 1984 the pollster Lou Harris claimed that Ronald Reagan was polarizing the country more than any president since FDR.

“Conviction politicians” are often polarizing because they take ideas seriously and are willing to do battle on their behalf. And often the greatest advances in history come about only after contentious political debates led by brave and, yes, polarizing political leaders.

Yesterday’s Washington Post reported that Senator Barack Obama claims he can move the country out of “ideological gridlock” and bring the country together more effectively than can Senator Hillary Clinton. This declaration is consistent with Obama’s broader claim, which is that he will put an end to “polarizing politics.”

Obama is attempting to tap into something real, which is the reluctance on the part of many Americans to be drawn back into the psychodramas of the Clinton years: Ken Starr and Kathleen Willey; private investigators hired to look into the private lives of women alleged to have had affairs with Bill Clinton; the (still-resonating) charge of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”; and the brass-knuckle tactics of James Carville, Paul Begala, Sidney Blumenthal, and others. Most of us would like that chapter of American politics to stay closed.

At the same time, the claim that a divided America is somehow “bad” is itself intellectually sloppy. Most of us prefer social harmony to discord—but unity is not the only, or even the highest good in politics. Was there a more divisive and reviled president than Lincoln, who uprooted the centuries-old institution of slavery? The biographer Robert Jackson wrote that after Franklin Roosevelt had been in office for a brief period, “the lines began to separate between those in whom he inspired an all-out devotion and those in whom he aroused an implacable hatred.” Martin Luther King, Jr. was “the object of bitter hatred.” And in 1984 the pollster Lou Harris claimed that Ronald Reagan was polarizing the country more than any president since FDR.

“Conviction politicians” are often polarizing because they take ideas seriously and are willing to do battle on their behalf. And often the greatest advances in history come about only after contentious political debates led by brave and, yes, polarizing political leaders.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.