Friday, April 25, 2008

Clinton, Obama and Negative Campaigning

Just as there is a "Fog of War", the "Fog of Campaigning" can also breed short (and at times false) memories.

Geoff Garin claims that there has been "one campaign...that has been mean-spirited" and "unfair" and that it is "not ours".

Garin, who seems to be a genuine and decent professional who has been dropped to the helm of a listing ship, attempts to right it not by changing the direction of the boat, but by trying to reverse reality around it.

Let's take a look:

Clinton at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Speech:

"I'm not interested in attacking my opponents, I'm interested in attacking the problems of America. And I believe we should be turning up the heat on the Republicans -- they deserve all the heat we can give them."

November, 2007:

New York Times:
"Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, which is now attacking Senator Barack Obama on a daily basis." [New York Times, 11/30/07]

MSNBC: "Another day, another Clinton campaign knock on Obama." [First Read, 11/29/07]

December 2007 (leading to the January 6 Iowa primary, including the notorious use of an essay that he wrote in Kindergarten):

Chicago Tribune: "This Clinton Attack On Obama Could Boomerang." "The Clinton people are citing a kindergarten essay by Obama as evidence against him in a presidential campaign. Good thing he was born before widespread pre-natal ultrasounds. Who knows how they might've used that against him? Clinton's people have thrown similar jabs before at Obama but it hasn't fazed him. So their seems to be a little more fury behind the punches as now that Obama's may have taken the lead in Iowa according to the Des Moines Register's most recent poll." [Chicago Tribune, The Swamp, 12/3/07]

Washington Post: "Losing Ground In Iowa, Clinton Assails Obama." "With a new poll showing her losing ground in the Iowa caucus race, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) mounted a new, more aggressive attack against Sen. Barack Obama." [Washington Post, 12/3/07]

New York Daily News: "Hillary Clinton Attack On Barack Obama Comes After She Loses Iowa Lead." "Hours after a new poll showed her falling behind for the first time in Iowa, Hillary Clinton launched a blistering personal broadside on rival Barack Obama." [New York Daily News, 12/3/07]

New York Times: "An Attack, From the Candidate's Mouth" [New York Times, 12/2/07]

New York Times: "Battered by Poll, Clinton Hits Back" [New York Times, 12/2/07]

Clinton Release: "In kindergarten, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled 'I Want to Become President. 'Iis Darmawan, 63, Senator Obama's kindergarten teacher, remembers him as an exceptionally tall and curly haired child who quickly picked up the local language and had sharp math skills. He wrote an essay titled, 'I Want To Become President,' the teacher said." [AP, 1/25/07]

And what did the voters think?

Which Candidate is the most negative?

Hillary Clinton 21%
John Edwards 9%
Dennis Kucinich 9%
Barack Obama 8%
Joe Biden 3%
Mike Gravel 3%
Christopher Dodd 3%
Bill Richardson 3%
None/Not sure 43%

Source: The Iowa Poll
[Des Moines Register, 12/2/07]

What about after Iowa? She surely must have changed her tactics then...

After Iowa Loss, Clinton Ramps Up Attacks:
January 06, 2008

AP: "Hillary Clinton Comes Out Swinging, Politeness Lost Along With Iowa Caucuses" [AP, 1/6/08]

Los Angeles Times: "Clinton lets arrows fly at Obama"..."Staggered by her third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, the New York senator was the aggressor throughout a 90-minute session" [LA Times, 1/6/08]

Washington Post: "Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton tried repeatedly to knock Sen. Barack Obama off his footing during a high-stakes debate here on Saturday night" [Washington Post, 1/6/08]

AP: "Clinton criticizes Obama in NH mailer" [AP, 1/5/08]

Newsday: "Clinton sharpens attack on Obama" [Newsday, 1/5/08]

Reuters: "Obama under attack ahead of New Hampshire debates" [Reuters, 1/5/08]

Newsday: "After weeks of playing nice in Iowa, the Clinton camp sharpened their elbows when the campaign went wheels-down in New Hampshire, readying TV ads targeting Obama that were expected to focus on health care and his legislative record." [Newsday, 1/4/08]

Washington Post: But she and her aides also signaled their intention to now ratchet up the race, aggressively countering Obama in the five days ahead. She is also now planning to draw even sharper distinctions between herself and Obama on the question of change, after watching voters who wanted a new direction select her main rival for the nomination on Thursday night. [Washington Post, 1/4/08]

Well...that must have been just a momentary reaction to January's surprising defeat. She surely didn't continue that strategy...

The State:
"Clinton camp hits Obama -- Attacks 'painful' for black voters. Many in state offended by criticism of Obama, remarks about King" [1/12/08]

New York Times: "Clinton's Campaign Sees Value In Keeping Former President In Attack Mode" [1/25/08]

Greenville News: Ex-Democratic Official Criticizes Clintons' Attacks On Obama [1/23/08]

First Read: "Clinton Justifies War Vote, Hits Obama" [1/13/08]

Politico: "Hillary Clinton attacks Barack Obama" [1/13/08]

Perhaps it became more substantive and dignified in February:

Feb 25, 2008
2008 Presidential Election
Clinton Circulates Pic of Obama in Somali Garb: Report

For some, Barack Obama's "Hussein" middle name has been something worth picking on. For others, it has been pushing the unsubstantiated rumor (debunked by Snopes) that Obama is or was a "radical Muslim." But this - this is truly low. ..Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams said, "If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed."

CNN: "Clinton Sharpens Attacks On Obama" [CNN, 2/14/08]

Concord Monitor: "Clinton Attack Still Riles Some" [2/4/08]

Guardian Unlimited: "Clinton Goes On Attack As Obama Closes Gap" [2/3/08]


The Politico, Ben Smith, March 2:

"A weird moment of TV, partially captured in the clip above. Clinton denies she thinks Obama's a Muslim, but her denial seems something other than ironclad, and the interviewer goes back at her on the question...

“You said you'd take Senator Obama at his word that he's not…a Muslim. You don't believe that he's…,” Kroft said.

“No. No, there is nothing to base that on. As far as I know,” she said."


MSNBC: April 14: Clinton Attacks Obama On Air

Sun-Sentinal: April 22: Clinton Attacks, Obama Hopes.

And what of the recent words of Mr. Garin himself?

From the April 20 Meet the Press:

MR. AXELROD: ...Did you not put a negative ad on this weekend in Philadelphia? The--100 percent negative ad attacking Senator Obama?

MR. GARIN: No. I don’t believe we did.

MR. AXELROD: Yeah, you did. Go back and check with your people, and it was, it’s an ad on lobbying, and it’s circulating...

MR. GARIN: It’s not. It, it ends up, I believe, with...

MR. AXELROD: No, no, it’s 100 percent negative ad, Geoff. Go back and ask your people. I understand you’re new in the campaign, and I love you, man, you’re a good friend of mine. I know you to be a good, positive person.

MR. GARIN: Right.

MR. AXELROD: But I think that there’s some vestiges of the old regime still in place.

MR. GARIN: Well, look, when, when, when...

(Garin never answers this question--Axelrod later in broadcast: "The—well, first of all, that’s what’s in your negative ad that you didn’t know about in Philadelphia.")

Note: This of course leaves self-inflicted attacks (i.e. sniper fire) aside. Incidentally, while I have known people to err when they are tired (for example to say "sniker" instead of "sniper"), I have never seen anyone invent and repeat an entire episode that did not occur as a result of exhaustion--although, of course, this commonly does occur when people are completely asleep.

Hendrik Hertzberg, in the New Yorker's "Campaign Trail" this past week has noted the tragic and inevitable game here, whereby Obama, who has tried to run a different type of campaign--explicitly principled and positive--has been drawn into defense by the incessant attack.

This attempt to now flip and revise history in this very fundamental manner is something that we have seen in our recent Presidential past--and is something that should give us pause.