"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”

Pericles



Friday, November 2, 2007

It's the Double-Talk Two Step

Powerful video collage released today by the Edwards campaign. As noted yesterday, this is the narrative Team Hillary cannot have seeping into the public consciousness and becoming the Hillary narrative. If "Double-Talk" becomes the 2008 equivalent of "Flip-Flop" Clinton could be in big trouble. Keep in mind every clip from this montage comes from a single, two-hour debate.




At some point, voters want unequivocal answers from their leaders.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Team Hillary Does Damage Control

The fallout from Hillary Clinton's uncharacteristic stumble during her visit to the Dragons' (of Drexel U) lair on Tuesday night continues, with the media and her Democratic rivals seizing upon a perceived vulnerability: the desire to straddle multiple sides on difficult issues. Whether or not this is a big enough obstacle to derail the Hillary Nomination Locomotive is yet to be seen.

More troubling is the repercussions of this narrative taking hold and becoming the GOP battering ram in a general election battle throughout 2008. Will the "Clintonian straddle" become this cycle's version of the "Kerry flip-flop?" Clinton's ultimate success may rely on just how "sticky" this moniker becomes.

Prior to Tuesday evening, the traditionally fractious Democratic race was too placid and agreeable to feed the American appetite for -gossip- news. All the "action" appeared to be on the Republican side.

The media, whose sense of boredom with the Dem nomination battle was becoming palpable, has eagerly embraced the new dynamic and is delighted to be able to report on an "Obama surge" (if it materializes), a "re-energized Edwards," a suddenly "vulnerable Clinton" - ANY new storyline that helps them fill the ever-more-hungry and insatiable 24-7-365 news cycle. I've always believed the biggest obstacle to any Democratic presidential frontrunner in today's news environment is a bored (or pissed off) media.

ABC News' Teddy Davis and Nancy Flores described the Clinton's straddle "downright excrutiating." Adam Nagourney over at the NY Times reports on Hillary's morning after damage control and how her team views the non-answer at the debate as her biggest mistake of the campaign that holds "long-term potential to undermine her candidacy."

Team Clinton's damage control was swift, but I'm not convinced it was entirely effective. The strategy was clear: divert, defend, and clarify.

The diversion was a big union endorsement. It was smart to roll out the AFSCME news. The government workers could provide a huge lift in the early states. Union leader Gerald McEntee provided the line of defense - clearly happy to be the surrogate rushing to Hillary's side - when he said:

“Six guys against Hillary,” he said. “I’d call that a fair fight. This is one strong woman.”

McEntee was picking up the campaign's talking point that Hillary was being ganged up on by her opponents. The WaPo reports "her advisers argued that the "pileing on" engaged in by an all-male field of opponents will ultimately drive more female voters into her camp."

I believe this is a somewhat risky move. Doesn't this defense undermine one of the tenets of the Clinton rationale? One of the foundations the campaign has built its frontrunning status upon is she has dealt with the right-wing smear campaigns for nearly two decades. She's tough. She knows how to handle attacks. Complaining about a relatively minor intraparty "pile-on" may garner sympathy but it also risks raising the question, "just how tough will she be next summer and fall?" It may help her win the nomination, but may ultimately weaken her in the general election. This victim card should only be used sparingly, and only by surrogates.

Lastly, her efforts at clarifying her position seems to have caused only more confusion. The Times' Nagourney writes:

“Senator Clinton supports governors like Governor Spitzer who believe they need such a measure to deal with the crisis caused by this administration’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform,’” her campaign said.
Mrs. Clinton’s aides said her statement was intended to signal that she broadly supported Mr. Spitzer’s goal of awarding driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Mr. Spitzer initially proposed a blanket program of awarding full-fledged driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants; in the face of sharp opposition from the Legislature, he backed off and presented
a two-tier program system of awarding licenses to illegal immigrants.
Mrs. Clinton’s advisers said that she had not studied either plan, and was not specifically endorsing either of them.
Still, the wording of the statement was murkier than what many of her opponents have said in either supporting or opposing Mr. Spitzer’s initiatives.
Among those opposing it were Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut; Senator Barack Obama of Illinois supported it. (emphasis added)

One of the cardinal rules of presidential campaigns is making sure negative stories do not remain in the media spotlight over multiple news cycles. Providing a clear (even if unpopular) position would be the quickest way of achieving this goal. Team Clinton may have believed this is what they were doing, but if the NY Times is still unsure of where she stands on this contentious issue, you better believe her rivals for the nomination will keep pounding away at this theme on the campaign trail.

The charge of "talking out of both sides of your mouth" is easy to level when a candidate has her eye on both the primary and general elections. Sen. Clinton should focus on winning the nomination first. The nominee (whoever it is) will have ten solid months to focus on defeating the Republicans.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Good-bye (Again), Karen...

The news that Karen Hughes, one of Dubya's Texas good ol' boys (except this one's a girl) will be retreating from Washington at the end of the year provides us one of the biggest understatements of the year:

"Hughes told The Associated Press that she plans to quit her job as undersecretary of state and return to Texas, although improving the world's view of the United States is a "long-term challenge" that will outlast her." (emphasis mine)

I wonder why? Perhaps because we invaded a sovereign nation under false pretense? Or because this administration has been beating the drums of war for action against Iran?

Her boss, SecState Condoleezza Rice, accepted her resignation saying she had done a "remarkable job." Of course, that is in BushWorld speak, where accountability is a foreign concept.
Polls show no improvement in the world's view of the U.S. since Hughes took over. A Pew Research Center survey earlier said the unpopular Iraq war is a persistent drag on the U.S. image and has helped push favorable opinion of the United States in Muslim Indonesia, for instance, from 75 percent in 2000 to 30 percent last year.
Hughes' performance drew mixed reviews in the Muslim world. She got credit for hard work and frequent travel but was prone to gaffes such as vastly overstating Saddam Hussein's use of poison gas against his people before he was deposed by a U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Heckuva job, Karen!

Dems' Smashup in Philly

Philadelphia - a city renowned for its raucous and demanding sports fanatics - showed Hillary Clinton what the Eagles and Phillies have known for decades: Brotherly Love is neither unconditional nor warm and fuzzy. Her Democratic rivals - led by John Edwards, Chris Dodd and Barack Obama - entered the ring at Drexel University and served notice to the Clinton camp that the Democratic nomination battle is not over.

Last night's debate in Philly was the most energetic and combative of the gazillion gatherings the 2008 Democratic contenders have participated in thus far. The media buildup (ignited by the Obama camp) warned us there would be fireworks. With national polls showing Hillary running away with the nomination 65 days before the first votes are cast, there was a sense of urgency from the rival campaigns that this may be the last best chance to find that chink in Clinton's armor.

Judging from media reports this morning, it appears the relentless onslaught from her rivals (except for Gov. Richardson, who would best serve the Democratic Party by shifting his focus to winning the open NM Senate seat) eventually took its toll on the frontrunner. The Politico reported the Obama and Edwards campaigns succeeded in producing the message they wanted from the debate:

"Hillary Clinton does not say what she means or mean what she says."

Did her opponents just link Hillary to the failed 2004 John "The Flip-Flopper" Kerry campaign? If so, they've sowed the seed of doubt, stalling the march of the inevitable - and robbing Hillary of one of her most powerful primary election tools.

ABC's The Note reinforces the message Hillary had a tough night as the national and local media deliver a similar verdict:


Now we've got it straight. Sen. Hillary Clinton is a flip-flopping, record-sealing, war-in-Iran-voting, Social-Security-ducking, politically calculating, lobbyist-loving, polarizing and unelectable Democrat who acts like a Republican -- and a Clinton.

How's that for sibling rivalry?