Monday, January 28, 2008


His Attacks on Barack Obama in South Carolina Primary
Were Disgraceful Acts of Political Hacksmanship Unbecoming of a Former President, Revealing His Personal Desire to Return to the White House -- and Triggering a Huge Backlash Against Both He and His Wife That Can Cost Hillary the Democratic Nomination


Former President Bill Clinton angrily responds to a reporter's questions about accusations that his strident attacks on Senator Barack Obama in the lead-up to Saturday's South Carolina Democratic presidential primary were tactics reminiscent of the late Republican campaign strategist Lee Atwater -- tactics aimed at demoralizing Obama's supporters and discouraging them from voting. If that was Clinton's intention, it clearly backfired: Not only did Obama supporters turn out in record numbers, but the Illinois senator won every demographic group in the state except older voters over 65 years of age. (Photo courtesy CNN)

(Updated 10:00 p.m. EST Monday, January 28, 2008)

By Skeeter Sanders

Former President Bill Clinton, who for more than 16 years had enjoyed a bond with African Americans to a degree no other white politician on the national stage has before or since, may have severely damaged that relationship as a result of his increasingly ugly attacks on Senator Barack Obama of Illinois in Saturday's hotly-contested Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina.

In the process, Clinton brought disgrace upon himself by abandoning a former president's traditional role as an elder statesman by engaging in political hacksmanship -- and unwittingly exposing his personal desire to return to the White House eight years after he left office.

And what did it get him? A royal drubbing of his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, by a very ticked-off Democratic electorate in the Palmetto State. And I do mean ticked off.

Powered by a huge backlash against the former president's attacks -- and against Senator Clinton's performance in last Monday's bitter debate -- Obama routed the former first lady by a better than two-to-one margin.

And then after the results became clear, the former president poured more gasoline onto the fire by trying to belittle the significance of Obama's victory by comparing it to the Rev. Jesse Jackson's South Carolina wins in 1984 and 1988 -- a naked attempt to paint Obama into a corner as "the black candidate," unable to attract white voter support.

Never mind that Obama won the January 3 caucuses in Iowa -- a state that is over 90 percent white. Never mind that Obama finished a close second to Clinton in the January 8 primary in New Hampshire -- a state that is 88 percent white.

What you've done, Bill, was disgraceful. Totally disgraceful. And your gratuitous slap at Obama in his moment of victory could end up costing your wife the Democratic nomination. This blogger has four words for you, Bill: Shut the [expletive deleted] up!

Appalled by Clintons' Attacks, Kennedy Endorses Obama

Already, the backlash against the Clintons within the Democratic Party appears to be spreading.

Summoning memories of his brother, the assassinated President John F. Kennedy, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts led two generations of the first family of Democratic politics Monday in endorsing Obama at a boistrous rally on the campus of American University in Washington, declaring, "I feel change is in the air."

Obama was also endorsed Monday by the Bay State's other senator, the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee, John Kerry; and by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The 76-year-old Kennedy has in recent years rarely invoked the memories of his assassinated brothers, John and Robert, in his public remarks. But his endorsement of Obama was cast in terms that aides said were unusually personal.

"There was another time, when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a new frontier. He faced criticism from the preceding Democratic president, who was widely respected in the party," Kennedy said, referring to Harry S. Truman.

"And John Kennedy replied, 'The world is changing. The old ways will not do. ... It is time for a new generation of leadership.' So it is with Barack Obama," he added.

Kennedy's niece, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, the only surviving daughter of the late president, endorsed Obama in a op-ed column published Sunday in The New York Times.

Schlossberg, now 50, wrote that Obama could inspire Americans in the same way her father did. "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them," she wrote. "But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."

The 46-year-old Obama's candidacy also comes 40 years after Senator Robert F. Kennedy's run for the White House, which ended in tragedy with his assassination in Los Angeles on June 4, 1968, just minutes after he spoke to jubilant supporters after winning the California Democratic primary.

Kennedy Sank Carter in '80 -- Can He Sink Clinton in '08?

It's not immediately known what impact Kennedy's endorsement of Obama will have on the Democratic race. But it was highly sought after by all the Democratic candidates. Besides his status as a liberal icon and member of the Kennedy dynasty, Kennedy boasts a broad national fundraising and political network as well.

But Kennedy's decision to back Obama may have been triggered by the Massachusetts senator's anger at Bill Clinton for his attacks on Obama. It was widely reported last week that Kennedy berated the former president in a heated telephone call on the eve of the Nevada Democratic caucuses last Monday and told Clinton point-blank to "cool it." Neither Kennedy nor Clinton would confirm or deny the reports.

Kennedy's endorsement of Obama in the face of the former president's attacks is also a stern reminder to the Clintons that it was Kennedy who, more than any other Democrat, fired the torpedoes that sank the S.S. Jimmy Carter in 1980 -- and that he potentially could fire a new round of torpedoes to sink the S.S. Clinton.

Kennedy challenged President Carter in a bitter battle for the 1980 Democratic nomination -- a challenge that the Carter campaign never recovered from and was a major contributing factor in Carter's defeat by Ronald Reagan in the fall election that year.

Adding Insult to Injury for the Clintons: Toni Morrison Backs Obama

As if the rebellion against the Clintons within the Democratic Party wasn't bad enough, they received yet another slap in the face on Monday: The African American writer who famously labeled Bill Clinton the "first black president" as a term of endearment has spurned his wife and instead is backing Obama.

Author Toni Morrison said her endorsement of the Illinois senator has little to do with Obama's mixed background — he is the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas — but rather his personal gifts.

Writing with the touch of a poet in a letter to Obama, Morrison explained why she chose him over Clinton -- which, much like TV talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, is her first-ever public presidential endorsement.

Morrison, whose acclaimed novels usually concentrate on the lives of African American women, said she has admired Clinton for years because of her knowledge and mastery of politics, but then dismissed that experience in favor of Obama's vision.

"In addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates," Morrison wrote. "That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. . .

"Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace — that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom," Morrison wrote.

In 1998, Morrison wrote a column for The New Yorker magazine in which she wrote of Bill Clinton: "White skin notwithstanding, this is our first black president. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children's lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas."

A delighted Obama responded to Morrison's endorsement with a written statement: "Toni Morrison has touched a nation with the grace and beauty of her words, and I was deeply moved and honored by the letter she wrote and the support she is giving our campaign."

Exit Polls: Obama's South Carolina Victory More Broad-Based Than Expected

Exit polls found that the breadth and depth of Obama's support in Saturday's primary was much greater than anyone expected. The Illinois senator carried all but two of South Carolina's 46 counties. In a state where African Americans make up half of the Democratic electorate, Obama, as expected, won the overwhelming support of black voters. But he unexpectedly pulled even with Clinton among white voters overall and -- much to the former first lady's chagrin -- won among women.

The reason? Solid support for the Illinois senator from two voting blocs that the former president -- and the media -- all but ignored: Independents, who cast their votes in the Democratic primary in greater numbers than in the Republican primary one week earlier; and young people under 30, who voted in record numbers -- and went nearly two-to-one for Obama.

Total turnout in the Democratic primary was a record 532,000, surpassing the 445,000 votes cast in the GOP primary. Much of Obama's larger-than-expected majority came at native son John Edwards' expense. Edwards, who easily won the state's primary four years ago, finished a distant third, with a dismal 18 percent of the vote.

The exit polls found that Obama lost only among voters aged 65 and over -- who made up only 11 percent of South Carolinians who cast their ballots in the primary -- and their votes split almost evenly between Clinton and Edwards. Obama led among men overall.

Edwards, a one-term former North Carolina senator, vowed to stay in the race until at least the February 5 "Super Tuesday" primaries in 24 states. But questions remained about whether Edwards can stay in the race after losing in his native state so badly -- and whether his campaign can come up with the money needed to carry on.

Obama Swipes Back at 'Conventional' Clintons

"We are up against conventional thinking that says your ability to lead as president comes from longevity in Washington or proximity to the White House," Obama said in a thinly veiled swipe at the Clintons in his victory speech. "But we know that real leadership is about candor, and judgment, and the ability to rally Americans from all walks of life around a common purpose — a higher purpose."

Looking ahead to the "Super Tuesday" primaries next week, he added that "nearly half the nation will have the chance to join us in saying that we are tired of business-as-usual in Washington, we are hungry for change, and we are ready to believe again."

A prominent supporter of Obama on Wednesday compared the former president's appeals for his wife to the tactics used by the late Lee Atwater, a Republican strategist who to this day remains infamous within Democratic circles.

When asked by a reporter about the comparison, Clinton reacted with anger, wagging his finger at the reporter and insisting it was "a distraction from what voters really cared about."

Dick Harpootlian, a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party and a supporter of Obama, said in an interview with CNN that some of Bill Clinton's recent remarks on the campaign trail were appeals based on race and gender, meant to "suppress the vote, demoralize voters and distort the record."

Harpootlian said the remarks were "reminiscent of Lee Atwater," the hard-hitting Republican strategist who worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and whose tactics were reviled by many Democrats. Atwater, who died of cancer in 1991, employed tactics that were raised to an art form by Karl Rove.

GOP Salivating at Chance to Rip Clintons in Fall Campaign

Clinton campaign strategists denied any intentional effort to stir the racial debate. But they said they believe the fallout has had the effect of branding Obama as "the black candidate," a tag that could hurt him outside the South.

Rubbish. Quite the contrary, the Clinton campaign's playing of the "race card" has clearly backfired. Critics argue that Bill Clinton's attacks will surely be used by Republicans in the fall campaign as yet another example of the former president being a "loose cannon" and of the former first lady being "unable to control her husband."

If Hillary Clinton can't control her husband on the campaign trail, how in the world is she going to control her husband in the White House? I can already envision the anti-Hillary attack ads at the ready for airing next fall if she wins the nomination: "A vote for Hillary is a vote for a third Bill Clinton term!"

And, for once, this blogger is inclined to agree, at least partially. Bill Clinton has unwittingly exposed himself as being power-hungry. He's had his time in the Oval Office -- eight years, to be precise. Apparently, though, he's not satisfied with his retirement. Bill Clinton wants to return to the White House so badly he can taste it.

To that end, he's chosen to get "down and dirty" in the partisan political wars. This is conduct unbecoming a former president and it speaks volumes about the man's character -- to say nothing about his apparent contempt of the 22nd Amendment of the Constitution, which restricts a president to two full terms -- eight years -- in office.

Just Say 'No' To Continuing the Bush-Clinton 'Dynasty'

Hillary Clinton's run for the White House also brings up something that has been bothering this blogger for months. Do you realize that this November will mark the 20th anniversary of George H.W. Bush's election to the presidency?

Think about that. If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and the November 4 election, the United States will have had either a Bush or a Clinton in the White House for 24 years -- and perhaps 28 years, if she wins a second term in 2012.

It was not the intention of our Founding Fathers to have a dynasty ruling the United States. But that's exactly what we're headed for if Hilliary Clinton wins. And this blogger has a real serious problem with that.

After 20 years, it's time to end the Bush-Clinton "dynasty" and give someone else the keys to the Oval Office. America will be much better off. I haven't made up my mind who to support in this election, but I have made up my mind about whom I'm not supporting. There's no way I'm going to vote for Hillary Clinton under any circumstances.

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Volume III, Number 8
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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