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Team Hillary: It’s not us, it’s those other guys!

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Rick Horowitz
May 1, 2008

Thank goodness for Republicans.


No, really—thank goodness for Republicans. If it weren’t for those awful Republicans, Hillary Clinton would have to come up with a different way to trash a fellow Democrat.


That would be Barack Obama, of course, who’s had some rocky times lately—as opposed to Clinton, who’s had some “Rocky” times lately. (Cue the movie music…)


Anyway, while the delegate leader (and the popular-vote leader, and the contests-won leader) has been thrashing about in the waves of controversy, Clinton and her team demonstrate once again that they’re always happy to toss him an anchor.


This time the tosser-in-chief was Evan Bayh, the junior senator from Indiana and a big Clinton supporter. An important Clinton supporter, too, with the Indiana primary about to share center stage with North Carolina on Tuesday. And you couldn’t have asked for a better rendition of that old favorite, “More in Sorrow Than in Anger.”

Here’s how the story opened in the Washington Post:


“Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., today praised Sen. Barack Obama for denouncing his former pastor but warned that Republicans will use the association to try to ‘Swift Boat’ the Illinois senator if he becomes the Democratic presidential nominee this fall.”

Not the Clinton campaign, mind you—the Republicans. The Republicans will use it.


“‘You’re running for president, and people want to get a sense of who you are, and when you’re new to the public stage, you’re a little more susceptible to having the canvas painted in by your political opponents.’”
The Republicans, that is. Those “political opponents” Bayh is talking about—the ones so ready to paint Obama’s canvas in the most unflattering colors—are the Republicans.

There’s more:


“Bayh said neither he nor Clinton intended to inject the Wright controversy into the primary…”

Of course not.


“…but he is worried that Republicans will do so in a general election. ‘I’m sure the far right will be out there trying to do the whole Swift Boat thing and that sort of thing. But I hope people will focus on the most substantive issues, and I think the vast majority of them will.’”

That last line is a particularly nice touch, don’t you think? Bayh hopes people will focus on the “most substantive issues,” and he thinks “the vast majority of them” will. But hey—if he can peel away another point or two by focusing on the very things he says he hopes people won’t focus on…


Stuff happens.


A slip of the tongue, you might think—not a strategy. Fair enough, if this were the first time they’d pulled this “Here’s what we wouldn’t dream of talking about ourselves” routine. But it’s not. Remember a couple of weeks ago, when Obama described certain working-class voters as “bitter” about their lot in life? Team Clinton pounced on it in exactly the same way: Just think how the Republicans will twist a comment like that in the general election!


And if you’re the suspicious type, you can trace the strategy all the way back to last winter. Remember that sudden flurry of attention to Obama’s long-ago admission that he’d (even longer ago) used drugs? It was a top Clinton operative in New Hampshire who raised the specter of Republican attacks: What if they start asking if Obama gave drugs to his friends? Or even if he sold drugs? Wouldn’t that be a horrible thing for those terrible Republicans to do?

Not to worry—the Clintons aren’t about to stand by and watch that happen.


Have another anchor.


Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at rickhoro@execpc.com.

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