While the Republicans warm up their veepstakes, the greatest show in town is still the Democratic primary race. On one hand we have the Lady Macbeth of politics. She’s proven ready to burn down the Democratic party if that’s what it takes to grab the nomination. On the other hand we have the rookie who has accomplished absolutely nothing in his life other than convince about thirteen million people to vote for him — before they learned he gave over $22,000 to the church of his "mentor," who preached that the U.S. government created AIDS to kill African Americans.
And the show will go on. And on. And on, because DNC Chairman Howard Dean’s leadership is, well, a real howler. Lacking the Dean Primal Scream therapy, both Clinton and Obama have let their surrogates go, with some pretty entertaining results.
In a series of appalling accusations aimed at each other, far worse than anything Republicans would say about them, they have given voters enough reason to reject both of the contenders for the Democratic nomination. Moreover, they have given us all good reason to insist that they wash their mouths out with soap. Or at least cheap bourbon.
It started back with Bill Clinton, who in the wake of Hillary’s loss in the South Carolina primary likened Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson. This, of course, was before the Reverend Wright mess and at a time when Obama was putting together a formidable coalition of voters of all races. But Clinton’s motive was clear: raise doubts among white voters, sow the seeds of strife among the party and excuse his wife’s failure to capture a decent segment of black voters who had previously dubbed him “the first black President.” So much for unity and so much for Democrats’ supposed superior credentials on racial tolerance.
But Bill wasn’t done. This past week he declared that a race between his wife and John McCain would be “two people who love this country” without “all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.” Well, that timely slam on Obama’s patriotism was surely more pointed than anything the Republicans have thrown out. Obama was having a tough time explaining his wife’s comments that she had never been proud of America, his own slam at Americans who wear a flag lapel pin and his embrace of the hate-mongering Reverend Wright. Then along comes Bill to question in essence: “Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who loves their country represent our party?”
That in turn provoked retired Air Force general and Obama supporter Tony McPeak to comment on Bill’s slap: “It sounds more like McCarthy. I grew up, I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traitors, so I’ve had enough of it.” Pow. Comparing the Dems’ fave liberal president to the all-time Republican boogey man? The only thing McPeak could have done to raise the ante on that would be to challenge Clinton to a duel. Aside from the rather absurd analogy his swipe belied the entire Obama theme that he is somehow on a higher moral plane that Clinton, above the nastiness of business-as-usual partisan politics. Sounds an awful lot like more of the same, observers might conclude.
If that wasn’t enough nasty political rhetoric for a week, then James Carville, the master of invective, lashed out at Gov. Bill Richardson for his endorsement of Obama.
For Carville, it was not enough to call Richardson mistaken, or wrong, or even irrelevant; no, Carville on Easter weekend had to label him “Judas.” Lovely, especially for religious voters who think it obnoxious in the extreme to analogize Richardson to Christianity’s greatest traitor and Hillary apparently to Jesus. In fact, the remark had much more to say about the Clintons than Richardson or Obama. Carville’s crass comment simply magnified the conclusion that the Clintons do not inspire loyalty but fear, and increasingly less fear as the nomination slips from Hillary’s grasp.
Not to be outdone, Obama’s Iowa co-chair Gordon Fischer posted this on his blog: "Bill Clinton cannot possibly seriously believe Obama is not a patriot, and cannot possibly be said to be helping — instead he is hurting — his own party. B. Clinton should never be forgiven. Period. This is a stain on his legacy, much worse, much deeper, than the one on Monica’s blue dress." Clearly, the Democrats are no longer running a family-friendly campaign.
During all of this, the Obama and Clinton camps continued a battery of dueling media calls and memos. Obama’s camp declared that Clinton had a history of “deceiving the American people.” (“Right on,” say conservative pundits observing the spectacle.) The Clinton campaign shot back, decrying Obama for practicing the same bare knuckle politics they routinely criticize. (“You bet!” note the Republicans from the sidelines.)
The only question that remains after this is: Where do they go from here? The newest political parlor game is certain to be guessing the next exaggerated accusation and over-the-top insult to be hurled by one Democrat against the other.
Meanwhile, McCain and his advisors must be pinching themselves and marveling at their own good fortune. Not only has every accusation one can imagine been (or about to be) lobbed, but both Democrats have proved themselves to be mean-spirited, undisciplined and downright rude.
At this rate McCain (who already attracts independent voters that detest this sort of mud wrestling) may have a double digit lead over both of them by the beginning of the summer. So to these ill-mannered Democrats, their Republican adversaries can only say: Keep up the good work! Ain’t it grand?