Leading into the Texas and Ohio primaries, The New York Times reported that "the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton is unleashing what one Clinton aide called a 'kitchen sink' fusillade against Obama." Meanwhile, the Clinton camp was busy working the refs: leveraging a Saturday Night Live sketch that ridiculed the media for alleged favoritism of Sen. Obama, Hillary Clinton cried foul as she and her campaign were simultaneously in the process of heaving said sink.
Clinton and her inner circle fueled the worst kind of xenophobia: "No, there is nothing to base that on. As far as I know," Clinton told 60 Minute's Steve Kroft, when asked if she thought Obama was a Muslim. And while the source of The Drudge Report's well-timed photo of Obama in traditional Somali garb (flaming those Muslim rumors) officially remains unconfirmed, the Clinton camp's history of leaking information to Drudge has been documented. To this day, the campaign has never issued a flat, unequivocal denial that the photo was sent by one of its members. (Mission accomplished: a December 2007 Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed that 8% of Americans thought Obama was a Muslim; a new WSJ/NBC poll reveals that the number of Americans who believe this falsehood has risen to 13%.) Concurrently, as the media failed to effectively challenge Clinton on her refusal to release her tax forms, it featured story after story on Clinton's unrelated and obfuscating counter-punch to any inquire into her tax records: Obama's connection to indicted businessman Antoin Rezko, about which after extensive digging by every major media outlet, not one has confirmed any legal wrongdoing on the part of Sen. Obama. (Welcome to Obama's Whitewater.)
The strategy worked like a charm. The Clinton camp is nothing if not schooled in such politics. With a cowed media focusing lopsided scrutiny on Obama days before the March 4 primary, Clinton's camp landed one shot below the belt after another. Effective and politically shrewd? Sure. Cheap, cynical and sleazy? You bet.
Since the March 4 primaries alone, Clinton press secretary Howard Wolfson has absurdly compared Obama to Ken Starr; Sen. Clinton has done Sen. McCain's bidding, breaking an unofficial rule among same-party candidates by asserting she and Sen. McCain have crossed the "commander-in-chief threshold" while Obama has not; and, of course, this past week one of Clinton's chief fundraisers, Geraldine Ferraro, said, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," then claimed reverse racism when people objected to her racist or, at bare minimum, intentionally racially divisive and factually ignorant comments. And if anyone thinks Ferraro's statements weren't tactical salvos - part of Hillary's "Archie Bunker strategy for PA," to quote my consistently straight-shooting friend, Will Bunch - then they're not paying attention or are willfully ignorant of her campaign's modus operandi.
The worst you can say for the Obama camp during the same period is that then foreign policy advisor, Samantha Power, jet-lagged and upset right after the results in Ohio and having witnessed firsthand how Clinton won the state, called her a "monster" during an interview, screwing up by then attempting to keep the comment off the record without having stated that request beforehand. She resigned immediately, publicly and profusely apologizing to Sen. Clinton. Moreover, the media failed to address what drove Power's comment: Clinton's self-evident willingness to do anything to win in Ohio, but also, taking into account Power's expertise on foreign policy and human rights, quite likely her knowledge of Clinton's egregious record on war and innocent civilian lives as well.
Meanwhile, Sen. Clinton initially offered only a tepid and - make no mistake about it - calculated response, saying she "did not agree" with Ferraro's comment and found it "regrettable." Clinton later finally denounced Ferraro's statements in clearer terms: "I rejected what she said and I certainly do repudiate it." But where did she happen to utter this delayed reaction? Before a gathering of black newspaper publishers at the National Newspapers Association meeting. Just another example of Clinton's track record of the most cynical political expediency. Moreover, when Ferraro's comments first made news, Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams had the Orwellian chutzpah to insinuate that it was somehow Obama who was playing the race card in this instance. But this tactic shouldn't have surprised anyone because it's exactly what Williams had done during the Drudge/Obama-in-African-garb photo flap.
It's worth noting, too, that Maggie Williams is Clinton's newly appointed African-American campaign manager; so far, the Clinton camp's two highest profile uses of Williams was to send her out to blunt its own execution of racially divisive strategies, in which Williams made two of the most absurd counter-attacks on race this campaign has seen. And while the Clinton camp and her more frothing surrogates make the claim that Obama is the one playing the race card in these incidents, it's also an insult to African-Americans across the country, as it implies they are somehow being duped, that they're incapable of arriving at their own conclusions as they witness these historically coded racial strategies unfold, and that Obama's soaring rise in the black vote, which in Mississippi reached 92%, is not, to some degree, a result of being genuinely and understandably disgusted by the racist or, at the very least, exceedingly racially divisive actions of the Clinton campaign.
At the end of the day, the Clinton camp's approach, led by such swell human beings as chief strategist Mark Penn - CEO of PR firm Burson-Marsteller, which has represented Blackwater, Shell Oil and makers of the child-killing Aqua Dots toy - is to argue Sen. Obama's unelectability in the general election by doing everything possible right now to make him unelectable. In fact, Penn let slip this strategy in a conference call with reporters Thursday. Said Penn, "We believe that [the Pennsylvania primary result] will show that Hillary is ready to win, and that Sen. Obama really can't win the general election." Moments later, when a reporter followed up on Penn's comment, press secretary Wolfson tried to remake reality, revealing the kind of shameless, bald-faced mendacity that has been the cornerstone of the Bush administration. "Mark did not say that," Wolfson lied. Except, well, Mark did. And at least one of the reporters taped it.
Indeed, the delegate count does not add up for Sen. Clinton unless she can convince more of the superdelegates that Obama is unelectable. To do that, Clinton and her campaign - and their win-at-all-cost shills (not to be confused with honest and responsible Clinton supporters) - have shown their willingness to potentially ruin Sen. Obama's chances against Sen. John McCain now that mathematically this is the only way for her to win the nomination.
This is neither opinion nor veiled partisanship. Merely a simple
fact based on math and the actions of the Clinton campaign, so
despicable on so many occasions now as to call into question whether
its strategy includes this Plan B: if Clinton cannot win the
nomination, then doing everything in her campaign's power to tear Obama
down and thus swing the general election in McCain's favor, preserves
Clinton's chances at a re-election bid four years from now. In other
words, destroying Obama is a win-win for Team Clinton, whether for this
November or the one in 2012. This is the deeply cynical yet hardly
far-fetched idea that the Clinton camp, based on its own actions, has
single-handedly stoked in the minds of citizens who are free to
formulate their own thoughts. They see it, they smell it - political
expediency in its crudest form. After being backed into a corner,
Clinton has proven she's willing to hand over the election to McCain,
who, for starters, has shown he's determined to attack Iran, uphold
"legal" torture, and preserve this White House's sustained war on civil
liberties, the Constitution and international law, as well as permanent
tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent. There's no hiding the fact any
longer that Clinton cares less about the continued death, destruction
and misery of human beings at home and abroad than she does about
Which brings me to Keith Olbermann's special comment on Wednesday.
Like many intellectually honest observers of this race, Olbermann had simply grown disgusted by the Clinton camp's scorched earth approach. As he said in prefacing his editorial, his opinion Wednesday night was not in any way an endorsement of Obama or some kind of official pox on the Clinton campaign. Rather, Olbermann did what he has done for years now in covering the Bush administration: he weighed the record, cut through the doublespeak and targeted lies, hypocrisy and underhanded acts.
Contrary to the empty invective the Taylor Marshes and Larry Johnsons of this race spewed the following day, Keith Olbermann's critique of the Clinton campaign was wholly valid and based in reality. Fair, honest and factual. In claiming otherwise, Marsh, Johnson and their win-at-all-cost lackeys rooted their attacks on Olbermann (Marsh launching hers before Olbermann delivered the special comment) not on the basis of facts but ad hominem sniping.
Overnight, Olbermann was branded an unprofessional hack and misogynist.
The next day, Johnson wrote, "In August of 2006 I praised Keith Olbermann as the 21st Century’s version of Edward R. Murrow. As a result, Ed Schultz banned me from his radio program because I dared praise Keith. Sadly, fame and acclaim have maimed Keith’s brain, and he has become just another partisan hack....Olbermann either does not realize he has become a joke or he does not give a shit. Either way, Keith is not worth a minute of your time. Same for his sponsors."
It's interesting to note that Johnson also links to Marsh's view on Olbermann's special comment, the one she wrote prior to Olbermann's delivery of it. In her pre-emptive attack, titled "Keith Olbermann Is No Edward R. Murrow," Marsh declared, "Olbermann is now the Bill O'Reilly of MSNBC. A big giant head railing against the first viable female candidate in U.S. history." After actually watching the special comment, Marsh, specifically on Olbermann, only had this to say Wednesday night:
As for Olbermann, he started by thanking the Clintons, then ripped the scab off of every primary wound that's come before today. At one point the pompous anchorman actually squealed "David Duke," while doing the Obama camp's greatest hits, resurrecting them all, including Bill Clinton in South Carolina. The delivery was so overwrought and dramatic at one point I was almost convinced he was going to start talking about Jesus, then ask for cash.
Early the next morning, Marsh posted a video of Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., Obama's former pastor, about which she said, "The wing-nuts have been rolling this stuff out as well." Uh, shouldn't that tell her something?
Though that wasn't enough for Marsh: later that same morning, she dedicated another post to Obama's former preacher. Salivating over how this dirt had gone from Fox News to Politico to then, as of Thursday, ABC News (of course now it's everywhere), an exuberant Marsh cried, "Praise the Lord, and pass the political ammunition. We're in it now," while linking to the ABC story. Never mind this new kitchen sink item has nothing whatsoever to do with substantive issues, or that it's insinuation - by association Barack Obama is a reverse racist and dislikes white people - is despicable GOP/Rove-approved mudslinging, exactly the kind we should expect from John McCain if Obama wins the nomination but not from his own Democratic rival. What's more, Marsh simultaneously summoned the Olympian cognitive dissonance to claim, "Every thing said and every Clinton supporter is now seen through the prism of race," and, "This is a nightmare. A Democratic nightmare, especially since Obama and his campaign are intent on making divisiveness the signature remembrance of his primary campaign, extending through a part of culture that is always incendiary: religion."
Further into this post, Marsh again reveals the gutter into which she's descended and appears comfortable to dwell: "Senator Obama may call Reverend Wright 'an old uncle' with whom he doesn't always agree, but I doubt that once the wingnuts and talk radio gets through blasting him across America that voters will feel the same." Yes, those wingnuts. She then added, with accompanying Fox News video featuring that ever-respectable "journalist" Sean Hannity: "Hannity has been on this for quite some time. Rush [Limbaugh] started today. It's only the beginning, which Reverend Wright's convenient retirement will not staunch."
Hannity. Rush. Marsh. Nice company. Is there a more direct example of how loathsome this latest attack is than to note Hannity and Rush are all over it? Marsh aligns herself with the some of the most fascist, duplicitous and hateful propagandists our the nation has ever produced and sends her readers directly to Fox News for the truth, but it's Keith Olbermann who's lost his credibility?
This has become a farce of a farce. The suspension of disbelief to follow such logic is insurmountable.
Just as Olbermann mentioned his reluctance to deliver his special comment on Clinton, I was at least somewhat apprehensive to enter this fray as well, as MediaBloodhound is also not in the endorsement or cheerleading business. And neither, too, is this an endorsement of Sen. Obama. Throughout this campaign, I have called out the media for unfair or insipid critiques and observations of both Senators Clinton and Obama. But in not endorsing either, I am also not beholden to anything but the facts. And if anyone wants to tell me that, on the whole, Hillary Clinton has run the more honest, principled and less corrosive campaign, then I would be lying to my readers and to myself if I didn't say that such a belief at this stage in the race is either ignorant, willfully ignorant, delusional or patently mendacious.
Moreover, I've done a great deal of research into the mainstream media's biggest failure in this campaign - assessing these two candidates' respective senatorial voting records - and found, overall, Sen. Clinton's to be far worse. Specifically on matters of war and the protection of innocent civilian lives around the world.
We all know about the Iraq War authorization vote. Yet we never hear these days about her revealing September 2007 vote for the Kyle-Lieberman amendment, which Sen. Jim Webb, a decorated veteran, called "Cheney's fondest pipe dream" and about which he warned could be "interpreted" to "declare war" on Iran. As for protecting innocents in war zones, Clinton unconscionably voted against an explicit amendment that proposed to ban the use of cluster bombs - one of the most deadly, indiscriminate and inhumane weapons on the planet - in civilian areas. What's worse, the underlying factors driving Clinton's votes on such matters of life and death, which I recently investigated for a forthcoming article in another publication, are even more appalling than these votes appear to be on the surface (more on that soon).
While Hillary Clinton has accused Obama of Rovian tactics in this race, the facts simply bear out that it is her campaign that has unquestionably depended more on tried and true - and cynical and divisive - tactics that Rove and the Republicans have employed for years. One overarching strategy in particular: accuse your opponent of the very thing you yourself are exhaustively perpetrating. She has done this on nearly every issue, from race to NAFTA to the shadiness of campaign contributors.
Before this race, people once relied on blogger/radio host Taylor
Marsh and former CIA agent/counterterrorism expert Larry Johnson for
their reality-based assessments of the Bush administration. But now
they attack Obama, and anyone who doesn't fall in lockstep behind the
Clinton campaign, with the same kind of smear tactics they once decried.
In one of Larry Johnson's latest assaults on Obama, he takes a direct page from the GOP, claiming the Illinois senator is in cahoots with terrorists because he received a campaign contribution of $200 in 2001 from former Weather Underground member William Ayers, who's now a distinguished professor of education at the University of Chicago. Says Johnson, "As Democrats and Independents weigh who they want to run against John McCain in the fall, answer this question. Can you support a candidate who is friends with terrorists? Can you support a candidate who takes money from terrorists?" The Washington Post (h/t Oliver Willis) has noted how lame this attack is:
But the Obama-Ayers link is a tenuous one. As Newsday point out, Clinton has her own, also tenuous, Weatherman connection. Her husband commuted the sentence of a couple of convicted Weather Underground members, Susan Rosenberg and Linda Sue Evans, shortly before leaving office in January 2001. Which is worse: pardoning a convicted terrorist or accepting a campaign contribution from a former Weatherman who was never convicted?
To be clear, neither of these superficial connections deserves any play in the Democratic presidential nomination race. But Johnson has pounded Obama's loose tie to Ayers as supposed evidence of his unelectability while willfully ignoring or being ignorant to Sen. Clinton's own connection to the very same group. Thus, Johnson proudly leads the Swiftboat pack on this one. As of Thursday night, he had the same video of Obama's former pastor sitting atop his blog that Marsh has been prominently featuring on hers.
Repeatedly and hypocritically, Johnson has accused Obama of Rovian tactics, only to turn around the next moment and dredge up Rovian talking points as proof of why Obama should not be nominated.
Everyone, of course, has a right to support either candidate openly, or to sit on the sidelines and distill what is actually going on in this race without claiming a horse in this race. And there are certainly plenty of intellectually honest Clinton supporters, unlike Marsh and Johnson, who have respectfully and honorably backed their candidate, some who have even acknowledged or spoken out about their disappointment in the overall tenor and tactics of their candidate's campaign but who still believe she would make a better president.
But when you start attacking a candidate on the basis of sleazy assertions, bogus ties and ad hominem digs, when you become exactly what you once professed to stand against - and while you even have the prerogative to jump off the reality-based ship in doing so - you officially relegate your views (at least pertaining to this race) to spin. You are no more reliable than the most duplicitous campaign spokesperson.
Plain and simple, you've become a shill. Less interested in fair play, facts and substantive ideas than in saying or doing anything to give your candidate an edge. You've forfeited all credibility outside your choir. Apart from your followers who eagerly lap up each nasty bit directed at Obama, your opinions on this race have been rendered meaningless.
It's as though Hillary capos like Marsh and Johnson learned nothing from the Bush years. Nothing about the danger of making judgments based on emotion rather than fact or of vilifying those who dissent from their point of view. Nothing about the intrinsic inner rot of a movement in which winning totally trumps the methods of how you get there and strong leadership is defined as how unscrupulously you're willing to go to destroy anyone in your path.
So it has come to this: Keith Olbermann, one of the only network journalists to do his job during the Bush years, who has consistently and courageously told it like it was on the Iraq War, Katrina, illegal wiretapping, torture, habeas corpus, extraordinary renditions, missing White House emails, disappeared CIA interrogation tapes, telecom amnesty, civilian casualties in Lebanon, global warming - on every single issue this administration has suffused with obfuscation and doublespeak - is now being called washed up for holding the Clinton campaign to the same standards of fair play and truthfulness.
This is how far shills like Marsh and Johnson are willing to sink. Everyone and anyone is fair game. Either blindly goose-step behind the Clinton bandwagon or be trampled beneath it.
I proudly stand with Keith Olbermann. I proudly stand not with Obama, nor with Clinton, nor with Marsh or Johnson, but with the facts as they present themselves to me.
I prefer to think for myself. It's quite liberating.