Clinton Smear Campaign Backfires

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qqd2dfjl2pw]

Yesterday I discussed the manner in which the Clintons have used race in the campaign and this is demonstrated yet again in the video above. The spin from Bill Clinton is that Barack Obama won in South Carolina because he is black, like Jesse Jackson. They continue to push this in their response:

Clinton campaign strategists denied any intentional effort to stir the racial debate. But they said they believe the fallout has had the effect of branding Obama as “the black candidate,” a tag that could hurt him outside the South.

Andrew Sullivan comments:

In a simple phrase: “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice”. Listen to it yourself. I’m not making that up.

I don’t think there can be any doubt about the Clintons’ racial strategy now. The people of South Carolina just rejected that logic by voting for Obama – white and black, male and female – in a diverse coalition in the face of a deliberate attempt at racial polarization. They threw the Clintons’ logic back in their faces. Kudos to Josh for noticing this. It’s revealing, and depressing.

The exit polls show that Obama won 52% of the non-black vote among voters under 30, with this percentage dropping as voters got older. Exit polls also show that the net result of the Clinton smear campaign was to hurt Hillary. Voters who made up their minds in the last three days, when there has been increased coverage of the attacks, overwhelmingly backed Obama. “Twenty percent of South Carolina Democrats made their decision in the last three days and 51 percent of them chose Obama, while only 21 percent picked Clinton.”

With all the talk the last few weeks about how Obama was expected to win South Carolina, it is often forgotten that Hillary Clinton had a strong lead in the state in late November. Clinton’s support dropped from 40% to 29% over 6 weeks while Obama’s support jumped from 28% to 43%. Movement in the final days gave his victory with 55% of the vote.

Bill Clinton once again tried to deny that he has been engaging in a smear campaign claiming, “My message has been 99.9% positive for 100% of this campaign.” Joe Gandelman does an excellent job of debunking this claim.

Colbert I King combines Bill and Hillary into Billary and provides a long list of examples of how “Billary will say and do anything to come out ahead.” Among the items on his list:

Billary loves to whine about the “politics of personal destruction.” But Billary’s campaign has taken to the low road, running ads falsely accusing Obama of supporting federal deficits and private Social Security accounts, and distorting his position on hot-button issues such as abortion. Newark Mayor Corey Booker, who branded the attacks “outrageous” and “dishonest,” told Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter: “We’re trying to offer an alternative to the Republicans’ fear and smear campaigns, and now we’re being dragged down to their level by the Clintons.”

Jonathan Chait asks Is The Right Right on The Clintons?

Something strange happened the other day. All these different people — friends, co-workers, relatives, people on a liberal e-mail list I read — kept saying the same thing: They’ve suddenly developed a disdain for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Maybe this is just a coincidence, but I think we’ve reached an irrevocable turning point in liberal opinion of the Clintons.

The sentiment seems to be concentrated among Barack Obama supporters. Going into the campaign, most of us liked Hillary Clinton just fine, but the fact that tens of millions of Americans are seized with irrational loathing for her suggested that she might not be a good Democratic nominee. But now that loathing seems a lot less irrational. We’re not frothing Clinton haters like … well, name pretty much any conservative. We just really wish they’d go away.

The big turning point seems to be this week, when the Clintons slammed Obama for acknowledging that Ronald Reagan changed the country. Everyone knows Reagan changed the country. Bill and Hillary have said he changed the country. But they falsely claimed that Obama praised Reagan’s ideas, saying he was a better president than Clinton — something he didn’t say and surely does not believe.

This might have been the most egregious case, but it wasn’t the first. Before the New Hampshire primaries, Clinton supporters e-mailed pro-choice voters claiming that Obama was suspect on abortion rights because he had voted “present” instead of “no” on some votes. (In fact, the president of the Illinois chapter of Planned Parenthood said she had coordinated strategy with Obama and wanted him to vote “present.”) Recently, there have been waves of robocalls in South Carolina repeatedly attacking “Barack Hussein Obama.”

I crossed the Clinton Rubicon a couple of weeks ago when, in the course of introducing Hillary, Clinton supporter and Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson invoked Obama’s youthful drug use. This was disgusting on its own terms, but worse still if you know anything about Johnson. I do — I once wrote a long profile of him. He has a sleazy habit of appropriating the logic of civil rights for his own financial gain. He also has a habit of aiding conservative crusades to eliminate the estate tax and privatize Social Security by falsely claiming they redistribute wealth from African Americans to whites. The episode reminded me of the Clintons’ habit of surrounding themselves with the most egregious characters: Dick Morris, Marc Rich and so on.

The Clinton campaign is trying to make it seem as if the complaint is about negativity, and it is pointing out that Obama has criticized Hillary as well. That’s what politicians are supposed to do when they compete for votes. But criticism isn’t the same thing as lying and sleaze-mongering.

Clinton still has the edge in the polls going into Super Tuesday, but momentum does seem to be on Obama’s side–especially if there continues to be a backlash against the Clinton smear campaign.

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5 Comments

  1. 1
    capt says:

    Backfires

    As it should. It is really up to the people whether they accept or support the kind of thing offered by each candidate.

    That being said, I wonder if BHO wins the nomination will Bill campaign with/for BHO (for the good of the party)?

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    My bet is that he will at least make a show of supporting Obama, primarily to try to salvage his reputation.

  3. 3
    capt says:

    Would BHO be out of line to say “no thanks”?

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Depending upon how toxic Bill Clinton becomes in the rest of the nomination battle, it is certainly possible that Clinton will no longer be useful. In that case I suspect Obama would thank him for his endorsement but not have him be any more involved than that.

  5. 5
    Bills Girls says:

    Watch this video of Bill Clinton and his girlfriends. Don’t let this guy back in the White House. Keep Obamas campaign going. Contribute today.
    http://www.obamascampaign.org

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