Congressional Insiders on Electability

The National Journal presents a Congressional Insiders Poll which asks “Which Democratic presidential candidate would do better against John McCain in November?” Among Democrats, Obama leads 54% to 41%. This is the number which is more significant in analyzing a Democratic nomination battle, but the results from Republicans might be more interesting. Clinton beats Obama 53% to 45%. This isn’t really very surprising. The Republicans see the strongest candidate as the one who most represents their values and uses their tactics.

Clinton is the New Rove

Just when it seems like Clinton has gone as low as possible against a candidate from one’s own party, Clinton manages to dig deeper into the mud. Thomas Edsall reports that Clinton is again attacking Obama from the right while trying to pass the blame off onto Karl Rove:

A high-ranking labor supporter of Hillary Clinton is distributing to union leaders and to Democratic strategists a document detailing the radical activities of Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, two former members of the ’70s group the Weather Underground, who decades later, in Chicago, crossed paths with Barack Obama.

The document – a three-page emailed essay by Rick Sloan, communications director for the International Association of Machinists as Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) — takes both literary and political license to outline what Sloan believes would be the thrust of a hypothetical Republican campaign against Obama focusing on his tangential connection to Ayers and Dohrn.

The goal of the essay appears to be to discredit Obama as the prospective Democratic presidential nominee.

Undoubtedly realizing that the risk that such a negative attack will again hurt Clinton, Sloan tries to justify this by blaming the Republicans for his own actions:

“The drip, drip, drip of Republican opposition research will continue throughout the summer. At the Republican Convention, speakers will joke about a color spectrum of light pink to deep red. And the GOP attack machine will publicize the visual that Rove believes will give that Ayers-Obama link ‘power and force.’

“Rove’s frame for the fall campaign will be filled with revolutionary figures — Marx, Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara. His audio tapes of Ayers, Dohrn and other Weathermen will provide the screams of revolution. The bombing of the US Capitol, the Pentagon and the US State Department will serve as b-roll for his television ads that will have one final visual asthe announcer gravely intones ‘Their Change — Not What You Had In Mind’.”

It is not Karl Rove or the Republicans who are doing this. It is Hillary Clinton and her supporters. I have to agree with Joe Gandelman that Ed Morrissey gets it right here:

Well, this is really convenient, isn’t it? Not only can they indulge in what they call McCarthyism, they can blame their bete noir Karl Rove for it before he even utters a word. This frees up both Democratic contenders to fling as much mud at each other under the WWKD concept. We can call it pre-emptive McCarthyism, another great concept in campaigning from the people who brought us the vast right-wing conspiracy

Meanwhile, the real Karl Rove can sit on the sidelines while the Democrats diminish themselves at the speed of light in an orgy of hypocrisy. That’s what this really is — a way to campaign hard while blaming others for the damage it causes, as hypocritical an effort as one will ever see in politics.

Clinton has learned the wrong lesson from her battles with the vast right-wing conspiracy. When Clinton repeatedly uses these dishonest tactics this is no longer only Rove-style politics. It is now Clinton-style politics. She is fooling no one, beyond her own supporters, when she justifies such tactics with claims that this is what the Republicans will do. Clinton is the new Rove.

Stephanopoulos 1993 vs. Stephanopoulos 2008

There’s been a lot of controversy over the type of questions asked in the last Democratic debate. Basically conservatives (as well as similar thinking Clinton supporters) who are obsessed with nonsense like the views of those Obama associates with, even if not held by Obama, or that patriotism is determined by wearing a flag pin, defended the debate. Those of us who believe that this is a pack of nonsense and want to see politics move beyond such wedge issues objected to the debate.

Yesterday a group of journalists wrote a letter critical of the debate:

We, the undersigned, deplore the conduct of ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson at the Democratic Presidential debate on April 16. The debate was a revolting descent into tabloid journalism and a gross disservice to Americans concerned about the great issues facing the nation and the world. This is not the first Democratic or Republican presidential debate to emphasize gotcha questions over real discussion. However, it is, so far, the worst.

For 53 minutes, we heard no question about public policy from either moderator. ABC seemed less interested in provoking serious discussion than in trying to generate cheap shot sound-bites for later rebroadcast. The questions asked by Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mr. Gibson were a disgrace, and the subsequent attempts to justify them by claiming that they reflect citizens’ interest are an insult to the intelligence of those citizens and ABC’s viewers. Many thousands of those viewers have already written to ABC to express their outrage.

The moderators’ occasional later forays into substance were nearly as bad. Mr. Gibson’s claim that the government can raise revenues by cutting capital gains tax is grossly at odds with what taxation experts believe. Both candidates tried, repeatedly, to bring debate back to the real problems faced by ordinary Americans. Neither moderator allowed them to do this.

We’re at a crucial moment in our country’s history, facing war, a terrorism threat, recession, and a range of big domestic challenges. Large majorities of our fellow Americans tell pollsters they’re deeply worried about the country’s direction. In such a context, journalists moderating a debate–who are, after all, entrusted with free public airwaves–have a particular responsibility to push and engage the candidates in serious debate about these matters. Tough, probing questions on these issues clearly serve the public interest. Demands that candidates make pledges about a future no one can predict or excessive emphasis on tangential “character” issues do not. This applies to candidates of both parties.

Neither Mr. Gibson nor Mr. Stephanopoulos lived up to these responsibilities. In the words of Tom Shales of the Washington Post, Mr. Gibson and Mr. Stephanopoulos turned in “shoddy, despicable performances.” As Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher describes it, the debate was a “travesty.” We hope that the public uproar over ABC’s miserable showing will encourage a return to serious journalism in debates between the Democratic and Republican nominees this fall. Anything less would be a betrayal of the basic responsibilities that journalists owe to their public.

Add one more journalist to the list–the old George Stephanopoulos of 1993. Jason Linkins uncovered an old video clip in which Stephanopoulos saw things different while he was faced with responding to such right wing talking points. From the transcript:

What he’s going to do in this campaign is focus on what’s important to the American people, on the jobs and the education. That’s what the American people care about. They want to move into the future. They don’t want to be diverted by side issues, and they’re not going to let the Republican attack machine divert them.