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Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The NYT has a nice slideshow retrospective of the primary campaign

Bill's pissed about that article I excerpted about him (not at me I hope!). The article did seem a bit shady and one sided, so at first I was ready to take his side:
Former President Bill Clinton today unleashed a salty stream of epithets to describe former New York Times reporter and current Vanity Fair writer Todd Purdum, calling him "sleazy," "dishonest," "slimy" and a "scumbag."

"[He's] sleazy," he said referring to Purdum. "He's a really dishonest reporter. And one of our guys talked to him . . . And I haven't read [the article]. There's just five or six blatant lies in there. But he's a real slimy guy," the former president said.

When I reminded him that Purdum was married to his former press spokesperson Myers, Clinton was undeterred.

"That's all right-- he's still a scumbag," Clinton said. " Let me tell ya-- he's one of the guys -- he's one of the guys that brought out all those lies about Whitewater to Kenneth Starr. He's just a dishonest guy-- can't help it."

But then he veered into attacking Obama (wtf?):

It's the most biased press coverage in history. It's another way of helping Obama. They had all these people standing up in this church cheering, calling Hillary a white racist, and he didn't do anything about it. The first day he said 'Ah, ah, ah well.' Because that's what they do-- he gets other people to slime her. So then they saw the movie they thought this is a great ad for John McCain-- maybe I better quit the church. It's all politics. It's all about the bias of the media for Obama. Don't think anything about it."

"But I'm telling ya, all it's doing is driving her supporters further and further away-- because they know exactly what it is-- this has been the most rigged coverage in modern history-- and the guy ought to be ashamed of himself. But he has no shame. It isn't the first dishonest piece he's written about me or her."

I can't even tell who he's talking about... Obama or Purdum. It seems like he's just lashing out in general, which would seem to corroborate the notion that Bill's a bit of a loose cannon these days.

Josh Marshal remarks:
there's one subnugget of this nugget that grabbed my attention. I think the most revealing thing about this quote is that Bill refers to the youtube viral video of Rev. Pfleger as "the movie." In a sense, of course, this is just a triviality of word choice; he's a little out of touch with the lingo. But for me -- maybe just the personal prism through which I see the drama -- it communicates the larger truth: that Bill is a man out of his time, out of his element, which is something painful to watch and must be a unique agony for him to experience.

Bill Clinton was on so many levels the master of the politics of the 1980s and 1990s, the magic with words and connection with people, intuitively sizing up the tempo and undercurrents of the political moment. Hate him or love him, I think anybody with a feel for politics knew this. And I loved him.

I don't mean to write his epitaph. He's obviously got the same shrewdness and political canniness on many levels. But again and again through this cycle, in little ways and big, he's shown he's not quite in sync with this political era, doesn't quite grasp the new mechanics -- both the ideological texture and the nuts and bolts of the networked news cycle. Attacks have backfired. And while Clinton's emotions and impulsiveness have always been key to his character and political sensibility, whereas in the past it was him riding the tiger of his outsized personality and passions, now it's the tiger riding him.

If you step back from the carnage and electricity of this nomination battle, you see a vast drama that compares in its own way with any other in modern American history. And part of that shows you that it's on the Democrats' side of the aisle today that the questions roiling the country are being hashed out and decided. But if I were a novelist, it's not Obama or Hillary but Bill, in the current moment, who would fire my imagination. Perhaps some hybrid of Arthur Miller and William Faulkner, fresh from the cloning laboratories, could put it all together on paper. The incandescent rage, the political master just out of touch with the moment. The level of his investment in Hillary's campaign (on any number of novel-bearing levels) is palpable and not fully explained by anything as mundane as the hunger for power or as simple as guilt. And yet the circumstances of the race have forced him to stand just off-stage, where he's close enough to interfere but not to control or direct. It must be a unique kind of hell for him.

Obama is a bit less "off the cuff:"

"He is an intensely serious guy whose identity and behavior and tone is pretty rigid, and that's fine," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic consultant who once worked for former President Bill Clinton and is now unaffiliated with either Democratic candidate. "The first rule of politics is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

This might account for the careful manner in which Mr. Obama frames his attacks on Mr. McCain.

Mr. Obama sets up his political jabs with a to-be-sure-my-opponent-is-not-a-knave disclaimer. He reminds his audiences that Mr. McCain, of Arizona, is a war hero, and he honors his service. (That Mr. Obama's tone sometimes suggests that Mr. McCain, 71, might have been a Civil War veteran is surely coincidental.)

When a question is raised about Mr. McCain's recent, incorrect assertion that the number of American troops in Iraq is at "pre-surge levels," Mr. Obama waves his hand magnanimously. Everyone, he tells listeners, makes a slip of the tongue.

At this point Mr. Obama slips the rhetorical shiv into his rival.

"The problem is that John McCain can't admit he made a slip, and we've seen this movie before," Mr. Obama told an audience in Great Falls, Mont. "Just like George Bush, John McCain refuses to admit a mistake."

Mr. Obama's advisers argue, gamely if implausibly, that he has not dipped his cup into a partisan well. "I don't look at it as partisanship," said Robert Gibbs, Mr. Obama's communications director. "I look at it as a difference of philosophy."

In style of dress, Mr. Obama ends as he started: a studiously formal fellow. When he bowled in Pennsylvania, he did so in a white shirt and tie. (This added to the derision over his low bowling score.) When he visited Mount Rushmore last Saturday evening, no reporter was much surprised to see him strolling through the inky darkness in his suit jacket with his tie knotted just so.

There is, however, good reason for a candidate to be a careful custodian of his image. As Mr. Obama, 46, is a young man by the standards of presidential politics, the formal lends gravitas.

And the list of presidential candidates who have tried midcampaign image makeovers is a long and unfortunate one, filled with formal politicians who try flannel shirts and wonkish governors who push Army helmets down over their hair.

The more successful candidates, from Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt through Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, tend to comfortably inhabit a single, consistent personality.

Ted takes it in stride:
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — After investigating his options with his trademark intensity, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy underwent 3 1/2 hours of risky and exquisitely delicate surgery Monday to cut out as much of his cancerous brain tumor as possible. "I feel like a million bucks. I think I'll do that again tomorrow," the 76-year-old Massachusetts Democrat was quoted by a family spokeswoman as telling his wife immediately afterward.

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