Since Iowa was a week ad some away, the Clintons (both – Hillary and Bill) have been using every trick in the book to try and upset the Obama campaign. When Obama came up trumps in Iowa, the Clinton campaign turned to Bill to bust out the dirty tricks. Yes, the campaign has been hiding behind the somewhat untouchable former president, who has been slinging mud at Obama around the country.
A lot of what he has said are mis-truths and misrepresentations of the ‘facts’ Bill says he is quoting. It has taken some wind out of the Obama sails as he has had to defend his record while continuing to stump for votes.
Now Bill Clinton is a president I really do respect. I think he will be one of the best I ever see (the best if Obama doesn’t make office I suspect) in my life, and I respect him for that. But if he is going to play dirty, I would totally understand if Obama came out to attack the Clintons. And for some time, he didn’t. He obviously thought he could fight the clean fight and win. When he lost out in New Hampshire and Nevada, he must have realised he couldn’t do it, and has gone on the attack.
Now it’s not easy attacking a former president who is so well regarded by the public, and especially by the people you are trying to get votes from. But Obama has, for the past few days, really done it well. I’ll quote David Axelrod, senior campaign adviser, for full effect:
“[The Clintons] have a good cop, bad cop thing going [in which] he comes with a negative message she stays positive.”
“It’s very clear that Bill Clinton is playing fast and loose with the facts. It’s been a little crass, as someone who supported him and respects him, I think it’s disappointing.”
“As long as he’s out there, we aren’t going to let him distort the record. We’ll aggressively challenge him when he misrepresents the facts.”
“If he wants to help his wife, just be honest — don’t parse words, don’t truncate quotes to make your case.”
“You know the former president, who I think all of us have a lot of regard for, has taken the advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think if pretty troubling. He continues to make statements that are not supported by the facts – whether it’s about my record of opposition to the war in Iraq or our approach to organising in Las Vegas. This has become a habit, and one of the things that we’re going to have to do is directly confront Bill Clinton when he’s making statements that are not factually accurate.”
The gloves are off. And it’s about time. This was always going to turn into a dirty race between the two, and it was just a matter of time until someone’s dam broke. But the person who started it was always going to fare the worst. Thankfully, Obama kept himself morally superior for longer, and this fact should be pushed by his campaign. But don’t get away from calling out Clinton lies – it needs to be done by someone. If it’s Obama, it might get really bad between the two, and the voters lose all regard for the both of them. That’s why Bill Clinton is such an asset – he can say what he wants, when he wants, and no one is prepared to touch him. As I reported a while ago, John Kerry endorsed Obama, so maybe he is the sort of person to do it. And unless someone bigger, brighter, better, and more popular (*cough* Al Gore) decided to help out, then Kerry is about as senior a person as you are going to get.
Either way, it should make for an interesting campaign ahead, and an interesting few days with South Carolina on the horizon.