Sunday, January 27, 2008

All we need is Kenneth Starr

Posted By on Sun, Jan 27, 2008 at 6:34 AM

Frank Rich perfects the controlling media and Republican narrative that a president who presided over peace, prosperity and a shrinking budget deficit is an unalloyed detriment to his wife's candidacy. But, more relevant to us, he forecasts future Clinton scandals, this time over the imagined secrets contained at "Little Rock's Fort Knox," the Clinton Library, and the names of people who contributed to its construction. He is right: they should release the names. UPDATE: Blake Rutherford, whose father led fund-raising for the library, follows up on the Rich column on his blog today.

THE NUMBERS: By the way: deep in this NY Times coverage is the breakdown of exit poll data on how the vote split in South Carolina. Obama got about 80 percent of the black vote, which accounted for about 55 percent of all voters.  He got 25 percent of the white vote. Nationwide, I think I heard one TV commentator say last night, about 20 percent of Democratic voters are black. Democratic turnout in South Carolina topped the Republican primary vote by 16 percent.

ARKY ANGLE: Zac Wright, late of the Mike Beebe campaign, was Clinton's communications director in South Carolina. Heckuva job, Zackie. The Washington Post asked him, at the after-party, what he'd do next.

 "Take a nap," he said, noting he had averaged but 3-4 hours a sleep a night over the last 10 days.

Then he got a sudden glint in his eye as he looked to his left. "In the meantime, I'm going to try to dance with that pretty girl from the TV station."

ANALYSIS: I've seen Josh Marshall at Talking Points described as both an Obama stooge and a Clinton stooge. I think he tries to be an honest broker as an avid Democratic partisan focused on the main prize of delivering Congress and the White House from the hands of the barbarians. With that by way of background, I think this is a pretty even-handed analysis of the Obama-Clinton feud in South Carolina. There are elements of Bill Clinton's advocacy that produce ill feelings, even disgust. On balance, Marshall writes that Clinton has abused the power of his position as a popular former president and diminished his wife in the process.

The presidency is a singular job. It should stay that way. And it's precisely because I'm looking forward to supporting her if she is the nominee that I hate seeing her being overshadowed by her spouse and having her husband bigfoot the process which diminishes her and makes me think her presidency could be a 4 year soap opera where Bill won't shut up and let her have a shot at doing the job.

But ... there's an undeniable element of arrogance on the other side and an unrealistic belief that Obama should be spared from what is pretty unremarkable standard political hardball.

Bringing up Rezko or cherry-picking Obama's quotes about the Iraq War to cast doubt on his consistent opposition to the war don't cut it [as criticism of Bill Clinton]. You don't go into a campaign with the idea that your opponents are obligated to present a dispassionate and fair-minded picture of the totality of your record. Or if you do you're a fool. Maybe you think that it should be that way but I'm not even sure there's any point discussing that hypothetical. Fundamentally a campaign is an adversary process, like a courtroom; it's not a civics lesson. Each side puts the other to its test. And there's very little I've seen from the Clinton camp that would seem like anything but garden variety political hardball if it were coming from Hillary or other Clinton surrogates rather than Bill Clinton.

I hear from a lot of Obama supporters that that may be how it's been. But Obama is about the 'new politics'. But this is no different from what Bill Bradley was saying in 2000. And it was as bogus then as it is now. Beyond that there is an undeniable undercurrent in what you hear from Obama supporters that he is too precious a plant -- a generational opportunity for a transformative presidency -- to be submitted to this sort of knockabout political treatment. That strikes me as silly and arrogant, if for no other reason that the Republicans will not step aside for Obama's transcendence either.

I want the Democrat to win. I'll vote for Obama or Clinton or Edwards happily and hope for the best. But I confess that I believe Obama has stated either  a) naive or b) disingenuous expectations about changing the hearts of Republican voters. I don't mean about race. Unity and reconciliation have not been hallmarks of the GOP since, oh, about 1955.

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