Sunday, February 10, 2008

Next Up for the Democrats: Civil War

WHAT if a presidential campaigner held what she as “the largest, most synergistic town hallway in political history” on national television, and no 1 noticed? Fred R. Conrad/The New House Of York Times

Frank Rich

Jane Seymour Chwast

The untold narrative in the run-up to Superintendent Tuesday was Edmund Hillary Clinton’s luxuriant unrecorded prime-time particular the nighttime before the vote. Presiding from a studio in New York, the campaigner took inquiries from audiences in . She had plugged the event four years earlier in the last pant of her with Barack Obama and paid a little luck for it: an hr of clip on the Hallmark Channel plus artificial satellite television hookups for the assemblies of protagonists stretching from seashore to coast.

The same news mass media that constantly revisited the in Golden State ignored “Voices Across America: A National Town Hall.” The Bill Clinton political campaign would no doubt property this to press bias, but it scrupulously designed the event to avoid making news. Like the scripted “” Sessions during the 2004 campaign, this town hallway seemed to blossom in Stepford. The analgesic inquiries (“What else would you make to assist take attention of our veterans?”) merely cued up wash listings of talking points. Some in attending appeared to enchantment out.

But I’m glad Iodine watched every minute, right up until Mrs. Bill Clinton was in midsentence so Hallmark could restart its previously scheduled scheduling (a film promising “A Season for Miracles,” aptly enough). However boring, this show was a dramatic encapsulation of how a once-invincible candidate ended up in a dead heat, crippled by poll-tested corporate packaging that marketplaces her as a man-made merchandise leeched of most human qualities. What’s more, it offered a bare prevue of how nastily the Clintons will fight, whatever the collateral harm to the Democratic Party, in the end game to come.

For a political campaign that began with tightly monitored Web “” and then inquiries at its earlier town-hall meetings, a Bush-style pseudo-event like the Hallmark particular is nil new, of course. What’s singular is that instead of learning from these mistakes, Mrs. Clinton’s animal trainers maintain doubling down.

Less than two hebdomads ago she was airlifted into her own, less effectual version of “Mission Accomplished.” Instead of declaring fake triumph in Iraq, she starred in a made-for-television mass meeting declaring fake triumph in a Sunshine State primary that was held in rebelliousness of political party rules, involved no candidacy and awarded no delegates. As Andrea R. J. Mitchell of NBC News , it was “the Potemkin small town of triumph celebrations.”

The Hallmark show, enacted on an anachronistic studio set that looked like a intentional atavist to the good old years of 1992, was equally desperate. If the point was to bring forth contributions or excitement, the consequence was the reverse. A political campaign operative, speaking on MSNBC, claimed that 250,000 viewing audience had seen an online embodiment of the event in improver to “who cognizes how many” Hallmark transmission channel viewers. Who knows, indeed? What we make cognize is that by then the “Yes We Can” Obama picture fronted by the hip-hop singer of the Black Eyed Peas had been averaging YouTube positions a day. (Cost to the Obama campaign: zero.)

Two years after her town-hall extravaganza, Mrs. Bill Clinton the $5 million loan she had made to her ain political campaign to last a calendar month in which the Obama operation had raised $32 million to her $13.5 million. That affecting confession led to a in parts that Mr. Obama also topped. Though Tuesday was largely a draw in and , every other indicator, from the candidates’ existent and practical crowds to difficult cash, points to a steadily widening Obama-Clinton gap. The Bill Clinton political campaign might be an imploding Potemkin small town itself were it not for the fungible net income from Bill Clinton’s cloudy post-presidency . (The Clintons, unlike Mr. Obama, have got their income-tax returns.)

The campaign’s other most cogent word form of currency stays its thick deck of race cards. This was all too evident in the Hallmark show. In its carefully calibrated cross subdivision of geographically and demographically diverse cast of characters members — young, old, one cheery man, one vet, two labor union members — African-Americans were reduced to also-rans. One achromatic woman, the former television letter writer Carole Simpson, was given the servile function of the meeting’s nominal moderator, Erectile Dysfunction McMahon to Mrs. Clinton’s top banana. Scattered achromatic human faces could be seen in the audience. But in the full televised hour, there was not a single African-American questioner, whether to flip a playground ball or inquire about the Clintons’ ain recent mishaps in racial politics.

The Bill Clinton encampment makes not go forth such as substances to chance. This determination was a cold, political cost-benefit calculus. In October, seven calendar months after the two candidates’ dueling Christian church perorations in Selma, Edmund Hillary Bill Clinton prima Mr. Obama among African-American Democrats by a border of 62 percentage to 34 percent. But once achromatic electors met Mr. Obama and started to gravitate toward him, Bill Bill Clinton and the campaign’s other alternates stopped protective about what African-Americans thought. In an attempt to frighten off achromatic voters, Mr. Obama was ghettoized arsenic a coke user (by the head Bill Bill Clinton strategist, , among ), “the achromatic candidate” (as Clinton strategians the Associated Press) and Jesse Glenda Jackson redux (by ).

The result? Black United States have largely deserted the Clintons. In her Golden State primary victory, Mrs. Bill Clinton only 19 percentage of the achromatic vote. The political campaign saw this approaching and so saw no per centum in bestowing cherished proceedings of prime-time telecasting on African-American queries.

That clip went instead to the Latino population that was still in drama in Superintendent Tuesday’s vote in the West. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles had a cameo, and one of the artificial satellite meetings was held in the National Spanish American Cultural Center in Albuquerque. There’s nil incorrect with that. It’s smart politics, especially since Mr. Obama have been behind the curved shape in wooing this constituency.

But the wholesale permutation of Hispanics for blacknesses on the Hallmark show is tainted by a creepy racial dorsum story. Last calendar month A Latino poll taker employed by the Bill Bill Clinton political campaign pitted the two groupings against each other by The New Yorker that Latino electors have got “not shown a batch of willingness or chemical attraction to back up achromatic candidates.” Mrs. Clinton then by telling Tim Russert in a argument that her poll taker was “making a historical statement.”

It wasn’t Associate in Nursing accurate statement, historical or otherwise. It was a lie, and a bigoted prevarication at that, given that it branded Hispanics, a grouping as heterogenous as any other, as massive racists. As the editorialist Gregory Xiii Rodriguez in The Los Angeles Times, all three achromatic members of United States Congress in that metropolis won in heavily Spanish American districts; achromatic city managers as assorted as Saint David Dinkins in New House Of York in the 1980s and Bokkos Kirk in Dallas in the 1990s received more than than 70 percentage of the Latino vote. The existent point of the Bill Clinton campaign’s determination to sough misinformation and racial division, Mr. Rodriguez concluded, was to “undermine 1 of Obama’s cardinal merchandising points, that he can construct Bridges and unify Americans of all types.”

If that was the intent, it didn’t work. Mrs. Bill Clinton did heap up her expected big border among Spanish American electors in California. But her tight clasp on that electorate is loosening. Mr. Obama, who only 26 percentage of Latino electors in Silver State last month, did better than that in every state on Tuesday, reaching 41 percentage in and 53 percentage in . Meanwhile, the Bill Clinton campaign’s effort to drive achromatic electors away from Mr. Obama by playing the race card have backfired. His achromatic ballot run rises every week. Though Mrs. Bill Clinton won by almost 10 per centum points, among Whites she beat out Mr. Obama by lone 3 points.

The inquiry now is how much more than racial clash the Bill Clinton political campaign will gin up if its Latino support starts to gnaw in Texas, whose March 4 ballot it sees as its up-to-the-minute firewall. Clearly it will halt at little. That’s wherefore you now hear Bill Clinton secret agents talking ever more than brazenly about trying to change by reversal political party opinions so that they can highjack from Sunshine State and the other knave primary, Michigan, where Mr. Obama wasn’t even on the ballot. So much for Mrs. Clinton’s on New Hampshire Populace Radio last autumn that it didn’t substance if she alone kept her name on the Wolverine State ballot because the ballot “is not going to number for anything.”

Last month, two distinguished African-American historiographers who have got served in government, Virgin Mary Frances Berry (in the Leslie Howard Carter and Bill Clinton years) and Roger Roy Wilkins (in the Samuel Johnson administration), wrote Howard Dean, the Democrats’ chairman, to of the hazards of that certificate fight. Last week, Mr. Dean became sufficiently alarmed to brokering an “arrangement” if a clear-cut victory by one campaigner hasn’t rendered the issue disputed by the spring. But makes anyone seriously believe that Leslie Howard Dean can discourage a Bill Clinton compound so pitiless that it risked shredding three decennaries of common affectionateness with achromatic United States to win a primary?

A race-tinged bash at the convention, some nine hebdomads before Election Day, will not be a Hallmark moment. As Mr. Roy Wilkins reiterated to me last week, it will be a flashback to the Democratic civil warfare of 1968, a self-destruction for the political party no substance which master stops up holding the rancid spoils.

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