There are many serious and thoughtful liberals and Democrats who support Mr. Obama and John Edwards, and who are seeing Mr. Clinton in a new way and saying so. Here is William Greider in The Nation, the venerable left-liberal magazine. The Clintons are "high minded" on the surface but "smarmily duplicitous underneath, meanwhile jabbing hard at the groin area. They are a slippery pair and come as package. The nation is at fair risk of getting them back in the White House for four years."
That, again, is from one of the premier liberal journals in the United States. It is exactly what conservatives have been saying for a decade. This may mark a certain coming together of the thoughtful on both sides. The Clintons, uniters at last.
Mr. Obama takes the pummeling and preaches the high road. It's all windup with him, like a great pitcher more comfortable preparing to throw than throwing. Something in him resists aggression. He tends to be indirect in his language, feinting, only suggestive. I used to think he was being careful not to tear the party apart, and endanger his own future.
But the Clintons are tearing the party apart. It will not be the same after this. It will not be the same after its most famous leader, and probable ultimate victor, treated a proud and accomplished black man who is a U.S. senator as if he were nothing, a mere impediment to their plans. And to do it in a way that signals, to his supporters, How dare you have the temerity, the ingratitude, after all we've done for you?
Watch for the GOP to attempt swoop in after the November elections and make profit of the wreckage.
Oh I don't know, if there's one thing almost guaranteed to bring the Democrats together it's the prospect of Peggy Noonan convening a bipartisan "coming together of the thoughtful" to cluck about Bill Clinton. I think we've seen that movie.
Nobody on the planet is more unctuous and sanctimonious than the "thoughtful" Noonan when she's going on about shameful Democratic politics (which is always so amusing coming from Lee Atwater and Karl Rove's apologists.) This is, after all, the same person who actually wrote as "Paul Wellstone in heaven," chiding Democrats for having no class and no souls for mildly booing Trent Lott at his memorial` tribute. She piles it on with a trowel.
But that's not the problem with the piece. It's the clever way she nearly infantilizes Barack Obama, portraying him as some sort of gentle, high minded eunuch who is just too good for this poor country, filled as it is with dirty Democrats and manly Republican fighting men who will have to step in and save us from the terrorists who are trying to kill us in our beds. "Something in him resists aggression ... It's all wind-up with him"
Is Noonan suggesting that the kindly, gentle Obama isn't an impediment to Hillary Clinton winning the campaign? Last time I looked he was the only impediment and a damned serious one. If he weren't the race would be over.
Barack Obama has been fighting and defending himself impressively down in South Carolina and across the board. He isn't some fey mystic who needs to be treated with kid gloves. He's not a "talented wind up pitcher who's more comfortable preparing to throw than actually throwing." (I don't even know what that means, to tell you the truth.) He's throwing hardballs right along with Hillary Clinton and he's obviously getting some over the plate or this wouldn't be the fight it is.
The punditocracy's "protectiveness" toward Obama is patronizing and insulting. And this silly case of the vapors among the villagers over the "nastiness" of the race and how its going to tear the party apart is nearly guaranteed to make him look like a weak sister, which he isn't, and his elite supporters are falling right into the trap. Watching David Brooks and Mark Shields elbow each other to get to the fainting couch about the unprecedented horror of the South Carolina campaign (which as D-Day pointed out in the post below is a complete joke) is not helpful to Obama or Clinton.
I would have thought that everyone would at least remember this little bit of negative campaigning. It was only four years ago:
A new Democratic group that is running advertisements against Howard Dean and has not yet disclosed its sources of financing has introduced by far the toughest commercial of the primary election season.
Though the advertisement, which began running on Friday in South Carolina and New Hampshire, is paid for by Democrats, it offers a taste of a likely Republican strategy against Dr. Dean should he win the presidential nomination.
The spot opens with a Time magazine cover featuring Osama bin Laden as synthesizer music seemingly out of a post-apocalyptic science fiction movie is heard.
As the camera focuses on Mr. bin Laden's eyes. the following words flash on the screen: ''Dangerous World,'' ''Destroy Us,'' ''Dangers Ahead'' and ''No Experience.''
''Americans want a president who can face the dangers ahead,'' an announcer intones. ''But Howard Dean has no military or foreign policy experience. And Howard Dean just cannot compete with George Bush on foreign policy. It's time for Democrats to think about that -- and think about it now.''
The advertisement is the latest salvo in what amounts to a ''stop Dean'' campaign sponsored by the new Democratic group, Americans for Jobs, Health Care and Progressive Values.
The group's president, Edward F. Feighan, a former Ohio congressman, donated $2,000 to the campaign of Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, records show, and its treasurer, David Jones, has worked as a fund-raiser for Mr. Gephardt. Its spokesman, Robert Gibbs, recently resigned as the press secretary for Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, another presidential candidate.
Those bare knuckled dirty fighters, Dick Gephardt and John Kerry. (You can see the ad here.)
I haven't seen or heard anything quite that aggressively ugly in this campaign. Remember, in 2004, the country was still getting terrorist warnings every time Bush needed a bump in the polls. That was about as below the belt as it comes. A lot of Dean supporters were upset by it, but I don't remember any "thoughtful" members of both parties getting together and deciding it was beyond the pale. Certainly nobody suggested that it was somehow disrespectful to the delicate, high minded Howard Dean or that it would tear the party apart. Of course, it was unlikely the Democrats would win, so the establishment didn't feel the need to step in and make sure the candidates and the voters didn't get the crazy idea in their heads that they were actually running things. (I didn't join the blogospheric outcry over it at the time, because, well, it's primary politics. Primaries suck.)
And guess what, that allegedly frail ascetic, Barack Obama agrees with me:
"I don't feel the candidates are being bloodied up. This is good practice for me for me so, you know, when I take on these Republicans I'll be accustomed to it."
And asked specifically whether he worried that Clinton's criticisms of him might come back to haunt the Democrats in the form of diminished black voter turnout in November, if Clinton is the nominee, Obama demurred. "Black voters shouldn't blame senator Clinton for running a vigorous campaign against me," he said. "That should be a source of pride. It means I might win this thing. When I was 20 points down I was a 'person of good character' and my health care plan was 'universal.' The fact that we've got this fierce contest indicates I'm doing well and I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
Damn straight. All this handwringing about how this is tearing the party apart is just Villagers working themselves up into a hissy. And it's this kind of thing that makes me want to see him win the nomination so he can make that Pecksniffian twit Peggy Noonan choke on her Pinot Grigio when he throws a hard, high fastball right between John McCain or Mitt Romney's eyes.
Oh, and do read the second half of Noonan's column, where she blames George W. Bush for ruining the Republican Party. Apparently she was only kidding when she was writing all those paeans to his male, manly manliness and macho competude all those years. Big joke.
* Also, I think the best line of the day had to be John Edwards saying that Clinton and Obama had brought their "New York and Chicago style of politics" to South Carolina." He's funny.