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By PHILIP GAILEY
Published January 27, 2008
Bill Clinton is all over the place, like a mad dog's slobber.
On the campaign trail as his wife's chief surrogate, he is losing his temper, snapping at reporters, mangling the truth, distorting the record including his own and acting more like a political hatchet man than a former president. He warns that voting for Barack Obama would be a "roll of the dice." Obama's record as a consistent opponent of the Iraq war is a "fairy tale." Last week in South Carolina, Clinton accused Obama of doing a "hit job" on him, but refused to back up the charge. He has injected race into the campaign by defining Obama as just another black candidate who can't go all the way.
Compared to the dirty work being handled by other surrogates and anonymous character assassins, Bill Clinton is taking the high road. Even so, some leading Democrats fear he is damaging the party. Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who are neutral in the race, asked the former president to stop sliming and slamming Obama, according to Newsweek. He is not about to back off. If the price of taking down Obama is to tarnish his post-White House image as a global statesman, Clinton doesn't mind paying it. The Big Dog is having too much fun doing what he does best, which is being unpresidential.
Narcissist that he is, Bill Clinton can't pass up an opportunity to remind voters of the glory years of his presidency, years Hillary promises to restore without all the scandals and embarrassments. Great was his unfaithfulness, and he owes her big-time. Maybe he figures getting her into the Oval Office he occupied for eight years will settle that debt. But as always, it's also about him. If Hillary Clinton is about to make history, he intends to play a starring role in his wife's campaign - and almost certainly in her presidency.
In Clinton-think, it's bad enough that Barack Obama didn't defer to Hillary this time and wait his turn. But the nerve of this guy trying to become the nation's first president who happens to be black. Hasn't anyone told Obama that Toni Morrison called Bill Clinton the nation's "first black president" a decade ago?
Politics is a game of hard knocks, some below the belt, and it is not for the faint-hearted. And no one plays political hardball as aggressively as the Clintons. They are ruthless when it comes to smashing their opponents or anyone else who threatens their political ambitions. What they are doing to Barack Obama is not all that different from what they did to the women who outed Clinton as a serial adulterer as governor of Arkansas and as president.
When it comes to the politics of personal destruction, the Clintons know how to get the job done while appearing to be above the ugliness of it all. Defamation is their weapon of choice.
In Iowa, an e-mail was bouncing around the state planting suspicion that Obama was a Muslim who had been trained in radical Islam in an Indonesian madrassa. This slander was traced by to some Clinton campaign volunteers, who were asked to resign. The candidate said there was no place in her campaign for such smears.
Then Bill Shaheen, co-chairman of Clinton's campaign in New Hampshire, told reporters of his concern that if Obama, who has admitted using illegal drugs as a teenager, were to win the nomination, some voters might wonder if he also may have been a dope peddler. When Obama cried foul, Shaheen apologized and resigned from his campaign post. Hillary Clinton apologized to Obama for Shaheen's smear. The apologies and resignation kept the story alive by repeating the original defamation.
Before the Clintons are through with Obama, he will be stumbling around punch-drunk from all the jabs, kicks, slaps and punches the Clintons are throwing at him. They make outrageously false claims about his record and distort his words. And when he fights back, Hillary asks, whatever happened to Obama's promise to lift politics to higher ground?
Nicholas von Hoffman, a New York Observer columnist, wrote last week: "The heart of the Clintons' strategy is to pull Obama down to their level . . . The Clintons cannot compete with the enthusiasm Obama sets off so they must destroy it. Their tactic is disillusionment. They are the quashers of the dream. Bring Obama's people down by showing them he is just another pol like themselves."
The Clintons don't seem to care if black voters are offended by the way they have been roughing up Obama. Like the Democratic Party, they take black votes for granted in the general election. And besides, maybe after Hillary wins the nomination with the support of Hispanics, now the nation's largest minority, black voters will take note and wonder if Hillary Clinton will be known as the nation's "first Hispanic president."
Philip Gailey's e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Last modified January 27, 2008, 20:56:58]