Some Former Clinton Aides Backing Obama over Hillary

Last week I noted how many of the new Democratic voters brought into the party by Bill Clinton are supporting Barack Obama as opposed to Hillary Clinton. Today The Boston Globe reports that many ex-Clinton aides are supporting Obama despite the Clinton history of bypassing those who backed opponents for government positions.

In interviews this week, half a dozen Obama supporters with Clinton roots said they see the 46-year-old, first-term Illinois senator as the face of the future and the best hope for the party. While they don’t directly criticize Clinton, they said that another Clinton presidency would not represent enough of a change in American politics or its image in the world. Some also said she is too divisive to beat the Republican nominee or to govern effectively.

“One of the chief things that would energize a very dispirited Republican Party is Hillary Clinton on the ticket,” said Eric Holder, who was second-in-command at the Justice Department in the late 1990s and who likens Obama to John F. Kennedy.

Holder said Clinton’s high negative ratings are a result of Republican attacks, not her own doing. “I say this with sadness, but it is nevertheless a reality,” he said. “My feelings of loyalty are outweighed by my concern about the world my kids are going to live in.”

Most of those who served during her husband’s two terms are supporting Clinton, her campaign says. They include former secretaries of state Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright – who is stumping for Clinton in New Hampshire today – former chiefs of staff John Podesta and Erskine Bowles, former secretary of the interior Bruce Babbitt, former secretary of energy Hazel O’Leary and economic adviser Gene Sperling.

Members of Clinton’s own White House staff, who have long called themselves “Hillaryland,” are also famously devoted to her. They include her campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, policy director Neera Tanden, and top advisers Ann Lewis and Maggie Williams.

“Senator Clinton is honored by the tremendous support she’s received from hundreds of former Clinton administration officials and employees she has known for decades,” campaign spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said yesterday.

A few Clinton alumni have joined other Democratic campaigns, including Miles Lackey, a former National Security Council member advising John Edwards, and Doug Sosnik, a top Clinton aide who is advising Chris Dodd. Both Lackey and Sosnik have longstanding ties to the candidates they are supporting.

But some of the former Clinton administration officials, including Peña, Danzig, and Myers, didn’t know Obama before they considered joining his campaign. Rather, they were inspired by his appeal to optimism and call for less division in politics. Several people said they were deeply moved by his autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” and his celebrated speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.

Some also cited his youth as a plus, saying it is time for a new generation to take power. At 46, he is the youngest major party presidential candidate. Clinton turns 60 tomorrow.

“He’s a thoughtful, youthful new voice with a new vision for finding common ground, rather than finding a reason for conflict and difference,” said Greg Craig, who defended Bill Clinton against impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky scandal and now advises Obama on foreign policy. “I think he represents the future and everybody else in this election is more of same of the past.”

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