Published on TheHill.com on June 10, 2008.
In a New York Times op-ed piece on June 8, Hillary Clinton’s former strategist Mark Penn blamed his candidate’s humiliating defeat on the failure of the campaign’s fundraising and budgeting operations. It’s hard to understand how a campaign that raised $200 million could seriously be described as falling short financially. Penn is definitely looking in the wrong direction. He should look in the mirror instead.
There was only one major reason that Hillary lost: Her message of experience and inevitability, devised by Penn, was fatally flawed. To make things worse, on Penn’s advice, she stayed with the foolish strategy long after she and everyone around her should have realized its inherent weakness.
Published in the UK Times.
Most aspiring presidents and prime ministers face a myriad of challenges as they embark on their journey. Issue controversies, questions about ethics or past conduct, wounds within the party all raise their heads and confront the candidate. But the doubts Barack Obama faces are far more existential than the more superficial questions raised about most candidates. They go to his very core as a person and call into question his values, his worldview, and even his patriotism.
Hillary’s suspension of her campaign, and her omission of any release of her delegates, makes her a factor for Obama to consider for the next three months until the Democratic nomination is officially and finally his. Absent an actual statement to her delegates urging them to vote for Obama on the first ballot, Hillary’s candidacy cannot be said to have ended.
Rather, the former First Lady will be slowly circling overhead during June, July, and August waiting for Obama to make a mistake or stumble. Throughout the next three months, there will always be the possibility that he errs so badly that Hillary gets back into the race. Should another pastor rear his head or if one of the mythical tapes that are said to be about to emerge does, in fact, exist, Obama cannot rest secure in the nomination as long as Hillary is overhead, waiting.
Media commentators and pundits heard what they wanted to hear in Hillary’s speech on Saturday. Her endorsement of Obama and her “suspension” of her campaign seemed to indicate that it is all over. No its not.
Hillary has not released her delegates. She still has 1,639.5 pledged, elected delegates, within reach of the 2118 needed to be nominated if the super delegates break in her favor.
Published on FOXNews.com on June 6, 2008.
Why won’t Hillary just concede that she has lost and pull out of the race? Why does she persist in keeping her delegates in line for her and not releasing them to Obama? Why does she feign party unity while, in fact, undermining it?
The Clintons never do anything without a lot of thinking and planning. There is no benign explanation for her maneuvers. They have several options that they are deliberately keeping open by their increasingly awkward positioning. Here’s what they’re up to:
WHY HILLARY LOST
It started with the rulebook. Obama read it, Hillary never did. She, who prided herself on her hands-on experience in two previous presidential elections, assumed that 2008 would be like all the others: that one candidate would defeat the other in either one bruising, pivotal primary – or in a series of states on Super Tuesday — and that her opponent, then deprived of the ability to raise funds, would drop out of the race, leaving her on a glide path to the nomination.
But, unlike defeated candidates Mo Udall (1976), Gary Hart (1984), Al Gore (1988), Paul Tsongas (1992), and Bill Bradley (2000), Obama had carefully read the rulebook. He realized that, unlike the Republican Party, the Democrats awarded votes in their primaries on a proportional representation basis. That meant that the Republicans gave the winner in each state all of the state’s votes. But the Democrats awarded the votes by proportional representation. That meant that if a candidate won a state by a landslide – 60-40 – the loser would still get 40% of the votes. That’s a big difference.
To be fair to Udall, Hart, Gore, Tsongas, and Bradley, they would have had trouble staying in the race after the knock-out primary because their funding would have dried up. But Obama combined his understanding of the rules with the lessons he learned from Howard Dean’s almost victory in 2004 – that the Internet could be a viable basis for fundraising.
On line, you didn’t have to drop out if you lost a primary. True online believers stayed hitched even when your candidacy seemed in trouble. Defeats did not deter them. These donors were in for the duration. So Obama set about the key task in modern American politics – amassing an Internet list. Every time he gave a speech, he collected all the email addresses. Federal law did not require the campaign to reveal the names of donors who gave less than $100, so most candidates didn’t bother to collect them. But Obama did. Buy a T-shirt, a button, attend a rally, the campaign asked for your email address. And you entered the list. The list grew and grew. By May of this year, it exceeded one million donors.
Armed with such a valuable list, Obama realized he could not be knocked out by early primary wins by Hillary. He could win by fighting a battle that anticipated a long haul and made allowances for early defeats.
Meanwhile, Hillary assumed 2008 was like all other years. She saw half of the states moving up their primaries and caucuses to Super Tuesday and decided that this was the moment to pounce. Win California, win New York, win New Jersey and watch the other candidate hit the canvass for the ten count.
But, instead of the referee raising her hand in triumph, Hillary found that Wednesday was just the day after Super Tuesday and that Obama just kept on rolling along.
HILLARY AS SAME OLD, SAME OLD
But even before Super Tuesday, in the closing months of 2007, Hillary Clinton and her team of strategic advisors made a huge blunder. Instead of running in the Democratic primary as the candidate of change, as the first woman to run for president, as the dynamic new force that would reshape American politics, she opted for “experience” as her selling point.
Fascinated by Obama’s lack of experience, Hillary decided to become the “un-Cola”, the opposite of Coca-Cola, the beverage that had no caffeine or sugar and was clear and clean. She would be the candidate of experience to highlight Obama’s status as a recently arrived ingÃ©nue.
Worrying about whether voters would accept a woman as the next commander in chief in the midst of a war, she decided to emphasize – and exaggerate – her White House tenure and make it the selling proposition of her candidacy. “I can hit the ground running on day one” she said over and over again. “I don’t need on the job training” she repeated, aiming a subtle barb at Obama who clearly would.
But Obama made a brilliant counter move – he turned her flank. Confronted with experience as an argument, he countered by making himself the proponent of change. He capitalized on Hillary’s insider status and dependence on lobbyist and special interest money to portray her as the candidate of Washington, deepening a hole she had dug for herself by emphasizing her time and experience in the capital. At the same time, Obama managed to make his position as the first black candidate much more significant than hers’ as the first woman.
Oddly, he did this by running a post-racial campaign. In the late months of 2007 and January, 2008, he ran, implicitly, as a contrast to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. He never invoked his race, abjured victim status, and even spoke sharply of the “anti-intellectual” climate among young blacks. He backed merit pay for teachers and suggested diluting affirmative action to base it on poverty rather than on race or gender.
Meanwhile, Hillary looked and sounded like the quintessential establishment candidate, all the time burnishing her Washington image. In the later stages of the Iowa campaign, she tried to pivot to become the candidate who was experienced at making change. But it was way too late. Obama became the charismatic candidate and she was more of same.
After losing Iowa, Hillary moved to inject race into the campaign. In a carefully orchestrated campaign, she and Bill spoke about Martin Luther King as ineffective and her surrogates emphasized Obama’s race, claiming that he would never have won had he been white. Obama, who had struggled to keep race out of the campaign, now was confronted squarely with the issue.
Obama stumbled, losing New Hampshire, but used race to rebound in South Carolina, with its huge black population. Despite Hillary’s later claims, Florida and Michigan passed as non-events since, in the one Obama did not appear on the ballot and in the other, he obeyed the party injunction not to campaign.
And then it was Super Tuesday.
Obama realized that he wouldn’t win Super Tuesday, but he knew he would do enough to hold his own. But when the smoke cleared on Super Tuesday, he had lost all the important states – California, New York, New Jersey – but he had won enough tiny states to stay in the race. And he won many of them by top heavy margins because Hillary had been so focused on the big states and the potential knockout punch they represented that she had ignored these states.
In Colorado, he won 36-19. He won Kansas by 23-9. Hillary won California, of course, but she only won by 204-166. Tiny Idaho, which went for Obama by 15-3, offset New Jersey which Hillary won, but by only 59-48.
In all, Obama left Super Tuesday slightly behind.
And then, he was in his element. February. He had prepared for February for a year, building organizations in a series of states which Hillary barely knew existed. The Clinton campaign, assuming a Super Tuesday knockout, had neglected the February states and Obama had a virtual monopoly there.
And he had the money. His Internet fund raising base responded to the Super Tuesday tie with more and more donations. Obama was raising ten million dollars each week to his war chest.
Hillary tried to parlay her front runner status to raise funds, but her rolodex was exhausted, all of the cards representing maxed out donors who could give no more. She ended up spending $11.6 million of her own money! But Obama’s small donors, still had plenty to give.
And so Obama ran the table in February. He won the eleven states that voted between Super Tuesday and March 4th by 288-165. On one day, he wrapped up Virginia, Maryland, and DC by 108-63. Hillary would never recover.
The February states gave Obama a solid lead in elected delegates which Hillary could never overcome. Bounce back as she might, Obama won enough delegates in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas to keep his lead. When he won North Carolina, he offset his minor losses in the northeastern states and Hillary had run out of time and out of states.
Hillary moved more and more into the racist corner. She became the new George Wallace, exploiting racism under the guise of populism. Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s rants opened the door for Hillary to score big wins in Kentucky and West Virginia. But Obama had amassed such a lead that Hillary was sunk.
THE CLINTON MACHINE COULDN’T DELIVER
The Clintons were counting on a win in the Rules Committee to at least give Hillary the argument that she had won the popular vote. By all counts, Clinton partisans had 13 of the i votes and several others were expected to support her position that all of the votes should be counted in both states. But the Clintons had not yet realized that they no longer controlled the Democratic Party. She was not able to force her unsupportable position through the committee.
That may have been the moment that the Clintons finally knew that the end was near.
There would not be a Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton order of succession.
GRACELESS IN DEFEAT
But even after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination last night, Hillary would not admit defeat. Watching her speak, anyone would have thought that she, and not Obama, had won the nomination. Deliberately intruding on his historic victory by organizing her own made-for- TV party, she was introduced by Terry Mc Auliffe as “the next president of the United States.” Throughout the day, she leaked word that she wanted to be the nominee for Vice-President.
It may be that Obama will have to peel Hillary’s fingers off of the podium at the convention in order to finally get rid of her.
BILL CLINTON HAS DEFINITELY LOST IT
Throughout this long presidential campaign, Bill Clinton has set a new standard for inappropriate behavior for both an ex-president and a spouse of a candidate.
He truly is a piece of work.
He’s been revolting in his arrogance, his race-baiting, his personal attacks on Obama, his exaggerations about Hillary’s accomplishments and achievements, and his sarcastic and snide remarks.
We’ve all seen the red-faced, finger-wagging tirades that have been repeatedly captured on YouTube. He often seems like a crazy old uncle who ruins the Thanksgiving dinner with his nutty attacks while everyone else at the table avoids eye contact with him.
He’s become Crazy Bill.
I often saw those same kinds of tantrums in the twenty years that I worked for Clinton. But, for the most part, he was able to keep them out of public view. Now it seems that he’s lost the ability – or maybe it’s the desire – to filter his rage. The former privately angry Bill Clinton is now publicly in everyone’s face.
In responding to a critical article in Vanity Fair, Clinton called respected journalist Todd Purdum “slimy,” a “scumbag,” a “real dishonest guy.”
That’s not what he thought about Purdum when he was President. In fact, he viewed Purdum as one of the best.
One day in 1995, while I was working for Clinton, Joe Lelyved came to see me. As the Executive Editor of The New York Times, he wanted to end the tension between The Times and the White House that had developed over the paper’s coverage of the Whitewater scandal. Assuring me that he wanted to move on, Lelyved asked me to set up an interview with the President for The New York Times Magazine.
I discussed the proposal with Clinton and his press secretary Mike McCurry. After a few phone calls back and forth, the ground rules were established. The only remaining question was which reporter would do the interview and write the piece. Clinton agreed to Purdum and was very happy with the positive piece that he eventually wrote. He never said a single critical word about Purdum to me.
But now he’s a “slimy”, “dishonest” “scumbag.”
Purdum’s article in Vanity Fair raises the same questions about Clinton that I have heard over and over again from so many people who know him and who have been appalled as they watch what he’s become. “What’s happened to Bill Clinton?” they ask. And that’s the question that Purdum raised, too. It’s the question that anyone watching the embarrassing behavior of the former president must ask.
We’ve seen the rage, the sense of entitlement, the mean-spiritedness of Bill Clinton on constant display. But there’s something else here, too. Either Bill Clinton has lost some of his superior intellectual skills or he’s a brilliant actor. I suspect it’s the former.
In the audio tape of the interview about Purdum, Clinton seethes about the journalist’s role in “telling lies to Ken Starr.” He also says that Purdum never apologized to him about Whitewater.
What’s that about?
Clinton is apparently referring to Jeff Gerth, who wrote about (but did not lie about) Whitewater for The New York Times. A review of The Times archives reveals that Purdum wrote only two pieces about Whitewater out of the hundreds of articles that he authored. One questioned the moral authority of the Whitewater Committee Chairman, Senator Alfonse D’Amato, in view of the investigations of his own ethical conduct. (hardly a negative story) A second article reported on Hillary Clinton’s defense of her actions in Whitewater. (also not a negative piece). Where are the lies here? There’s no there there. Clinton’s rantings are just wrong on that score. What makes one wonder about Clinton’s mental state is that he obviously knows that Dee Dee Meyers, his former press secretary, is not married to someone who covered Whitewater. But he seems to be having a serious memory problem, at best.
But Clinton went way beyond just the article in his crazy comments. He claimed that it was all part of a media conspiracy to elect Obama. Then he actually suggested that Obama put the ministers up to their anti-Hillary speeches to “slime” Hillary.
Bill Clinton’s paranoid moanings about the conspiracy against him and his downright lies about a respected journalist are nothing new. They are, however, out of place in a presidential campaign.
It’s time for Crazy Bill to go home and take a much-needed rest.
***COPYRIGHT EILEEN MCGANN AND DICK MORRIS 2008. REPRINTS WITH PERMISSION ONLY***
Published in The New York Post on June 5, 2008.
On his first day as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama made his first clear, serious mistake: He named Eric Holder as one of three people charged with vice-presidential vetting.
As deputy attorney general, Holder was the key person who made the pardon of Marc Rich possible in the final hours of the Clinton presidency. Now, Obama will be stuck in the Marc Rich mess.
When Hillary Clinton, having lost the Democratic nomination, said that she would not “make a decision” that night, I imagined that Sonny Liston, flat on his back in Lewisboro, Maine having been knocked out by Mohammed Ali, lifting up his battered head and saying “I haven’t made a decision.” It is no longer her decision to make. It is Obama’s decision to make. Hillary’s speech seemed to portray her has having a power she did not have. The primary is over. She has lost. Apparently noone has told her that it is no longer a question of what she wants. Earth to Hillary: Its over.
Published in The New York Post on June 3, 2008.
John McCain needs to go on the offensive against Barack Obama over the Iraq war.
Polls tell us that his support for the Iraq invasion is one of voters’ chief problems with McCain. Obama’s chief credential, on the other hand, is his early, consistent opposition to the war.
Even with recent successes in Iraq, the war remains a heavy negative for McCain. But he can turn that around; here’s how.
Published on TheHill.com on June 3, 2008.
Putting Hillary Clinton on the ticket for vice president creates a menage-a -trois. Bill will be the unexpected roommate. Even if a President Obama can discipline Hillary and get her to play second fiddle, there is not the remotest chance that he can get the former president to accept such rules. Even if Bill Clinton wanted to rein in his newly prolific public expressions of rage and frustration, there is doubt that he is any longer capable of doing so.
Hillary, who likely desperately wants to be tapped for vice president, is going about it in exactly the wrong way. She seems to be demanding a kind of coalition government between herself and Obama, a definition of the vice presidency not likely to appeal to the president. It reminds me of 1980 when there were discussions of a ticket with Reagan as the presidential nominee and former President Gerald Ford as the vice president in a coalition government where the VP would have extraordinary powers.