MARION, Ind. – Democratic rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton turned up the rhetoric Saturday in their increasingly heated primary battle as she issued a new debate challenge and he complained of a race that’s largely been reduced to trivia while working families feel economic pain.
Clinton took the debate dispute to a new level, challenging Obama to face off with her in a debate without a moderator, Lincoln-Douglas style.
“Just the two of us, going for 90 minutes, asking and answering questions, we’ll set whatever rules seem fair,” Clinton said while campaigning in South Bend.
Her campaign made the offer formal with a letter to the Obama campaign.
Obama aides said he had already debated Clinton 21 times, “the most in primary history.”
“Over the next 10 days we believe it’s important to talk directly to the voters of Indiana and North Carolina,” said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs.
The more open style of debating where each side presents an argument gets its name from the famed debates that took place during the 1858 U.S. Senate race in Illinois between Republican Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Stephen Douglas.
Trailing in delegates and the popular vote, Clinton has been stepping up the pressure on Obama for more debates in advance of primaries on May 6 in Indiana and North Carolina. Clinton argued that Obama won’t debate because he’s unhappy with questions from moderators during the April 16 debate just before the Pennsylvania primary. After that debate, Obama complained it focused too much on political trivia and too little on real issues.
On the campaign trail Saturday, he sounded much the same theme.
“I was convinced that the American people were tired of the politics that’s all about tearing each other down. The American people were tired of spin and PR, they wanted straight talk and honesty from their elected officials,” Obama said at a town hall meeting in the aging industrial city of Anderson.
“If you watched the last few weeks of this campaign, you’d think that all politics is about is negative ads and bickering and arguing, gaffes and sideline issues,” said Obama. “There’s no serious discussion about how to bring jobs back, to Anderson.”
Got that? His rationale for shying away from another debate with La Clinton is because the voters deserve better. Oh, the self-sacrifice you make for us, Obamessiah!
Look, seriously, I don’t care whether or not the two of them ever debate again; I just find his stated for being hesitant to debate again laughable. I mean, if he were behind Hillary in the delegate count, you can rest assured he’d be the one pushing her into debating more – and as scrappy a character as she is, I bet she’d take him up on it. Hillary never wastes an opportunity to display how she likes to dominate the conversation.
I’m not sure if Obama’s Fox News Sunday interview was taped in advance of the Clinton camp’s challenge to debate him one on one, but in the interview, which Fox has already aired a few advanced clips of, he said, “”We’re not going to have debates between now and Indiana.”
The Washington Post reports in a fretful tone today how some Democrats are worried that their drawn out primary season is going to do “irreversible harm” to the party … along racial lines and if it happened it would be, you guessed it, Hillary’s fault:
The protracted and increasingly acrimonious fight for the Democratic presidential nomination is unnerving core constituencies — African Americans and wealthy liberals — who are becoming convinced that the party could suffer irreversible harm if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton maintains her sharp line of attack against Sen. Barack Obama.
Clinton’s solid win in the Pennsylvania primary exposed a quandary for the party. Her backers may be convinced that only she can win the white, working-class voters that the Democratic nominee will need in the general election, but many African American leaders say a Clinton nomination — handed to her by superdelegates — would result in a disastrous breach with black voters.
“If this party is perceived by people as having gone into a back room somewhere and brokered a nominee, that would not be good for our party,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.), the highest ranking African American in Congress, warned yesterday. “I’m telling you, if this continues on its current course, [the damage] is going to be irreparable.”
That fear, plus a more general sense that Clinton’s only route to victory would be through tearing down her opponent, has led even some black Democrats who are officially neutral in the race, such as Clyburn, to speak out.
Clinton’s camp has a vastly different interpretation, arguing that the most recent primary demonstrated that Democrats remain very interested in seeing the contest continue.
“Pennsylvania did the job of calming any nerves that existed,” said Clinton campaign spokesman Jay Carson. “It showed that the big states around the country think she’s the best person to be president.”
But that opinion is far from unanimous. More than 70 top Clinton donors wrote their first checks to Obama in March, campaign records show. Clinton’s lead among superdelegates, a collection of almost 800 party leaders and elected officials, has slipped from 106 in December to 23 now, according to an Associated Press tally.
“If you have any, any kind of loyalty to the Democratic Party, perhaps you need to rethink your strategy and bow out gracefully in order to save this party from a disastrous end in November,” Rep. William Lacy Clay (Mo.), an African American Obama supporter, said in an appeal to Clinton.
Clyburn accused Clinton and her husband yesterday of marginalizing black voters and opening a rift between her campaign and an African American Democratic base that strongly backed Bill Clinton’s presidency. Some surrogates in her camp are trying to render Obama unelectable against the Republican nominee so she could run for the Democratic nomination in 2012, he suggested. The discussion flared up yet again when Bill Clinton suggested this week that Obama’s campaign had played “the race card” after the former president compared the candidate to Jesse Jackson after the South Carolina primary.
“We keep talking as if it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter that Obama gets 92 percent of the black vote, because since he only got 35 percent of the white vote, he’s in trouble,” Clyburn said. “Well, Hillary Clinton only got 8 percent of the black vote. . . . It’s almost saying black people don’t matter. The only thing that matters is how white people respond. And that’s what bothered me. I think I matter.”
You see, it doesn’t matter that Clinton supporters have a valid complaint on how the media have steered along Mr. Inexperience’s campaign with more positive coverage than any other candidate on either side of the aisle. It doesn’t matter that the Obama campaign started playing the race card in advance of the much-anticipated SC primary back in January, a primary that was talked-up by the mediots and various pundits due to the high percentage of black people who are registered to vote in SC. It doesn’t matter that the Obama campaign continued to play the race card well beyond the SC primary. What’s happening here is that the Democrats are scared as hell that the continued peeling off of Obama’s mask by his political opponents is not only going to alienate the black vote, but also perhaps make Obama a not-so-sure thing this fall come election time.
Imagine another scenario: Let’s say that the shoes were on the other foot, and that Hillary was the one with a slight lead in the delegate count, and it was Barack Obama holding on to the barest of hopes that he could win the nomination by convincing superdelegates of his electability, and Barack Obama himself launching full scale aggressive offensives against Hillary. Do you think we’d see all these articles written and pleas coming from prominent Democrats that Barack Obama should go ahead and “do the right thing” and drop out of the race? Oh hell no. Why? It all boils down to one thing: race. Democrats would fear big time losing the black vote because asking him to drop out would be, well, almost like disenfranchising them. Or at least that’s the way Democrats look at things, anyway.
The Democrats have proven time and time again that as far as the War on Terror is concerned, they’ve got bigger and better priorities: like the Identity Politics War, which is currently being waged by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It’s a war where, in Demville, the concern about losing the black vote trumps concerns about losing the women’s vote. I guess they figure the women will stick around, where as black voters perhaps will increasingly identify themselves as independent (little “i” or big “I”). They’ve made their beds on this deliberately divisive political tactic for years, and have enjoyed no small amount of success from it, but push has come to shove in the identity politics battle, and the fact that sides have to be chosen has split the party in half.
They party is right to be worried, but wrong about the reasons: It’s not Obama or Hillary alone who will cause “irreversible harm” to the Dem party. It’s the Democrat party in toto, which has been causing “irreversible harm” to itself for years, thanks to their strategy of dividing everyone up into victim groups (like black people, women, gays, etc) and setting their party up as each group’s ‘rescuer.’ It’s a tactic that used to benefit them, but now it’s hurting them much in the same way it’s hurt the country for decades.
It’s still anyone’s guess as to who will win in the fall, but if the Dems continue along this path, a presidential race that once looked to be a lock for the Democrats won’t be the sure thing it started out as.
I’m a strong proponent of the two (actually multiple) party system, because without opposition there is no debate, no bouncing around of ideas, no comparisons as to which ideas are better. But this year, the chickens are coming home to roost in the Dem party and I, for one, don’t feel one single ounce of sympathy over their obvious crack-up. And I’m not embarassed to say that I hope it continues.