Saturday, March 22, 2008

More nut-case anti-Clinton accusations (business as usual)

Actually, this is not really news, since it is not really new. I just want to point out that this kind of stuff has been totally routine all through the campaign, to the extent that people have come to treat it as normal and even reasonable.
Former President Clinton is using divisive tactics and unfairly trying to question Barack Obama's patriotism, a retired general who has a prominent role in the Democrat's campaign said Saturday. [....]

The former president told a group of veterans Friday in Charlotte, N.C.: "I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics." [....]

"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," McPeak said. [....]
This kind of nonsense, which has become all too typical and predictable, draws on and serves to reinforce the larger phenomenon of Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

On the whole, this persistent craziness cannot be blamed on the Obama campaign, and certainly not on Obama himself. But it has come pretty steadily from a lot of pro-Obama partisans (Greg Sargent was kind enough to call them "a tiny and unrepresentative minority of Obama supporters") and, even more significantly, from the echo-chamber of political "journalists" and pundits, in which CDS is pretty pervasive and dovetails with a more general fondness for hyping pseudo-scandals and pseudo-issues. Again, the unfortunate fact is that (more or less) unhinged commentary on the Clinton/Obama contest has become so routine that it is treated as normal and even respectable--even Keith Olbermann's recent anti-Clinton rant on TV, which struck me as ludicrously over-the-edge almost to the point of self-parody, but which I've noticed a lot of Obama partisans posting approvingly.

=> So I mostly try to ignore this nonsense, but every once in a while an example comes up that makes me roll my eyes. Here's another one.

As background, let me say that I happen to think the whole story-line accusing the Clinton campaign of having systematically "played the race card" against Obama, having engaged in a strategy of "racialized" attacks against him, and so on is largely bogus--even if one excepts a small number of specific incidents that might possibly be ambiguous in this respect, though they have definitely been overblown, obsessively and tendentiously over-interpreted, and excessively extrapolated. (For some of the reasons why I find the dominant propaganda line unconvincing, interested readers might consult a few careful and sensible discussions of these issues by Clive Crook, who favors Obama over Clinton; Kevin Drum, who voted for Obama in the California primary; and Greg Sargent, who seems to be fairly impartial.) But I know that some otherwise intelligent and serious people have bought into this story-line, so it's hypothetically possible that I am mistaken on this point. And I realize that this myth has been hardening into conventional wisdom by dint of continual repetition, so it's not surprising that people might treat this misleading cliché as though it were an established fact. OK, fine.

But even after granting all these allowances, there is also such a thing as going over the edge with this relentless race-card-baiting of the Clinton campaign. For example:

Andrew Sullivan, who barely even tries to pretend any more that his case of CDS is out of control, recently quoted from a piece by Bob Beckel (a self-described liberal Democrat) in which Beckel tossed out the following, just in passing:
If the Clinton campaign is caught using the race card, particularly after Bill Clinton's 'cracker tour' of South Carolina, it will assure a Clinton defeat in November. Not only will blacks boycott the polls, so will many of the millions of young voters Obama has brought into the political process.
"Bill Clinton's 'cracker tour' of South Carolina"? What is this bullshit? Am I the only one who thinks there's something a little off-putting, poisonous, and self-destructive about Democrats peddling this kind of stuff? Just asking ...

=> Today Kevin Drum issued a wise but probably fruitless appeal in a post on his Washington Monthly blog:
My fellow Obama supporters need to get a grip. I know that resistance to CDS seems futile these days, but resist anyway!
Good advice, but I won't hold my breath.

And the other side can sometimes benefit from similar advice (as Geraldine Ferraro's recent public-tantrum debacle illustrates). A lot of people need to get a grip on themselves; need to stop letting themselves be so easily manipulated by news-media bias, sensationalism, and superficial scandal-mongering; and need to keep their own biases and political passions under a little control.

Yours for reality-based discourse & political sanity,
Jeff Weintraub

P.S. To be fair to Andrew Sullivan, I notice that he did feel compelled to defend Bill Clinton against McPeak's wild charge of McCarthyism, and his post about this begins quite sensibly:
You may want to sit down, but I read the following Bill Clinton remarks yesterday and didn't see anything untoward about them [....] I don't think he's implying that Obama doesn't love his country or is not devoted to the interest of this country (although you could, with some strain, parse it that way). He's actually hoping for a substantive, non-swift-boating, non-Coulter, non-Hannity campaign. It's pretty close to my own hope for an Obama-McCain race. [....]
But then the strain of trying to be fair to Clinton proves too much to withstand, and the sensible tone disappears. By the end of his post, a few paragraphs later, Sullivan is honest and self-aware enough to admit the obvious:
Oh, well, I tried to defend the Clintons and look where I ended up. Better luck next time.
As I said, I won't hold my breath.