At the Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton stands by her man – Barack Obama

Good morning Austin:

Just as last night’s four Democratic presidential debate was about to get underway, NBC”s Chuck Todd promised “it’s going to be a doozy.”

Afterward, he seemed satisfied that it had delivered.

I don’t know.

For sheer histrionics and drama, the Republican primary campaign – and especially last Thursday’s debate – is just in a different league than the Democrats

And, let’s face it, as the upset-the-applecart outsider, Bernie Sanders is no Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

One of my big questions going into tonight was whether Clinton would really bring her recent kind of hard-charging, aggressive, almost cartoonish attacks on Sanders into the debate hall. Mostly she didn’t. She hit hard at a few points at the beginning. But her critiques, especially on health care were more subtle and refined and sounded less desperate than recent headlines generated by her campaign.

On the other side of the equation, I think she’s somewhat defused by Sanders himself. He simply doesn’t have that kind of brass knuckle politics in him. Even when he gets his hackles up a bit, every response from him is inherently defusing. There’s less charge in the air, less animus after he speaks than before. And I mean all this in both the good and bad senses in which you might understand what I’m saying. At a very basic level, just temperamentally, he doesn’t seem to have time for this stuff.

He simply has no instinct for the jugular, bringing not a knife but a tourniquet to his debates with Clinton.

At the first debate he famously said, much to Clinton’s delight, that he and the American people were sick and tired of hearing about her “damn emails,” which Republicans feverishly hope  is going to lead to her imminent indictment.

And then last night, it was Sanders saying he was not going to use Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior against her.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Senator Sanders, let me ask you a question. You called Bill Clinton’s past transgressions, quote, “totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable.” Senator, do you regret saying that?

SANDERS: I was asked a question. You know, one of the things, Andrea, and I — that question annoys me. I cannot walk down the street — Secretary Clinton knows this — without being told how much I have to attack Secretary Clinton, want to get me on the front pages of the paper, I’d make some vicious attack.

I have avoided doing that. Trying to run an issue-oriented campaign.

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: I was asked a question.

MITCHELL: You didn’t have to answer it that way, though. Why did you?

SANDERS: Well — then if I don’t answer it, then there’s another front page, so it’s yes

(LAUGHTER)

And I mean this seriously. You know that. We’ve been through this. Yes, his behavior was deplorable. Have I ever once said a word about that issue? No, I have not. I’m going to debate Secretary Clinton, Governor O’Malley, on the issues facing the American people, not Bill Clinton’s personal behavior.

(APPLAUSE)

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And, as Bernie Sanders spoke last night, there was Hillary Clinton again nodding gratefully, as her rival for the presidential nomination said he wasn’t going to use her husband’s “totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable” behavior against her.

On January 26, 1992 – two dozen years ago – in an act of public mortification, Bill and Hillary Clinton went on 60 Minutes following the Super Bowl to confront reports of his sexual transgressions.

Steve Kroft: . . . {The} question of marital infidelity is an issue with a sizable portion of the electorate. According to the latest CBS News poll . . . 14 percent of the registered voters in America wouldn’t vote for a candidate who’s had an extramarital affair.

Bill Clinton: I know it’s an issue, but what does that mean? That means that 86 percent of the American people either don’t think it’s relevant to presidential performance or look at whether a person, looking at all the facts, is the best to serve.

Kroft: I think most Americans would agree that it’s very admirable that you’ve stayed together – that you’ve worked your problems out and that you’ve seemed to reach some sort of understanding and arrangement.

Bill Clinton: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. You’re looking at two people who love each other. This is not an arrangement or an understanding. This is a marriage. That’s a very different thing.

Hillary Clinton: You know, I’m not sitting here – some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I’m sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he’s been through and what we’ve been through together. And you know, if that’s not enough for people, then heck, don’t vote for him.

Kroft: . . . One of your campaign advisers told us the other day, “Bill Clinton has got to level with the American people tonight, otherwise his candidacy is dead.” You feel like you’ve leveled with the American people?

Bill Clinton: I have absolutely leveled with the American people.

Kroft: . . . You came here tonight to try to put it behind you . . . . Do you think you’ve succeeded?

Bill Clinton: That’s up to the American people and to some extent up to the press. This will test the character of the press. It is not only my character that has been tested.

Clinton went on to a better-than-expected performance the New Hampshire primary, labeled himself “the comeback kid,” and went on to the presidency.

The most memorable line, of course, was HRC’s You know, I’m not sitting here – some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.

But, of course, she was standing by her man, a la Tammy Wynette.

“Stand By Your Man”

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times, and he’ll have good times
Doin’ things that you don’t understand
But if you love him, you’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him, oh be proud of him
‘Cause after all he’s just a man.
Stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.

Bill Clinton’s past transgressions will remain the wild card in the 2016 race, but probably not until the general election, and especially if the Republican candidate is Donald Trump, friend of Roger Stone, author of The Clintons’ War on Women.

From Ross Douthat at the New York Times:

There’s the official Clintonite narrative, in which the former president strayed with Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky, was forgiven by his wife and daughter, and deserves to have his repentance respected.
Then there’s the narrative that I suspect most Americans believe, in which the former president was much more of a tomcat in Arkansas, and probably has tomcatted occasionally in his post-presidency — but always consensually, and lately in ways that have minimized exposure or embarrassment.

If either of these narratives are true, then Clinton’s sex life will be a non-issue in 2016. If an adulterer, even a frequent adulterer, is all he is, then an America that didn’t want him impeached in the 1990s isn’t going to object to having him as the First Gentlemen today.

But suppose you believe the (Juanita) Broaddrick story. Liberals dismissed it during the impeachment days, but if you read the summary of the case from the (mostly liberal) Dylan Matthews at the (mostly liberal) website Vox, this dismissal looks unfair. There’s an inescapable he-said/she-said dynamic, but one need not be a “believe all rape allegations” absolutist to find her claim persuasive.
If she’s telling the truth, then Clinton’s sexual past becomes something more predatory. The slippage between a powerful man’s dalliances and straightforward predation is something that could happen just once. But looked at in the light of a credible rape allegation, there are all sorts of Clinton stories — the Willey and Jones cases, the rumors collected by Jones’s lawyers, the old tales of state troopers being used as procurers, the 2002 globetrotting on the jet of a billionaire who’s also a convicted statutory rapist — that could suggest a darker pattern, tending toward the Cosby-esque.

Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton lost the nomination that seemed to be her destiny to an upstart by the name of Barack Obama. Obama’s  victory in the caucuses in the very white state of Iowa proved to black voters that Obama was a serious enough candidate to override their loyalty to the Clintons in the hopes of electing America’s first African-American president.

Clinton rebounded in New Hampshire, but Obama crushed her in South Carolina with its large black electorate, after an acrimonious campaign in which Bill Clinton, especially, demeaned Obama and infuriated many black leaders.

Eight years later, as last night’s debate made abundantly clear, Hillary Clinton is going full Tammy Wynette, standing by her man, though, now, that man is Barack Obama.

 

 

From the Washington Post

From the Washington Post

From Jonathan Martin at the New York TimesHillary Clinton Turns, Repeatedly, to a Democrat Not on the Debate Stage: Obama

Hillary Clinton may have been flanked by Martin O’Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders at the presidential primary debate on Sunday night in South Carolina, but she wanted voters to see her as shoulder-to-shoulder with another Democrat: the one living in the White House.

Seeking to stabilize her 2016 campaign in the state where her 2008 contest with Barack Obama took its nastiest turn, Mrs. Clinton linked herself to the president again and again. And again.

She praised Mr. Obama for having “led our country out of the Great Recession.”

She praised Mr. Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran: “I was very pleased to be part of what the president put into action.”

She praised Mr. Obama’s handling of the Assad government in Syria — even though she fought with him over whether to arm and train Syrian rebels when she was his secretary of state.

Over and over Sunday night, Mrs. Clinton turned to Mr. Obama as both sword and shield — sometimes even in the same breath.

LESTER HOLT: What do you see as the difference between what you would do about the banks and what Secretary Clinton would do?

SANDERS: Well, the first difference is I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs. What I would do…

(APPLAUSE)

What I would do is understand that when you have three out of the four largest banks today, bigger than they were when we bailed them out because they were too big to fail, when you have the six largest financial institutions having assets of 60 percent of the GDP of America, it is very clear to me what you have to do.

You’ve got to bring back the 21st century Glass-Steagall legislation and you’ve got to break up these huge financial institutions. They have too much economic power and they have too much financial power over our entire economy. If Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, the old Republican trust buster, what he would say is these guys are too powerful. Break them up. I believe that’s what the American people to want see. That’s my view.

HOLT: Secretary Clinton, help the voter understand the daylight between the two of you here.

CLINTON: Well, there’s no daylight on the basic premise that there should be no bank too big to fail and no individual too powerful to jail. We agree on that. But where we disagree is the comments that Senator Sanders has made that don’t just affect me, I can take that, but he’s criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street, and President Obama has led our country out of the great recession. Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing.

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He even, in 2011, publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama. Now, I personally believe that President Obama’s work to push through the Dodd-Frank…

(LAUGHTER)

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The Dodd-Frank bill and then to sign it was one of the most important regulatory schemes we’ve had since the 1930s. So I’m going to defend Dodd-Frank and I’m going to defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street, taking on the financial industry and getting results.

(APPLAUSE)

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SANDERS: OK. First of all…

HOLT: Senator Sanders, your response.

SANDERS: Set the record right. In 2006 when I ran for the Senate, Senator Barack Obama was kind enough to campaign for me, 2008, I did my best to see that he was elected and in 2012, I worked as hard as I could to see that he was reelected. He and I are friends. We’ve worked together on many issues. We have some differences of opinion.

But here is the issue, Secretary touched on it, can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions and when they are providing speaker fees to individuals? So it’s easy to say, well, I’m going to do this and do that, but I have doubts when people receive huge amounts of money from Wall Street.

SANDERS: I am very proud, I do not have a super PAC. I do not want Wall Street’s money. I’ll rely on the middle class and working families…

From Dylan Matthews at VOX:

It was only eight years ago that Hillary Clinton was repeatedly attacking Barack Obama as a dangerously inexperienced naif who would be unable to get anything of consequence done as president. Now, she presents herself as a defender of his sundry accomplishments, and attacks Sanders for being insufficiently supportive of the president.

“The fact is, we have the Affordable Care Act,” Clinton declared. “That is one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama, of the Democratic party, and of our country, and we have already seen 19 million Americans get insurance.” She also cited Sanders’s past criticisms of the president and flirtation with supporting a primary challenge against him in 2011/2012.

xxxxxx

Clinton’s message is clear: I am the true defender of Obama’s legacy, I will preserve his gains, while Sanders dismissed them.

It is a message that is intended to make sure that black voters, this time, do not stray from the Clinton fold the way they did eight years ago.

From the Hill two years ago:

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) revealed in a new memoir that he received a tongue lashing from former President Clinton after the 2008 South Carolina primary, according to a report. 

Clinton blamed the South Carolina representative for his wife’s primary loss in the state to President Obama, then an Illinois senator. Clinton, during a 2 a.m. phone call, also said: “If you bastards want a fight, you damn well will get one.”

U.S. News and World Report highlighted the exchange that is part of Clyburn’s memoir slated for publication in the summer titled: Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black.

Clyburn had remained publicly neutral throughout the Democratic primary, though he voted for Obama in his state’s primary. 

“I had kept that promise. I asked [Clinton] to tell me why he felt otherwise,” Clyburn writes. “He exploded, used the word ‘bastard’ again, and accused me of causing her defeat and injecting race into the contest.” 

He added: “It was clear that the former president was holding me personally responsible for his wife’s poor showing among South Carolina black voters, and it was also clear that our heated conversation had not changed his mind.”

The day after the conversation, Clinton famously compared Obama’s win in the state to Jesse Jackson’s, who had previously won the Democratic primary there but lost the overall contest. 

“Bill Clinton wasn’t just defining his wife’s loss in South Carolina as a ‘black political event,’ he was defining it as a ‘Jim Clyburn black southern event.’ So this is what he meant when he said he’d show us a fight,” Clyburn wrote.  

Clinton later apologized to Clyburn, which the congressman “halfheartedly” accepted, according to the report. 

Hillary Clinton remains 25 points ahead of Obama in the latest national poll.

But Sanders is pressing Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire and, as Paul Kane wrote in the Washington Post at the end of last week – Clinton’s lead is evaporating, and anxious Democrats see 2008 all over again:

Just as Barack Obama’s stunning upset there helped assure Democrats in later states that a black man could win votes from whites and propelled him to victory in South Carolina and other places, so, too, could a Sanders victory on Feb. 1 in Iowa and then Feb. 9 in New Hampshire ease doubts about the viability of a self-described “democratic socialist,” some said.

“It’s just like the weak spot for Barack Obama was his skin color, but he got cured of that in Iowa,” said Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the party’s leading African-American in Congress.

“If [Sanders] comes out of Iowa and New Hampshire with big victories — if it’s close in both places, that’s one thing — but if he comes out of there with big victories, hey, man, it could very well be a new day,” Clyburn added.

There was Clyburn last night, after that “doozy” of a  debate on MSNBC, saying that Clinton was much more knowledgeable on world affairs than Sanders, that South Carolina ought to be Clinton’s fire wall, that it probably is, even if she loses in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Except, he said, if she loses Iowa by 10 points or more.

That, he said, “would redefine the race.”

It was a little bit ominous, coming from Clyburn, who spoke expressionless.

Beyond that, the peril for Clinton is that even if she prevails over Sanders by running for Obama’s third term, she will have enshrined herself as the candidate of the status quo at an angry and restless moment in American history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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