Joe Klein on The Rejection of the Smear Campaign

Joe Klein has some comments on the repudiation of the Clinton smear campaign in South Carolina:

Make no mistake: What happened in South Carolina today was a moral reprimand delivered to Bill and Hillary Clinton by a united Democratic Party–but especially by the African-American segment of that party.

I chased the Clintons around South Carolina yesterday and the absence of black faces at their rallies was striking–eerie almost, the absence a palpable presence, as if the rooms were filled with ghosts. In Penn Center on St. Helena Island, which has been a historic nexus of the civil rights movement going back to the civil war–a place where Martin Luther King Jr would sometimes go to live in a rude cabin, and to write and think–Bill Clinton looked out on a lily-white crowd and he must have known what he was seeing: a silent, decorous protest against him by a segment of the Democratic Party that was always there for him in the past, the churchified African-American middle class, a group that represents the Democrats’ canary in the coal mine when it comes to injustice.

A mass, unspoken decision had been made that Bill and Hillary Clinton had behaved unjustly toward Barack Obama. It was the sort of decision that Bill Clinton might have tried to argue with, if it had come from the presss: “Hell, that Reagan thing…c’mon that’s the kind of thing Republicans do to us all the time. Barack’s gonna have to get used to it if he wants to play in the big leagues…” Except he had pulled the Reagan thing–trying to make it seem as if Obama had said that Reagan’s ideas were better ideas–with the wrong audience…and I don’t just mean black people, I mean an entire political party sick of games-playing.

This might be the key lesson from this primary campaign. Republicans might have gotten away with these tactics, but many Democrats do not want to wind up with a choice of two parties behaving equally bad.

It may well be true that any Democrat is going to have to handle that sort of sewage in the general election, but I’ve now–belatedly!–figured out that the real audacity in Barack Obama’s campaign–far more than his positions on the issues, which almost seem an afterthought–is his outrageous belief that the entire country, not just Democrats, wants to see a straight up election; that the entire country is tired of the pestilence of tactical tricks that the Clintons learned from their co-dynasts, the Bushes. (The latest example being their sudden, sociopathic emphasis on the importance of the Florida primary, a contest all three candidates had agreed to eschew at the behest of the Democatic National Committee.)

It is a hell of a bet Obama has made. And nearly 40 years of political, uhm, experience tells me that it isn’t a very wise one…but I must also say that it is truly sad to see Bill and Hillary Clinton on the wrong side of it.

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  1. 1
    rawdawgbuffalo says:

    HC is the political cruella DeVille. We know she doesnt mean it…besides she cant even do her stumpin’ with out Billy….she needs as all of the horses in the race, to focus on education, iraq, and the econonmy….the stimulus is a farce…
    (the midas touch) …regardless i feel for who ever wins this horse race (poor mr or mrs next president)

  2. 2
    battlebob says:

    Bubba was uncontrollable as governor and president. It is always about him. If we think he is bad now, just wait and see what happens if Hillary wins the nomination.
    If the choice is between Hillary and McCain, I might vote for McCain. Hillary and Bill may be the most dishonest political couple ever. McCain is a nut job and is selling what little self respect he has left to the Christian right. I still think he has a tiny shred of honesty left; which is more then the Clintons’ have.

  3. 3
    Gauk says:

    If Hillary gets away with getting delegates from Florida its all over for unity in the democratic party. I have faith that the good Lord will see Obama through this battle and truth will prevail

  4. 4
    Richard says:

    “the entire country is tired of the pestilence of tactical tricks that the Clintons learned from their co-dynasts, the Bushes.”

    HE doesn’t like it??? Wow, what do those jerks think WE have been complaining about all this time???? The Clintons have peed in our soup for too long and I am glad to see them take their lumps now!

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