Is Bill Clinton About To Sandbag Hillary Clinton’s Campaign?

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It is often been said that former President Bill Clinton is Senator Hillary Clinton’s closest, best and most-astute political adviser. If that’s the case and a recent statement he reportedly made is any indication, she should consider firing him and getting a new one.

The statement is reported by The Politico and is a jaw-dropper for anyone who DOES want to see our politics cleaned up and an absolute turn-off to the Clinton candidacy if this is indeed going to be the attitude and operational game plan at the candidacy’s top (Ms. Clinton):

Bill Clinton voiced his abiding anger at the media’s coverage of him and his wife in Durham, N.H., today, and suggested that media bias will force Clinton to go negative on Barack Obama.

This is called a “pretext.”

In this post I will take off my usual stand-back attitude and comment as (a) a quintessential independent voter (an upcoming book on California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes me and until I read it and some data immediately after the quotes I had no idea how much I am the embodiment of the California independent voter) (b) as someone who was trained as a journalist, who worked several years overseas writing for various newspapers and magazines and, in the U.S., as a reporter on newspapers owned by two big newspaper chains.

Firstly, the media doesn’t cause someone to go negative.

The thirst for winning at all costs and tearing down an opponent does.

If the media is failing at its job, there are ways a candidate can get around it by going to friendly news outlets, talk radio or bloggers.

The Republicans felt ignored by the “liberal” mainstream media for years, so they did just that. Now progressives have gotten finally wise and have tried to duplicate it.

So you have the (much-maligned) mainstream media and the new media (which blasts the mainstream media in talk shows and blogs which rely on quoting the work of the mainstream media).

He also expressed his frustration that his wife is perceived by voters as divisive through, he said, no fault of her own.

There are even some Democrats who will argue with that. But he is correct: the perception of Hillary Clinton as divisive is partially due to the Republicans’ adept use of the new media to define her by taking certain qualities of hers and exaggerating them, twisting some facts, lampooning her and demonizing her. At times you can capsulize the Rush Limbaugh show by this sentence: Hillary Hillary Hillary The Clintons The Clintons The Clintons… See? I saved you listening for three hours…

But HERE is the STUNNER and why this independent voter truly feels turned off reading this story:

Clinton, like his wife, is traveling New Hampshire taking questions from voters, and he spoke at the University of New Hampshire in Durham in response to a plea from a woman who said she’d like it “if you and Clinton joined Barack Obama in putting the Republicans on notice” that it was time to “change the game” and end the “meanness” and “manipulation” in politics.

Clinton replied that he liked the idea — in theory.

“I think we can change it as long as you have access to information by people who are committed to judging everybody by the same set of rules and following the same set of rules,” he said. “According to the most recent media analysis, that’s not what’s happened so far, but yeah, I think it should be done.”

It’s called the “victim” card.

The kicker:

“And the fact of the matter is, independent voters think you’re polarizing if someone else attacks you, even if that someone is Rush Limbaugh, even if you’ve been totally exonerated of every single charge ever leveled against you, which Hillary was — and some people forgot to tell you about that,” he said, jabbing again at the press.

“Nobody would be happier to see all this go away than us. But you can’t ask somebody who is at a breathtaking disadvantage in the information coming to the voters to ignore that disadvantage and basically agree to put bullets in their brains,” he said.

NOTE TO PRESIDENT CLINTON:

You’d think, after so many years in the White House, you’d know how the press works.

There isn’t an evil demon rubbing his hands in glee figuring out what to instruct reporters to write to destroy someone or what to leave out (although I’m Jewish and have been told I control the press, the media, the banks, Hollywood and the revenue of Chinese restaurants everywhere — so what I am doing here writing on a blog?).

You’re falling into the same trap as people on the left and right do all the time. When you see a story that is flattering, it’s great reporting. It it’s not, it’s bias. The press is the enemy — when a story doesn’t help. The press is a friend if it makes you look good.

You’d be better off putting out an info sheet of specific stories you’re talking about and then copies of specific stories that exonerated her. If Obama goes over the line, give reporters and bloggers the info sheets. Let columnists get it too.

That would be the way to go, if accuracy is really the issue. But you and I and everyone reading this know it is not.

By playing the victim card it now gives you — you suggest — an excuse to go as negative as you want.

FYI, Mr. President. The following advice comes from someone who was highly critical of those who went after you during the impeachment, arguing they were looking for a pretext to “get” you and the actual issue of perjury was not their concern a (belief confirmed by Republican excuses for the Bush administration and fellow Republicans on a host of controversial matters during the Bush years):

Get out of the way.

Your wife’s campaign started to sag as soon as you went very public.

You became the issue.

Until you entered into it, it was Senator Hillary Clinton, a former first lady who has proven to be a highly-diligent Senator from New York who has an excellent record (we have heard personal reports) of responding to her constituents’ concerns, including the concerns of citizens in upstate New York. She was a woman running not just as a former first lady but as someone who had been a solid Senator who had established some centrist creds.

Suddenly, you were all over the media — she came the wife of Bill Clinton who was running.

Suddenly it seemed “buy one get one free” time again, which triggered some hot-buttons among some folks who never wanted to get two for the price of one.

And they don’t in 2008, either.

Hillary Clinton WAS polarizing when she took on health care. That was NOT the press’ doing. She felt deeply about the issue — to her credit — and worked tirelessly. But she didn’t realize the status-quo political and corporate forces that would line up against her and destroy and misrepresent her plans. So YES she WAS polarizing and IS polarizing because Limbaugh and the Republican info machine built to bypass what they perceived was media bias towards conservatives jumped all over the issue, her — and you.

Why is Ms. Clinton’s campaign seemingly sagging?

Part of it is because Obama has become the new generation’s JFK. And it’s hard to compete with charisma.

The first George Bush learned that when he ran against you.

But this independent voter (who does NOT feel superior to partisans one bit but does his own thing) had a totally different view of the Clinton camp once the bilge about Barack Obama’s admitted youthful drug usage was being stressed by the top Clinton official in New Hampshire who later resigned. The fact that the official resigned didn’t remove the stink because in this day and age we all know about “plausible deniability” and are cynical.

That might have persuaded this independent voter that it was an error…but then Hillary supporter former Senator Bob Kerrey repeatedly stressed Obama’s Muslim ties. He insisted he didn’t mean for it to be taken that way, why, he was just complimenting him.

Even a jar of Kosher pickles on a shelf at Von’s grocery store on 30th Street in San Diego would look at that and shout: “Hey! I think I see a pattern here!”

And the sauerkraut in the jar next to him would agree…

The fact of the matter is a lot of us Independent voters are tired of the politics of slash and burn where a candidate’s camp feels it must demonize, whip up the voters so they hate someone as the main reason to vote for them — a technique used as by political operatives in both parties under the two Bush administrations and yours. We are truly sick of it and want to toss out those who insist on perpetuating it.

Some independent voters will vote AGAINST candidates that think we’re dumb enough not to recognizing them unleashing the politics of demonization — even if they blame it on the biases and showmanship of Limbaugh trying to build and hold his partisan audience or a press that may not be perfect but helps most candidates who attain the Oval Office get there due to its positive reportage (you would never have arrived in the Oval Office if you hadn’t gotten some good press coverage).

Don’t blame the press.

On the other hand, voters should blame the press if your camp goes negative and it is not fully noted by the press.

On primary day here in California and Election Day in November a lot of us independent voters, whether we buy into Obamamania or not, are going to vote against candidates who ONCE AGAIN insisted on jumping into the septic tank and have them or their supporters throw the smelly contents out in the political arena.

At this writing, Obama seems to get it.

At this writing, you apparently don’t.

P.S. Going negative does not mean legitimately lambasting Obama on his stands on issues. Americans know going negative when they see it. If your wife wins the nomination, good luck on winning the general election. She will lose the young voters Obama brought into the process — and many of us independents will NOT hold our nose and vote for her. We’ll either stay home or vote for any Republican who isn’t foaming at the mouth or whose name is not Rush Limbaugh — or for Michael Bloomberg.

  

7 Comments

  1. Bottom line: Bill Clinton remains the liability he was before.

  2. I love ya, Joe, but this post is really absurd, with you falling into the same pattern as everyone else. Besides, why wouldn't Bill Clinton be upset about Hillary's coverage. If you think Clinton isn't getting unfair press coverage then you haven't been paying attention. Studies have shown she is, which no one is refuting at this point. Ever watch Chris Matthews? Secondly, your entire post is false on the facts. Clinton is not going negative in New Hampshire.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/us/politics/0

    http://thepage.time.com/clintons-post-iowa-nh-ad/

    Journalism.org:
    http://www.journalism.org/node/8187

    Kathleeen Hall Jamieson with Bill Moyers:
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/12072007/tran

    Howard Kurtz:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/ar

    Hunting Hillary for Sport:
    http://www.taylormarsh.com/archives_view.php?id

  3. Let me put it this way. After 7 years of George Dumb'ya there does not exist a Republican that I will vote for as President, no matter what a candidate does or says. I'm just as sick of the Swift Boating etc., and a aspirant goes up in my esteem by avoiding it,but I want a Dem. in the White House next term., and Hillary isn't my first choice. Edwards is.

  4. “Clinton is not going negative in New Hampshire.” I think his point was that Bill is setting it up for Hillary to go negative.

  5. Unfair??? CNN = Clinton News Network, Clearly Not Neutral

  6. I am an independent leaning Republican. I started out leaning toward McCain but became quite interested in Obama, especially when it seemed the Republicans were going toss McCain out of the bus again. I am a college educated woman in my early 40's who voted for Bill the first time. If Hilary goes after Obama on the issues, i.e. experience, health care and wins on these issues I have no problem voting for her if McCain doesn't win the Republican nomination. If she wins by sliming Obama then not only would I not vote for her I would actively and financially support either McCain or the Unity '08 candidate.
    One other thing the Clintons might want to think about, if Obama loses, he still has a chunk of a senate term left as well as a passionate and involved following. Does she want to stay on the high road and have him and his followers on her side or take the low road? I know, she really doesn't care which road leads to victory, but winning does involve governing, I would hate to have someone as charismatic and respected (and he will be even if Clinton slimes him) working against me.

  7. While I heartily agree with your sentiments here — for all his macho posturing, Bill Clinton has always excelled above all at playing the victim — I disagree with the CW that if Hillary goes negative, she dooms herself too. It's January. If she knocks off Obama, she doesn't face a significant voter again til November. How ugly she won in NH won't be remembered amid all the other hoopla. Obama will bite his tongue and endorse her, as McCain did for Bush in '00.

    I will be sick if Hillary goes negative on Obama. But I don't think an objective strategist would consider it a kiss of death. Remember what Bill Clinton said to Bob Dole: “You do what you have to do.” HRC will do what she has to do to defeat Obama and deal with the fallout later.

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