“Above all, this irony emerges: Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence — on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to ‘do the job from Day One.’ In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel…Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.” The Atlantic‘s Josh Green, who covered the dirt on the Patty Doyle firing earlier this year, tells the story of Sen. Clinton’s primary bid from the inside (thanks mainly to being the beneficiary of vindictive document dumps from across the campaign hierarchy.)
Among the many interesting revelations, Mark Penn is apparently an even bigger asshole than he seemed during the primaries. Regarding Sen. Obama: “All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light. Save it for 2050…his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values…Let’s use our logo to make some flags we can give out. Let’s add flag symbols to the backgrounds.” Classy.
Update: Speak of the devil. While giving kudos to McCain for his Paris Hilton ad, Mark Penn emerges from his cave to extol the usefulness of negative advertising. “Picking a president is not just about the candidates’ strengths but also about how their weaknesses can manifest themselves. Imagine if, in 2000, Al Gore’s advertisements had hit George W. Bush hard over incompetence on foreign affairs and as a trigger-happy cowboy.“
“‘She’s no longer campaigning for president,’ said Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee. ‘She’s focused on her work in the Senate, campaigning for Senator Obama and other Democrats.’” With the Dems back on the same team, the Clinton campaign scrubs its website of anti-Obama material from the primary era. As such, this seems as good a time as any to definitively put to rest these Penn-inspired primary fictions as well:
So R.I.P., goofy primary reasoning. You won’t be missed.
“In the bunker there exists a different reality. In the bunker, Hillary is the winner: of the popular vote, of a series of big swing states, of the authentic American vote. In the bunker, Hillary is introduced by the indefatiguable Terry McAuliffe as ‘the next President of the United States!’ When asked about the reality outside the bunker — that Obama supporters were in a minor rage over Hillary’s speech — McAuliffe looked at me incredulously. ‘Tonight was Hillary’s night!’ he exclaimed. ‘We won tonight! We won in South Dakota! We keep winning!‘”
Sigh. Or, put another way via R.E.M.’s Life’s Rich Pageant: “I will hide and you will hide, and we shall hide together here. Underneath the bunkers in the row. I have water, I have rum. Wait for dawn and dawn shall come, Underneath the bunkers in the row.“
Also, on McAuliffe’s point about it being “Hillary’s night,” see Jeffrey Toobin on CNN yesterday, referring to “the deranged narcissism of the Clintons.” They really don’t make it easy to cut them a break.
Update: The endgame is now Saturday: “Clinton will host an event in Washington on Saturday ‘to thank her supporters and express her support for Senator Obama and party unity,’ according to Howard Wolfson, who did not explicitly state that Clinton is dropping out of the race. But other campaign officials said the event will coincide with her departure, despite her earlier reservations about stepping aside.” Well, better late than never.
Well, it’s sometimes seemed to have more endings than Return of the King. But, tonight, it looks like the primary season is finally, really, truly at an end, with Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois our duly chosen Democratic nominee. In the days and weeks ahead, it’ll behoove all of us, however hard, to let the primary bygones be bygones and to help reunite the party against our real foe, John McCain and the GOP. But, before we let the healing begin, I do have one more word to say about the Clintons, who above all else this campaign season has proven the truth of the old adage: “Choose your enemies wisely, for you will become them.“
Now, I’m not going to recite the full litany of grievances against the Clintons’ behavior of late one more time. I’d say that ground is already pretty well-covered in the election archives. But I will say this: It has become increasingly fashionable in the press and elsewhere to esteem Sen. Clinton — regardless of her other political transgressions — as gutsy, tenacious, a fighter. Say what you will about her methods, this line of thinking goes, she goes there. She does what needs to be done. In fact, argues otherwise discerning political observers such as friend and colleague David Greenberg, she is exactly the kind of fighter the Left has said they’ve been looking for. (Of course, she and her husband have been AWOL when it counted over the past seven years, but that’s neither here nor there in this view.)
Well, simply put, this is all hooey. Sen. Clinton’s behavior over the past six months and change has been exactly the wrong lesson for Democrats to draw from the politics of the last decade. I’ve said it here several times before, but, in a nutshell, here’s why:
You don’t wear the ring. You destroy the ring.
Or, in other words, the key to beating the Republicans is not by acting Republican. It’s by rising above their tendentious garbage and working to restore reason and sanity to our politics. At the very least, a Democratic nominee for president shouldn’t validate the base tactics of the GOP by wallowing in their wretchedness. For what shall it profit a woman, if she shall gain the whole world, and lose her own soul?
Nevertheless, seemingly blinded by ambition, Sen. Clinton very quickly chose the wrong path. (In the place of a Dumb Lord, we would have a Queen…) She embraced the Rove playbook and dabbled in Al Qaeda hysteria. She validated John McCain and threatened to obliterate Iran. She called her opponent elitist and derided the “elite opinion” of the reality-based community. She played nice with Limbaugh, Scaife, and FOX. She flirted dangerously with the race card and lauded hard-working whites. She, for all intent and purposes, became the Republican candidate in the Democratic primary. She, and her husband, became part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
To repeat something I said after Wisconsin in February, the night when Sen. Obama’s primary victory basically became mathematically inexorable: “If you’ll forgive the lapse into LotR metaphors, the treason of Saruman, once the noblest and wisest of our order, is almost subdued. The Battle for Middle-Earth is only beginning.” So, as we move forward after tonight, I’ll try as much as anyone to tone down the internecine fighting around here, and start focusing fire on our true opponents over on the Right. (That is provided, of course, that Sen. Clinton chooses to diminish, go into the West, and remain a Democrat.)
But let’s also draw the appropriate lesson from the Clinton candidacy of 2008. The Clinton era is over, and this general election is now a chance for we as Dems “to show our quality.” We are not Dubya-Rove Republicans, and adopting their scorched-earth idiocies in a “tenacious” attempt to get elected is most assuredly the road to political, civic, and spiritual ruin.
“‘I want to say also that this may be the last day I’m ever involved in a campaign of this kind,’ the former president told Clinton supporters in South Dakota, ABC and NBC reported on their news websites. ‘I thought I was out of politics, till Hillary decided to run. But it has been one of the greatest honors of my life to go around and campaign for her for president,’ he added at the start of his stump speech.” There’ve been rumors floating around about Sen. Clinton’s speech in New York tomorrow, but has Bill let the cat out of the bag? One can only hope.
Update: Sigh…A Clinton spokesperson categorically denies an imminent exit tomorrow. In related news, New York Magazine’s John Heilemann and The Atlantic‘s James Fallows ponder what Sen. Clinton is thinking these days. Heilemann: “[M]y response is simple: She wants to be president. Duh. And if it ain’t gonna happen this year, then her central objective is to make it as likely as possible in 2012.” Fallows: “The Clinton team doesn’t worry about hurting Obama’s prospects of winning in the fall, because they assess those prospects at zero. Always have…So by definition they can’t be making things worse. It is like sticking pins into a corpse — you’re not really hurting it any more. And if these efforts in fact make Obama’s victory less likely — well, then, reality will conform to their preexisting view.“
Update 2: Word this morning is Sen. Clinton will in fact concede (sort of) tonight. “The former first lady will stop short of formally suspending or ending her race in her speech in New York City…But for all intents and purposes, the two senior officials said, the campaign is over.” Update 3: McAuliffe says not so. Get it together over there, y’all.
Update 4: Well, for once McAuliffe was right — You can’t call that a concession. Sen. Clinton’s “un-concession” speech tonight in New York, delivered an hour after Sen. Obama had mathematically clinched the Democratic nomination, would’ve been stunning in its gracelessness, if it wasn’t so much in keeping with what we’ve seen all election season from her. Classy until the end.
After Sen. Clinton gets toxic and ridiculous over Michigan and Florida — In a clear attempt to poison the well (and fire up the smoke machine), she compared the DNC’s decision to adhere to the rules she herself agreed to (when it suited her) to Election 2000, Zimbabwe, and the civil rights movement — her aides, fundraisers, and husband try to foist Sen. Clinton as Obama’s veep. But Rural Votes’ Al Giordano says hold up: “The Field can now confirm, based on multiple sources, something that both campaigns publicly deny: that Senator Clinton has directly told Senator Obama that she wants to be his vice presidential nominee, and that Senator Obama politely but straightforwardly and irrevocably said ‘no.’ Obama is going to pick his own running mate based on his own criteria and vetting process.“
In the meantime, regarding delegates: Obama picked up two more Edwards delegates and supers Pilar Lujan (GU) and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (CA) crossed paths switching (Lujan to Clinton, Cardoza to Obama.) Also for Obama since the last update: Rep. Jim Costa (CA), Rep. Joe Courtney (CT), and DNC members Scott Brennan (IA), Jenny Greenleaf (OR), and Wayne Dowdy (MS). (In the meantime, Clinton picked up 2 more UADs from Ohio and Massachusetts.) Thus, the most recent tally: Obama +7, Clinton +2. Sen. Obama is now 57 delegates away from the (current) magic number of 2025.
“Many answers fell into a handful of broad themes we’ve been hearing for months now. (She shouldn’t have run as an incumbent. She should have paid more attention to caucus states. She should have kept Bill chained in the basement at Whitehaven with a case of cheese curls and a stack of dirty movies.) Others had a distinct score-settling flavor…But whether personal or clinical, new or familiar, the critiques are all the more striking for having come directly from those neck-deep in the action. So, here it is, an elegy for Hillary ’08, written by some of those who have worked tirelessly to keep it alive.” Now that reality has finally set in, TNR’s Michelle Cottle gets residents of Hillaryland to ruminate on what went wrong. Among the more telling:
In related news, Sen. Obama picks up another super, Rep. Pete Stark of CA.
“Yet for all of her primary night celebrations in the populous states, exit polling and independent political analysts offer evidence that Mr. Obama could do just as well as Mrs. Clinton among blocs of voters with whom he now runs behind.” Are the media finally going after the Clinton camp’s last, sad buttress? In tomorrow’s NYT, Patrick Healy pushes back against the dubious Clinton claim that she’ll run better in the “big states” based on the Ohio and Pennsylvania primaries. “According to surveys of Pennsylvania voters leaving the polls on Tuesday, Mr. Obama would draw majorities of support from lower-income voters and less-educated ones — just as Mrs. Clinton would against Mr. McCain, even though those voters have favored her over Mr. Obama in the primaries. And national polls suggest Mr. Obama would also do slightly better among groups that have gravitated to Republicans in the past, like men, the more affluent and independents, while she would do slightly better among women.” In other words, when it comes to comparing primary and general election performance, we’re basically talking apples and oranges. (Just ask Al Gore.)
“After the events of the last few days, Mark Penn has asked to give up his role as chief strategist of the Clinton campaign.” With Colombia-gate the straw that finally leveled the proverbial dromedary, Mark Penn is gone from Team Clinton. Better late than never, I suppose, but this would’ve been more helpful if done several months ago. And isn’t the captain supposed to go down with the ship?
Well, victory may have been a macrotrend that eluded Penn’s grasp. Still, if nothing else, we’ll always have his ridiculous post-mortem spin jobs. Of “Impressionable elites,” “insignificant states,” and useless primaries, at least one might be remembered someday as a 2008 campaign catch-phrase. Update: The Field also feels a Titanic motif.