In a wide-ranging piece in the NYT Magazine, Peter Baker checks in on the post-presidency of William Jefferson Clinton. Among the topics discussed: Election 2008 fallout — Obama is forgiven, Kennedy and Richardson are not — and Clinton’s retrospective view of his own administration’s economic policy in light of the “Great Recession.” “He added: ‘If you ask me to write the indictment, I’d say: “I wish Bill Clinton had said more about derivatives. The Republicans probably would have stopped him from doing it, but at least he should have sounded the alarm bell.”‘”
…and Governor Bill Richardson is out at Commerce. “‘Given the gravity of the economic situation the nation is facing,’ the governor said, ‘I could not in good conscience ask the president-elect to delay for one day the important work that needs to be done.’” [Official Statements.] Um, ok…but how has the situation on the ground changed in the past month or so? It doesn’t seem like this investigation into a possible pay-to-play deal in New Mexico snuck up on anyone, and, at least according to Mother Jones, Richardson may have a history of this potentially sordid behavior. One would think Gov. Richardson could have rejected the offer of Commerce when it was first presented to him, not so very long ago.
At any rate, with Richardson now looking suspect, that means two of our 2008 Dem Final Four — the other, of course, being John Edwards — were harboring potential general-election-killing scandals that they didn’t see fit to tell anyone about. (That number rises to two and a half if you count the recent brouhaha involving developer Robert Congel and the Clinton foundation, but that one sounds iffier to me, in part because Congel donated money well after the potential favors were bestowed.) Really, what’s wrong with these people? Is it too much to ask that these so-called statesmen take their own shadiness into account before playing dice with our future?
Well, one would hope this and Blagojevich’s recent antics will further press on our party the need for comprehensive lobbying, ethics, and campaign finance reform, and soon. These may be state-level scandals, but they’re also indicators of a broken system that’s awash in — and often only responds to — money. And, now that we’ll soon be running both ends of Pennsylvania Ave. again, the last thing we need is to follow the GOP down their low road of avarice and ignominy.
“‘You could have had an administration with a sprinkling of Clinton people, it would have been fine,’ said Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the American Prospect…’But when so many of the top people are holdovers, and he’s promoting change, you have to say, wait a minute.’” As the official Cabinet appointments file in, some left-minded folk cast a wary eye upon the Clintonian tinge of the Obama cabinet. (If you haven’t been keeping up, among those announced by the transition of late are Eric Holder at Justice, Tim Geithner at Treasury, and Larry Summers(!) as in-house economic guru, and word has leaked of Bill Richardson for Commerce and You-Know-Who for State.)
To be honest, with a few exceptions — After his egregious stint at Harvard and his hand in forging the economic mess we’re in now, I’m not altogether sure Larry Summers deserved to “fail up” — I’m not only fine with so many experienced Clinton-era officials in the Obama cabinet, I expected it. This was the great fallacy of the McCain campaign — For all his talk of maverick independence, there was never any substantial trough of non-Dubya Republicans out there from which McCain could’ve picked a government. A few cosmetic changes in the Cabinet aside, a McCain Washington would by necessity have been run by the same jokers who brought us the last eight years. And, for better or worse, we Dems also don’t have a different farm team of any kind. As Robert Borosage well puts it in the article above, “It hasn’t surprised me that he’s chosen stars from the Clinton bench, because that’s the bench we have.“
All that being said, I’d be lying if I didn’t note that the probable choice of Sen. Clinton for Secretary of State gives me pause. Part of my qualm, I suppose, is just a temperamental defect in my grudge-carrying Irish character — I’d be the first to admit that I lean towards “the Chicago way” in these sorts of things. (If it were up to me, Joe Lieberman would be working the Senate cloakroom after his behavior this election cycle, and, imho, Sen Clinton still has quite a bit to answer for as well.) But even allowing for my own petty vindictiveness, I’m not feeling the pick. Notwithstanding her dubious qualifications for State — don’t we have any career diplomats who would fit the bill? — Sen. Clinton’s record in foreign policy matters thus far is not what you’d call stellar. (See also: the Iraq vote, the Iran vote.) And, to put it delicately, if we learned anything from the Clinton campaign this past cycle, it’s that management skills may not be her forte — Wouldn’t we all be better served with Sen. Clinton replacing Ted Kennedy as the new liberal lion of the Senate?
Mind you, I can see the political merits of the pick, both in terms of its Lincolnian magnanimity (it enhances Obama’s “goodbye to all that” post-partisan prestige, and completes the Seward analogy) and its Johnsonian shrewdness. (As LBJ said of J. Edgar Hoover, ““I would rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.“) And, if the president-elect believes Sen. Clinton to be the woman for the job, despite everything that’s happened over the year, I’m inclined to trust his judgment on the matter. I just hope it works out better than I fear. (Pic via Sullivan.)
[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.
“‘He has shown such mettle under fire,’ Andrew said in the interview. ‘The Jeremiah Wright controversy just reconfirmed for me, just as the gas tax controversy confirmed for me, that he is the right candidate for our party.‘” A Clinton endorser since Day 1 of her candidacy, former DNC Chair Joe Andrew switches to Sen. Obama, and is ready for the fallout.”If the campaign’s surrogates called Governor Bill Richardson, a respected former member of President Clinton’s cabinet, a ‘Judas’ for endorsing Senator Obama, we can all imagine how they will treat somebody like me. They are the best practitioners of the old politics, so they will no doubt call me a traitor, an opportunist and a hypocrite. I will be branded as disloyal, power-hungry, but most importantly, they will use the exact words that Republicans used to attack me when I was defending President Clinton.” Heh.
Throw in DNC member John Patrick of Texas for Obama and AFL-CIO head John Olson of CT for Clinton and that puts our post-PA super count at Obama 11-5. Once you add the automatic add-ons from NY (Clinton +4) and IL (Obama +3), Clinton is down nineteen from her needed 2-1 split. Clinton -5, -10, -13, -19…anyone else noticing a pattern?
“‘It was one of the worst political meetings I have ever attended,’ one superdelegate said.” From denial to anger? Bill Clinton goes off the rails at a superdelegate gathering in California, after a question about the Bill Richardson endorsement. “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.” Meanwhile, it comes out that, while trying to woo Gov. Richardson, Sen. Clinton repeatedly emphasized her view her view that Obama is a general-election loser: “He cannot win, Bill. He cannot win.” She didn’t say why she thought this, although one can presume.
Fortunately, more and more supers don’t share the Clintons’ dim view of the American electorate. Recent announcements of note: Montana super John Melcher, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, and, if you read between the lines, former president Jimmy Carter: ““My children and their spouses are pro-Obama. My grandchildren are also pro-Obama. As a superdelegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for, but I leave you to make that guess.” Also, New Jersey Gov. John Corzine, like Cantwell before him, began laying the groundwork for a Clinton-to-Obama switch on CNBC this morning, although he retained some degree of plausible deniability [video.]
Hey all. Well, I’m sure many of you are as sick of reading about this lingering primary season as I’m getting to be about writing on it. At this point, my feelings about the Clinton campaign and the dwindling band of dead-enders lingering around her failed candidacy have gone from disbelief to disgust to a sort of exhausted aversion: It’s unsightly and hard to watch, and not only because so many Clinton supporters online have been leaving the reality-based community in droves. Like a fatally wounded snake, the campaign is still writhing, hissing, and lashing out by reflex, seemingly unaware that its time came and went weeks ago.
But, the news is the news, and I did promise to keep following it. So, if you, like me, took a break over the Easter weekend, here is the most recent litany of outrages. (Of course, at this late date, you’ll probably only find these outrageous if you haven’t been following along for the past few months…)
Obama supporter Gen. Tony McPeak has been taking some flak for likening this questioning of Obama’s patriotism to the antics of Senator Joe McCarthy, but, let’s be honest, what else would you call it? It’s definitely in the same ballpark. Since time immemorial, arguing against one’s opponent’s patriotism has been the last refuge of a scoundrel, and as sure a sign as any that a political campaign is wheezing its last. And Clinton, of course, knows this firsthand, since he was on the receiving end of a similar smear in 1992. In short, the president has shamed himself and his legacy yet again.
I’m not at all surprised Carville is “Stickin’” with the Clinton campaign well past its expiration date — It’s his nature, and you can’t teach an old Clinton yellow-dog new tricks. But he’s dead wrong on this one, and given that he more than anyone else should be able to see the writing on the wall, politically speaking, he really should be working to bring the party back together, not continuing to poison the well with badly thought-out religious metaphors. (And if saying thus make me a “Judas” in his eyes, well, so be it…although I’d prefer to think of myself as a Jack Burden.)
Update: “I think the statement had the desired effect. It was what I said.” Carville talks Judas on CNN, and, as I suspected, he seemed to think it just all part of the game: “‘I doubt if Governor Richardson and I will be terribly close in the future,’ he said, but ‘I’ve had my say…I got one in the wheelhouse and I tagged him.’” What Carville seems to be ignoring here is that, tag or not, the game is already over, and Obama is the one going to the Series. So it’s a little late to be throwing the chin music.
“My affection and admiration for Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will never waver. It is time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and to prepare for the tough fight we will face against John McCain in the fall. The 1990’s were a decade of peace and prosperity because of the competent and enlightened leadership of the Clinton administration, but it is now time for a new generation of leadership to lead America forward. Barack Obama will be a historic and a great President, who can bring us the change we so desperately need by bringing us together as a nation here at home and with our allies abroad.“
Big news this Good Friday: Governor Bill Richardson will endorse Sen. Obama today. In his letter to former supporters, Richardson specifically cites Obama’s speech on Tuesday. “Earlier this week, Senator Barack Obama gave an historic speech. that addressed the issue of race with the eloquence, sincerity, and optimism we have come to expect of him…Senator Obama has started a discussion in this country long overdue and rejects the politics of pitting race against race. He understands clearly that only by bringing people together, only by bridging our differences can we all succeed together as Americans.” Mr. Richardson, your position is a messenger pigeon.
“The momentum is shifting to us right now. If we are the leader in the popular vote and we have closed the gap in pledged delegates, that’s a very persuasive argument.” In a revealing piece in the Sunday Times, the Clinton campaign seems to concede it has lost the delegate race, instead placing their hopes on the popular vote. (At the moment, they’re down 600,000, not counting rogue states Florida and Michigan.) This is basically akin to the New England Patriots arguing they should be given the Super Bowl trophy because, even if they lost the game, they got more yards. (They didn’t, but you get what I mean.) Of course, since getting that lead looks hard for them, the Clinton campaign reserve the right to try to change the most-important stat again if need be. (“The argument is being made privately as winning the most votes still presents a formidable challenge. She might, in the end, have to rest her case on her ability to win key battleground states.“)
The Times piece is also notable because it has Bill Bradley calling the Clintons out (again) as liars: “‘The bigger the lie, the better the chance they think they’ve got. That’s been their whole approach,’ he said. ‘She’s going to lose a whole generation of people who got involved in politics believing it could be something different.’“
Meanwhile, the sinking Clinton campaign finds a lifeline in this front-page WP story on undecided superdelegates, which states that [a] many undecideds seem to be planning to wait for now and, more troubling, [b] at least a few undecided super-delegates are comfortable with overturning the pledged delegate count. Says Oregon super Bill Bradbury: ““If the pledged-delegate total is within 100 votes or whatever, I don’t think there’s a great deal of significance in that.’” Hmm. Well, I’d be more concerned about this statement if all the data didn’t suggest Obama is a stronger national candidate with bigger coattails (see also tonight’s Foster win), so I’m guessing supers would be more inclined to back Obama in the end anyway. That being said, I’m absolutely positive Bradbury here significantly understates what the reaction would be if the supers reject the pledged delegate leader en masse. It would mean clear defeat in November, if not a lasting party schism. Fortunately, whatever Bradbury’s personal opinion, this scenario isn’t at all likely, particularly given that super-supers with more pull — Pelosi, Biden, Richardson, etc. — have all specifically argued against Bradbury’s position.