Merely The 44th President
It is not for me to be a defender of Bill Clinton (who as president made many mistakes, especially in this regard), a role Chris Matthews lately has taken on with a vengeance. (Matthews loves the staunch support the Clintons have been giving to President Obama). But sometimes the past ought to be revisited.
Campaigning for his wife in January, 2008 between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, former President Clinton- according to ABC's Jake Tapper under the headline "Bill Seems Flustered"_
Second, it is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, numerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, 'Well, how could you say, that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war and you took that speech you're now running on off your website in 2004 and there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since?' Give me a break.
"This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen...So you can talk about Mark Penn all you want. What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the Senator from Punjab? Did you like that?"
Not surprisingly, Senator Majority Whip Richard Durbin, Senator Obama's colleague from Illinois in the United States Senate and an ardent support of Obama, differed:
I’m really troubled by his questioning the sincerity of Barack Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq. I really think it is unfortunate to question Barack’s sincerity on the war. He has been there from the start, opposing this war.
A fellow named Gene Byrd blogged on 1/8/08 "Poor Bubba! He sounds like a fool and is such a poor example of how an ex-president should behave." Further, he quoted CNN's Jessica Yellin defending candidate Obama, who noted "he has previously said he did not support the war" and maintained that Senator Obama made the comments Clinton referred to largely because he did not want to contract his party's nominee, John Kerry.
Even the reliable and presumably objective CBS News weighed in with an "analysis," contending "When Bill Clinton referred to Obama's claims of consistent opposition to the war in Iraq as "the biggest fairy tale that I have ever seen," many blacks heard more than policy criticism. They heard a dismissive attack on the first black with a real chance of winning the White House. They heard echoes of racial battles of the past. And they heard it from someone who was supposed to be on their side."
It is difficult to assess the sincerity of Senator Obama when he opposed the Iraq war- or when he supported it. Still, it is nearly 17 months since he assumed the presidency; 90,000 American soldiers are still in Iraq, the political and cultural system in that nation remains unstable, and it is looking increasingly likely that State Senator Obama, who delivered the famous speech opposing the war, was awfully fortunate that he represented a very liberal Chicago district. Had he not, he likely would not have delivered the speech and would not have been the Democratic nominee.
Although he doubtless would refuse to admit it now, Bill Clinton had a legitimate point in early 2008. But the larger problem was the easy tendency to resort to the race card. CBS News said "many blacks heard more than policy criticism. They heard a dismissive attack on the first black with a real chance of winning the White House. They heard echoes of racial battles of the past. And they heard it from someone who was supposed to be on their side." "Many blacks" here can be interpreted as "and we think they're right."
Have we come much further since this "historic" election? Consider this from fivethirtyeight.com, commenting on the decision by South Carolina Democrats not to challenge the victory in the U.S. Senate primary of political unknown Alvin Greene:
In any case, the SC Dems probably figured that in the absence of proof, or Greene coming forward to drop out, there was no way to dislodge Greene, an African American and a vet, and make Rawl, who is white, the winner. Had they tried to do so there could have been long-term problems within the party, given the race of the two candidates--whether or not Rep. Jim Clyburn's supported some sort of investigation or recount or ruling. More broadly, the SC Dems probably resigned themselves to the fact that this wasn't a fight worth fighting against a Republican incumbent with plenty of money in a conservative state in what is expected to be a bad Democratic year anyway.
The Democratic Party- not the party frightened to replace its inept national committee chairman because he's black- will not try "to dislodge" the African American candidate because "had they tried to do so there would have been long-term problems within the Party, given the race of the two candidates." Party leaders are afraid they would be charged with racism- even though the dominant political figure in the state party is black (and the third ranking member of the U.S. House delegation).
As Will Bunch, in the wake of the President's speech this week pertaining to BP, explained
Look (as Obama is famous for saying), it's just a bad idea for people who care about this country or thir political ideals to put their faith in any one man. That's as true for conservatives and George W. Bush (or Ronald Reagan) as it is for liberals and Barack Obama (or John F. Kennedy). They will always disappoint us -- just some more than others.
Barack Obama was sold as a transcendent figure, someone Americans could "put their faith in"; or, as the campaign put it, "change we can believe in." But as events from Iraq to South Carolina have since demonstrated, Senator Obama was merely the superior candidate with the far superior running mate. That may prove good enough, but to have imagined anything more was foolish and self-delusional.
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