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Miles Mogulescu Headshot

Winning Ugly: Are Hil and Bill Winning the Primary Battle and Losing the General Election War?

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I had a dream. As I've written in Huffpo, I've been a strong John Edwards supporter. But as Barack Obama gave his inspirational victory speech after winning the Iowa caucuses, I could envision Obama's Inaugural Address: Just as JFK's "ask not what your country can do you" Inaugural Address ushered in the dramatic changes of the '60's, I could envision Obama's inspiring words of hope and change at his inauguration helping to unleash a new era of citizen mobilization and dramatic social change, after his campaign rallied Democrats, independents and "Obama Republicans" to create a new Democratic majority.

I had another dream (or nightmare) following the Nevada caucuses. After Hillary Clinton (with Bill's help) wins the Democratic nomination ugly, John McCain soundly defeats her in the general election winning the overwhelming majority of independents and increasing George Bush's electoral vote margins by handily winning Florida and Ohio and picking up states won previously won Gore and Kerry like Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In his Inaugural Address, McCain promises to keep American troops in Iraq for 10 years or 100 years, make Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, and appoint more Supreme Court Justices like Roberts, Alito and Scalia.

Numerous polls, taken over the last year, show Clinton losing to McCain. A January 10-12 Financial Dynamics polls shows McCain defeating Clinton 48%-45% and Obama defeating McCain 43%-42%. A December 12-14 Zogby Poll shows McCain defeating Clinton 49%-42% and Obama defeating McCain 47%-43%, a 10 point advantage for Obama over Clinton. (The same polls show John Edwards defeating McCain, and all the Republican contenders, even more decisively). Moreover, in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Obama has decisively beaten Clinton among independents, who will be crucial in achieving a general election victory. Likewise, McCain has decisively defeated his Republican rivals among independents. In a McCain-Clinton match-up, there's significant danger that a majority of independents would go for McCain.

While the mainstream media may be pushing for a Clinton-McCain showdown, in the general election you can count on their (falsely) depicting McCain as a "straight shooter" while pointing out the Clintons' lack of candor.

Hillary and Bill Clinton's distortions -- no, let's be honest and call many of them lies -- of Barack Obama's positions over the past 2 weeks (many of which were repeated by Hillary in Monday night's South Carolina debate) will only help reinforce the story that the Clintons are less than honest and trustworthy.

Some examples of the Clintons' mendacity regarding Obama:

• Both Bill and Hillary intentionally distorted Obama's factual statement that Kennedy and Reagan were transformational Presidents while Nixon and Bill Clinton were not.

Hillary falsely claimed that "My leading opponent the other day said that he thought the Republicans had better ideas than Democrats the last 10 or 15 years." In coordination, Bill Clinton chimed in, "Her principal opponent sad that since 1992 The Republicans had all the good ideas".

But Obama never said Republicans had "better ideas" or even good ideas He stated factually that Republican ideas have dominated political discourse in recent years and then criticized those Republican ideas. "We're bogged down in the same arguments that we've been having, and they're not useful. And you know, the Republican approach I think has played itself out. I think it's fair to say that the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time over the last 10, 15 years. You look at the economic policies when they're being among the Presidential candidates and it's all tax cuts. Well you know, we've done that, we've tried that. That's not really going to solve our...problems."

• The Clinton's attacked Obama for stating factually that John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were transformational Presidents while Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were not. That's true. JFK came as a breath of fresh air, ushering the '60's with all of its political and social changes in civil rights, women's rights, and new cultural and artistic expressions -- these changes may not have directly been JFK's doing and many of them came about after this assassination. But he JFK helped unleash the spirit that transformed the country. Likewise, Ronald Reagan ushered in an era under which, for the past 27 years, conservatives have largely dominated American politics.

Here's what Obama actually said: "Reagan changed the trajectory of American in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path...I think Kennedy, 20 years earlier moved the country in a fundamentally different direction. So I think a lot of it just has to do with the times. I think we're in one of those times right now." What Obama was calling for is a transformational presidency starting in 2008, not a presidency of triangulation and small bore change.

Indeed, Bill and Hillary Clinton have been more outspoken in their praise of Reagan than Obama has been. Hillary's website includes a press release in which she lists her favorite Presidents: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, George H.W. Bush, and Reagan, as well as Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton has also stated "Hillary and I will always remember President Ronald Reagan for the way he personified the indomitable optimism of the American people, and for keeping America at the forefront of the fight for freedom."

Moreover, after failing to pass health care reform, many of the major legislative achievements of Bill Clinton's presidency had a decidedly Republican cast, including welfare reform, the crime bill, NAFTA, and media deregulation.

• Bill Clinton attacked Obama's anti-war position as a "fantasy" (and by implication, Obama's entire campaign message of hope as a fantasy). He claimed that Obama stated at the 2004 Democratic Convention that he didn't know how he would have voted on Bush's Iraq War resolution that Hillary supported.

It is well known that while Hillary was voting for Bush's Iraq War resolution without even reading the National Intelligence Estimates, Obama was giving a powerful speech to an anti-war rally in Chicago. "Now let me be clear -- I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent threat to the United States...I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences...I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars."

The Washington Post Fact Checker points out that Bill Clinton's comments about Obama's 2004 conventions statements are "misleading". Clinton mentions an Obama interview, before giving his famous Keynote Address, in which he said. "I was not privy to the Senate intelligence reports. What would I have done? I don't know." But Clinton leaves out the key last sentence of Obama's quote. "What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made". All Obama was trying to do was not undermine nominee John Kerry, who had also voted for the Iraq War resolution, without denying Obama's his own anti-war beliefs. Contrary to Clinton's "fantasy" statement, the New York Times states that "A Review of Mr. Obama's statements on Iraq since 2002 shows that he opposed the war against Saddam Hussein consistently."

• One of the elements that may have helped Hillary Clinton achieve her 7,500 vote New Hampshire win, in which thousands of women rallied to her cause, was an attack mailer from the Clinton campaign questioning Obama's pro-choice credentials by citing 7 "present" votes in the Illinois state Legislature.

In fact, pro-choice leaders in Illinois asked pro-choice legislators to vote "present" because the anti-abortion bills were a cheap election-year stunt by "pro-life" politicians. Pam Sutherland, the head of Illinois Planned Parenthood told ABC News that "We worked with him [Obama] specifically on this strategy." Contrary to the implications of the Clinton flyer, Obama had a 100% positive pro-choice voting record according to Planned Parenthood.

• Bill Clinton falsely claimed that Obama ran a radio ad in Nevada encouraging Republicans to switch parties for a day to vote for Obama and then switch back. "There's a radio ad up in the northern part of Nevada telling Republicans that they ought to just register as Democrats for a day so they can beat Hillary and go out and be Republican next week."

Obama's radio ad did inform independents and republicans that they could vote in the Democratic caucuses. But the ad never mentioned Hillary Clinton or suggested that voters should switch their registration back the next day. Instead, the ad is another indication of Obama's appeal to independents and disgruntled Republicans.

These are just a handful of the distortions and in some cases, lies, that Bill and Hillary Clinton have told in their efforts to defeat Barack Obama and secure the Democratic nomination. As I mentioned, I've been a vocal Edwards supporter and have no involvement with the Obama campaign, but I refer readers to http://factcheck.barackobama.com for other examples.

There's nothing wrong with a hard fought Democratic primary campaign--In fact one of the things Democratic nominees need to demonstrate is their ability to fight hard against the Republican attack machine. But using Karl Rove "Swift Boat" tactics against Obama just demeans Bill and Hillary Clinton and harms the Democratic Party. If, as seems increasingly likely, Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she will need to unite the Democratic Party and channel the energy of Obama's enthusiastic supporters, particularly younger voters and African American voters. If Hillary wins ugly, Hil and Bill's tactics may result in many of these voters sitting out the election, or even voting for John McCain or, if he runs, Michael Bloomberg. If Obama manages to capture the Democratic nomination, you can count on Bill and Hil's distorted denunciations of Obama appearing in Republican attack ads. Either way, the Clinton's Swift Boat tactics are doing a disservice to the Democratic Party and it's chances of winning the White House and an increased Congressional majority in November.

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