Friday 25 January 2008

Ssshhh!!! No criticism aloud

Bill Clinton is rapidly breaking one political tradition after another. In running to become the "First Lad," the gloves have come off. We had indications of this in New Hampshire in the dark days after the Iowa defeat, but the accusations are becoming shriller and shriller - and being reported by the national media.

Maureen Dowd's Two Against One Op-Ed in the NY Times on 23/01 puts it really well: "If Bill Clinton has to trash his legacy to protect his legacy, so be it. If he has to put a dagger through the heart of hope to give Hillary hope, so be it." Daniel Fears ran a piece in the Washington Post today: Black America Feels the Sting of Ex-President's Comments picking up on some reactions to his latest round of comments.

More than anything, this reflects that we've arrived at the really competitive stage of the Democratic primaries. The attack culture of national politics has become reflex action, for this first time deployed to this extent against by members of the Democratic party against each other. This does not bode well for the real campaign, which will eventually require the entire Democratic Party to unite behind a single candidate. We can easily see that this will be the most caustic, and most expensive, campaign in modern history.

I'm also wondering if the Clintons aren't a bit behind the curve on civil rights politics marketing (sorry for this cynical term) and the whole "who did more" thing? Log onto Hillary Clinton's campaign website, and tell me if you can find anything about civil rights on her Issues page. As of today, there's nothing, but maybe that will change. In contrast, Barack Obama's website has Civil Rights displayed as the first item on his Issues page, with enough practical ideas, detail and background to be plausible. Senator Clinton, it's time to update your site.

As for Bill, who knows what to think? I haven't seen actual transcripts, only secondary reports of what people heard or think they've heard. If he had said the same things about George Bush or John McCain, would this be an issue? Hard to tell. How the Democratic candidates got from Martin Luther King to LBJ to the current competition to see who is more pro-civil rights is beyond me: you only see this kind of thing in politics.

But, the impression is clear. As I said in a previous post, Bill is looking less and less like the grey-haired former statesman and more and more like a "nasty daddy." If I were him, I would focus on the positive reasons why Hillary should be elected, and leave rebuttals to a campaign member. As Caesar said at the divorce proceedings of his wife, Calpurnia, in 61 BC "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion."

Bill, that would be you in this simile. Take the weekend off, go fishing, catch up on sleep, and come back to work on Monday, ready to solve the world's problems. Sleep is good, exhaustion is bad, and the truth will out in time.

And remember, no criticism aloud! (allowed)

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