Still taking a break. Nonetheless, this was too on-the-nose not to share, for election 2012 is dark and full of terrors. Enjoy.
“During the discussion, Clinton told his vice president that he was disappointed that Gore had not used him in the last ten days of the 2000 campaign in strategically significant states — Arkansas, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Missouri…Clinton insisted to Gore that he hadn’t cared about how Gore had referred to Clinton — and his personal scandal — during the campaign. Paraphasing this portion of the conversation, Branch writes that Clinton told Gore, ‘To gain votes, he would let Gore cut off his ear and mail it to reporter Michael Isikoff of Newsweek, the Monica Lewinsky expert.’”
In Mother Jones, David Corn previews some of the interesting tales disclosed in historian Taylor Branch’s forthcoming The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President. “In 1997, after New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote an acerbic column about Clinton and golfer Tiger Woods — maintaining that the the two green-eyed hucksters deserved each other — Clinton told Branch, ‘She must live in mortal fear that there’s somebody in the world living a healthy and productive life.’“
[T]he last eight years demonstrate that the special interests who have come to control the Republican Party are so powerful that serving them and serving the national well-being are now irreconcilable choices.
So what can we do about it?
We can carry Barack Obama’s message of hope and change to every family in America. And pledge that we will be there for him, not only in the heat of this election but in the aftermath as we put his agenda to work for our country.
We can tell Republicans and independents, as well as Democrats, exactly why our nation so badly needs a change from the approach of Bush, Cheney and McCain.
After they wrecked our economy, it is time for a change.
After they abandoned the search for the terrorists who attacked us and redeployed the troops to invade a nation that did not attack us, it’s time for a change.
After they abandoned the principle first laid down by Gen. George Washington, when he prohibited the torture of captives because it would bring, in his words, “shame, disgrace and ruin” to our nation, it’s time for a change.
When as many as three Supreme Court justices could be appointed in the first term of the next president, and John McCain promises to appoint more Scalias and Thomases and end a woman’s right to choose, it is time for a change.
I’m not sure if Tim Kaine (ok, a bit heavy on the God-talk for my taste) and Bill Richardson (looser and more likable than he ever seemed on the campaign trail) made it to TV. I’m sure Al Gore’s address got some coverage, though. [Transcript.] Now, longtime readers know I’m no fan of Gore’s, and when his speech began I had a reaalllly bad feeling about it. (“Today, we face essentially the same choice we faced in 2000“…Uh, hell no we don’t. Sen. Obama is at least thrice the candidate Gore ever was, and he has neither been running to the right all primary season, nor masking himself in the pungent odor of Republican-lite centrism all frickin’ election, like some Tennesseeans I could name. Two words, Al: Joe Lieberman.)
That being said, I thought Gore’s speech picked up soon after its score-settling preamble, and, in the end — as with John Kerry — it was probably better-delivered, more honest, and more passionate than any address he delivered as the 2000 candidate. In effect, Gore gave the much-needed “Glenn Greenwald speech”: Of all the remarks I heard this week, it (and Richardson’s) drew most attention to the erosion of civil liberties and constitutional behavior by the executive that has marked the last eight years. There was a good bit of discussion of climate change in there as well, of course — that’s where Gore’s post-Nobel “controlling moral authority” lies. And, while it’s been going around for awhile, I enjoyed the many “Man from Springfield” comparisons of Lincoln and Obama. But it was as Defender of the Constitution that Gore’s speech most resonated with me, and, if I liked it with my exceedingly low tolerance for most things Gore-related, I have to think it played well out there to the undecideds as well. Good job, Mr. (Almost-)President.
“The outcome of this election will affect the future of our planet…Take it from me — elections matter.” Finally, Al Gore endorses Sen. Obama. (Not exactly a profile in courage at this point, but could we really expect anything less from the man?) Well, in any case, welcome aboard.
Also joining Team Obama today: Patty Solis Doyle, who has been hired to be “chief of staff to the future vice presidential running mate.” As Doyle, “a native Chicagoan with deep ties to many senior Obama aides,” is no longer on speaking terms with Sen. Clinton (to whom she “devoted her adult life“) after having been blamed for Iowa, it would seem Clinton will not be making the veep short list. Try to contain your despair.
While Edwards donors have broken for Obama 2-1, current rumor has it that Edwards himself is inclined toward Clinton, mainly on account of his wife, Elizabeth. “‘She feels her husband should have been the man in the center of the presidential sweepstakes, rather than Obama,’ a source said.“
Well, if that’s true, it’s a remarkably petty reason to back the establishment candidate. Still, sour grapes or no, it’s hard to imagine Edwards coming out for Clinton at this late date anyway. Why would he obliterate all of his outsider-reformer cachet in one fell swoop, just to back a horse that’s already lost? If he endorses Clinton now, not only is his credibility in many circles effectively reduced to zero, but he’d be needlessly prolonging a primary battle that the rest of the party is trying to end ASAP. So, if anything, I expect he’ll remain neutral at this point.
Meanwhile, Al Gore reaffirmed he’s staying out of it for now, despite calls among some for him to break the deadlock: “‘What have we got, five months left?’ Gore told the Associated Press…’I think it’s going to resolve itself, but we’ll see.’” Well, it’s more like three months, if we go by the Dean standard. Still, I can’t say I’m surprised that Gore’s letting things shake out.
Which reminds me: There’s been some loose talk recently, most notably by TIME’s Joe Klein and Rep. Tim Mahoney, that the Dems could rally around Al Gore on top of a compromise ticket, a la John W. Davis in 1924. Now, maybe I’m in the minority these days in remembering that Al Gore was a thoroughly crappy candidate in 2000, one who — despite unprecedented economic good times — couldn’t even beat a congenial idiot like Dubya back in the day. Nonetheless, this notion of putting Al Gore atop the ticket is the Mother of all Dumb Ideas, redolent of the blatantly undemocratic, smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear, and if it happens, I’m walking. In fact, I’d rather have Sen. Clinton be our standard-bearer than Al Gore: At least, she actually procured a sizable number of votes this cycle.
Meanwhile, over in his corner of the campaign trail, Bill Clinton does what he can to poison the well further, saying — now that chances of a re-do have come and gone, of course — that the Obama campaign was “desperate to disenfranchise Florida and Michigan.” Sigh…at this point, you have to wonder about the man’s mental health. Well, since the former president insists on continually behaving like an asshat, with no regard whatsoever for the Democratic party or his historical legacy, it bears repeating once more:
Honestly, it’s like they’re trying to beat us into submission through sheer, brazen, and unyielding idiocy. Mr. President, you will not be returning to the White House — deal with it.
Update: Today’s poll about disgruntled Clinton and Obama supporters is getting a lot of run. Now, one one hand, this illustrates the problem with the Clintons’ “audacity of hopelessness.” Their continued spewing of often-ridiculous vitriol, even despite the fact that everyone from David Brooks to Obama Girl now knows its over, is only breeding more angry and aggrieved dead-enders among the Clinton ranks. (Then again, have the Clintons ever put the good of the party before themselves? Nope.)
Still, to keep things in perspective, let’s look at the presumed defection rate in 2000: “In March of that year, the Pew Center for the People & the Press released a report titled ‘Bush Pays Price for Primary Victory.’ Following Bush’s victory in the 2000 primaries and McCain’s exit from the race, the Pew survey found that 51% of those who backed McCain during the primary campaign would vote for Gore in the general election. Only 44% of his supporters said that they would be casting their votes for Bush.” That purported 2000 defection rate is considerably higher than those causing consternation today. But, obviously that number didn’t hold up, or Gore would have been elected overwhelmingly in 2000.
The point being, this poll doesn’t tell us anything about the situation in November, only that tempers are running high here in March.
Now, this is a year where I definitely support Sen. Obama over Ralph Nader, and I hope that those voters who are thinking about pulling the lever for Nader do give Obama a long, hard look first. To my mind, as with John McCain (who might’ve been a decent president in 2000, particularly compared to the ultimate GOP alternative), Nader is now a candidate whose time has come and gone. That being said, I don’t know why we have to keep going over this, but Nader has every right to run, and, if people decide to vote for him over Obama, so be it. Nader’s potential votes are not and never will be the Democratic Party’s votes by fiat. They must be earned.
Dredging up a stale (and rather whiny) Election 2000 talking point, TPM’s Josh Marshall today calls Nader “Bush’s Chief Enabler,” and that’s not only wildly off the mark, but symptomatic of a type of narrow, scapegoating impulse that speaks poorly of Democrats in general. As I noted at the time, Al Gore lost the election of 2000 for many reasons, even notwithstanding the Supreme Court endgame: Gore lost his home state of Tennessee. He tried constantly to distance himself from the still very popular Bill Clinton — I’m looking at you, Joe Lieberman — and even refused to send Clinton to places where he could easily have made the difference for Gore, like Arkansas and West Virginia. He gave some thoroughly terrible debate performances. (Remember the sighing?) He asked for a targeted recount aimed at helping him, rather than a full statewide recount. And so on. So blaming Nader makes very little sense. (As Nader himself pointed out today, every single third-party candidate got more than the 537 votes Gore needed in Florida.) Here’s the question I’d put to Marshall, Chait, and anyone else who keeps up this sad Blame-Nader meme long past its sell date: Even notwithstanding all the people who voted Dubya in 2000, why would you blame the 2% of voters who followed the process enough to vote third-party in 2000, rather than the 40% of Americans who didn’t even bother to vote?
Now, with all that in mind, it’s interesting to look at Obama and Clinton’s respective responses to the Nader candidacy. First, here’s Sen. Obama. “I think anybody has the right to run for president if they file sufficient papers. And I think the job of the Democratic Party is to be so compelling that a few percentage of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference” Speaking of Nader specifically, Obama said: “You know, he had called me and I think reached out to my campaign — my sense is is that Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don’t listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you’re not substantive. He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work. Now — and by the way, I have to say that, historically, he is a singular figure in American politics and has done as much as just about anybody on behalf of consumers. So in many ways he is a heroic figure and I don’t mean to diminish him. But I do think there is a sense now that if somebody is not hewing to the Ralph Nader agenda, then you must be lacking in some way.“
Notice how Sen. Obama respects Nader’s decision to enter the race, and agrees that all votes must be earned. Then, while calling Nader a “heroic figure” who “done as much as just about anybody on behalf of consumers,” he makes the case that Nader might just be missing the forest for the trees this time. This is in keeping with Obama’s usual argumentative method and the reason why his talk of bipartisanship is more than just a soundbite. Obama begins a conversation by respecting his ideological opponent, explaining what he sees as valuable in their view, and then goes on to argue his position. It’s a much more encompassing, inclusive rhetorical strategy, which respects differences and doesn’t accuse people of acting solely in bad faith.
[Update: At a campaign stop today, Sen. Obama pushed back on a Nader candidacy a little harder, saying: “I think his view is, unless you’re Ralph Nader, you’re not tough enough on any of these issues. He thought there was no difference between Al Gore and George Bush, and eight years later, I think it’s obvious that he didn’t know what he was talking about.” Saying Nader was wrong in this regard, however, is not the same as saying the Bush presidency is Nader’s fault.]
Which brings us to Sen. Clinton. Now, her antipathy to Ralph Nader is well-documented. (There was her off-the-cuff remark in 2000 that killing Nader was actually worth contemplating, and just today a “senior adviser to the Clinton campaign” said of Nader, “‘Loathe’ isn’t a strong enough word.“) So, here’s her response to Nader’s announcement: “His being on the Green Party prevented Al Gore from being the greenest president we could have had, and I think that’s really unfortunate. I think we paid a big price for it. I’m pretty sad about that…Well that’s really unfortunate. I remember when he did this before. It did not turn out very well for anybody, most especially our country.”
Notice there’s that nothing nice said about Nader’s 40-year-career as a consumer advocate here, or anything other than “shame” offered to those who might be drawn to his candidacy. Rather, Clinton just perpetuates the weak-sauce, scapegoating contention that Nader caused Gore to lose. Frankly, her answer — pass around the Nader-Haterade! — reeks of the same sense of entitlement that seems to propel her candidacy, based as it is on the notion that Gore deserved Nader’s votes just because he was the Democratic candidate. Besides being a rather undemocratic way of looking at elections, this is emphatically NOT the way to rally possible Nader voters to your standard.
Fortunately, Sen. Clinton will be long out of the race before this really becomes an issue.
“At a private dinner that Mr. Edwards, a former senator, held at his home last Saturday for a dozen close friends, he said he had spoken recently with Mr. Gore about the benefits of neutrality, someone who was at the dinner said…Mr. Edwards said he intended to remain on the fence for the time being, the person said.” It looks possible no more major endorsements will be in the offing for either Democratic candidate. Perhaps noticing the daunting math that faces Sen. Clinton’s campaign, the big undeclared Dems seem to be envisioning themselves instead as much-needed brokers of the peace. “A number of senior Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and three candidates who have dropped out of the 2008 race, former Senator John Edwards and Senators Christopher J. Dodd and Joseph R. Biden Jr., have spoken with Mr. Gore in recent days. None have endorsed a candidate, although Ms. Pelosi made comments on Friday that were widely seen as supportive of Mr. Obama when it came to the process the party should use to make its choice of candidate.“
A Valentine’s afternoon campaign roundup:
“I believe Senator Obama is the best candidate to restore American credibility, to restore our confidence to be moral and to bring people together to solve the complex issues such as the economy, the environment and global stability.” Former Republican (now Independent and Dubya critic) Senator Lincoln Chafee officially endorses Obama. The Senator from Illinois also picked up a Clinton superdelegate in Christine “Roz” Samuels (meaning, as MSNBC points out, a 2-point swing in the superdelegate column.) And Al Gore, meanwhile, has confirmed to TNR that he will not be endorsing anyone. “Basically, Gore appears to be preserving for himself the option of stepping in and declaring a winner in the event of a war over superdelegates, and thus being seen as a kind of mediating figure, rather than as someone trying to influence the outcome” Given yesterday’s threat of a party meltdown by the Clinton campaign, that’ll probably be more useful for Sen. Obama anyway.
Meanwhile, in an interview with WMAL, Bill Clinton just makes up random stuff as he goes along. (I was going to say he was commiting seppuku to his legacy, but, as Wikipedia just reminded me, seppuku involves dying with honor.) “Of his wife’s recent travails, he said, ‘the caucuses aren’t good for her. They disproportionately favor upper-income voters who, who, don’t really need a president but feel like they need a change.’” (If you’re keeping score at home, be sure to add “upper-income voters” to the 20 states in the “not-significant” column.) “‘I think she has been the underdog ever since Iowa,’ Clinton said. “She’s had, you know, a lot of the politicians, like Senator Kennedy, opposed to her…He said they’d done well considering their slim budget. ‘We’ve gotten plenty of delegates on a shoestring,’ he said. He did not mention that his wife’s campaign has raised more than $140 million.“
The best news for the Clinton team today: As of this past weekend, Sen. Clinton still held a big lead in Ohio (between 14 and 21 points, depending on the poll.) Of course, these were taken before the Potomac results and before Sen. Obama has started campaigning on the ground, and they still don’t show the kind of massive spread Sen. Clinton needs to take back the pledged delegate lead. But I’m sure they’ll take solace where they can find it. Update: I’ve tried to swear off taking much out of polls of late, but there’s an interesting further discussion of the Wisconsin and Ohio poll numbers here.)
Update 2: “That’s the difference between me and my Democratic opponent. My opponent gives speeches, I offer solutions.” With really no other recourse at this point, Sen. Clinton (and her husband) try the blunderbuss of negativity approach. I’d point out the many flaws in Sen. Clinton’s screed today, but, as it turns out, the Obama team has already done it for me. I’ll just leave it at this: Can anyone point to a single “solution” Sen. Clinton has ever offered and carried through for the American people? And, no, running health care reform into the ground in 1994 doesn’t count. Well, to be fair, I guess she did once go out on a limb to put an end to the horrible scourge of flag-burning. Now, that takes leadership.