Thursday, January 24, 2008
Calculating the Clintons
-- Carl Bernstein, CNN Contributor

The calculated decision that Bill Clinton will lead his wife's attack on Barack Obama -- here and now, and increasingly leading up to the February 5 Super Tuesday primaries -- represents a shift in the fundamental Democratic campaign dynamic, which is unnerving influential Democrats, both in her camp and Obama's.

They fear that the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has thus taken on an ugly aspect that is already spinning out of control, and could damage the party's chances in November; strip the former President of his unique position as the Democrats' most popular and influential figure; and -- worst of all -- focus attention not on electing Sen. Hillary Clinton as president, but rather, the less palatable question of the Clintons' -- plural -- restoration to the White House.

The whole question of Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and their difficult relationship to the truth is now front and center. Or, as one of the Clintons' suppoters put it to me, "The circus is back. Many Democrats may love Bill Clinton -- and they do -- but not many relish the prospect of the circus back on center-stage" in American life.

However, the Clintons believe this course -- with Bill Clinton leading a careful but unrelenting attack on Obama's credibility and credentials -- may be the only way to reduce the chances that Hillary Clinton could get grievously injured in the February 5 Super Tuesday primaries and lose the nomination to Obama.

Editor's note: Carl Bernstein discusses his views with Anderson on tonight's 360 at 10p ET.
Posted By CNN: 8:05 PM ET
  17 Comments
Carl,
Yeah the Clinton's are a calculative bunch aren't they! They know just the right buttons to push to get Obama mad and off course. But if they think that this is the only way that she can win then they must not have too much confidence that she can win on her own merits! Just a thought!

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Blogger Cindy : 8:27 PM ET
Do we have a guarantee this kind of strategy will end if Hillary wins the nomination?
I doubt if a verbal spit spat was the CHANGE most Americans were yearning for..

Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.
Posted By Blogger Lorie Ann : 8:27 PM ET
Your analysis hits this right on the head. I am a lifelong Democrat tired of the same old politics. I also remember Bill Clinton's strategy to win re-election in 1996 was to actually lower turnout. Here they are playing hard-ball politics thinking only of the end-game and the short term benefit. The Clinton's are responsible for devolving the debate in the Democratic party, just at a time when we had a candidate that it seemed could have provided some transformational leadership, created a new working majority, and broadened the party. But I guess that what it good for the party is not important to them. They are just in it for themselves. No matter the cost. If she wins the nomination my vote in the fall will either go to Bloomberg or McCain.
Posted By Blogger jroquett : 10:22 PM ET
The shame is that as you noted on the program it is working. Polls show that whites in South Carolina are now voting in a much greater proportion than they were before for Hillary. Well, she may win the nomination this way but if so for the first time in my life I may be voting for a Republican in the general election!
Posted By Anonymous DK, Fairfield, CA : 10:26 PM ET
Power, power, power. That's all they want. The Clinton Dynasty back in the White House. Even Chelsea is now involved. All that against Obama, who has been honest, has a dream of a better America, undivided, a country for all. Why don't people see the contrast between sincerety of Obama and the dirty tricks politics of the Clintons. Wake up America. It is George Bush again in pseudo democratic clothing. Obama is the real democrate here. Wake up. Do you want another 4 or 8 years of misery listening to untruth and indecision. Because of this power at all cost, we will have no change at all.
Posted By Anonymous Gerry : 10:26 PM ET
Bill and Hillary together have used old school negative tactics aimed at misleading and distorting Obama's intentions and record. Unfortunately they were having success with it and have made it necessary for Obama to defend himself. It brings back memories of the worst part of the Clintons' time in the White House. It's a vivid reminder of why we need to move forward instead of looking back.
Posted By Anonymous tony : 10:28 PM ET
When Anderson cooper cover the Hurricane Katrina I admire you But now no !!!!! why Now CNN has changed lot . some time I feel situation room becomes Obama’s room and 360 following Obama in 360 . I request CNN to play a neutral
Posted By Blogger vigmee : 10:35 PM ET
Carl,
Thank you for being objective and truthful about the Clintons. We need honest people like you who speak the truth. I am a Democrat but if Hillary were to get the nomination I will stay at home or vote for McCain. I am sick and tired of the lies the Clintons employ to get the ticket. Hillary lacks character and cannot be trusted. This race is about personal ambition of the Clintons. It appears that they will do or say anything to win. The latest radio ad in South Carolina against Barrack Obama has proven my suspicion of the dark side and despicable character of Hillary. By the way, Bill Clinton is starting to look like a shameless jerk every passing day. We do not want a jerk like him running the Whitehouse behind the scene. Bill Clinton is not doing the country any good.
Posted By Anonymous Matt, Toronto, Ontario : 10:40 PM ET
Is this a campaign? A contest? Where were you when Hillary was taking incoming punches from both Obama and Edwards!! Do you expect the Clintons to tape their mouth and smile as they are called liars? I have never seen anything like you in the media who are so protective of Obama. If he can't take a nudge without hollering race we are in for a long four years! How will he react to the republicans?? We know the games they play.
I will be supporting Hillary!!
Posted By Anonymous pat : 10:40 PM ET
I saw your story on Obama and Rezko-It's about time you're reporting on it. Obama said he didn't know his friend was a slumlord-so he didn't even know what is going on in his own district!! Or he is a big liar. Either way you have given Mr. Slick Obama a free pass this election while scrutinizing Senator Clinton's every move.
Posted By Anonymous James, Los Angeles : 10:46 PM ET
I take issue with Mr. Anderson on saying that Mr. Clinton was lashing out at a reporter about a question. I saw the video a number of times and I did not see this at all. Now as a Independent voter I also watched when Mr. Obama was being interviewed and seen him say that Republicans had ideas. At no time during the interview did he say that he did not like the ideas? He tired to say that at the last debate. From my vantage point it appeared that Mr. Obama was praising the Republicans ideas. Mr. Obama could have also said that Mr. Clinton had some great ideas but he chose not to.
Now that Ms Clinton brings this up you reporters think that she is being unfair. Please give me a break.

Allen Stepro Msgt
USMC Ret.
Posted By Anonymous Allen : 10:47 PM ET
The Clinton's are politicians; they know how the game is played and are apt at playing it. Many Americans expected the spiteful, negative and vengeful campaign that the Clintons are running.

The real tragedy is that Obama seems to have gotten off his message of transcending boundaries. The senator can surely talk the talk but he needs to demonstrate that he can walk the walk no matter how difficult it gets.

Personally, I think the democrats have lost this election. McCain walks away a winner!
Posted By Anonymous akhouri, Calif. : 10:50 PM ET
I think that if Billary doesn't win some upcoming primaries, they both are going to get even uglier.
Posted By Anonymous Diane - Providence, R.I. : 10:52 PM ET
I completely agree with Mr. Bernstein's assessment of the Clinton strategy. As a former supporter of President Clinton, I am shocked and disappointed with his attacks on Senator Obama, which will damage the Democratic party. I believe that there will be a backlash which could lead to a Republican victory in the general election.
Posted By Blogger F. Woodham : 11:17 PM ET
carl, one wonders what kind of 'first gentleman' bill would be. the kind of rakish behavior we've seen muddies the aura of being a past president. the 'first lady' hopefuls should pay heed, and hopefully choose the higher ethical ground.
Posted By Blogger cam : 11:23 PM ET
Hillary Clinton should lose the nomination to Barack Obama. As a voter--since 1972--who has ALWAYS voted Democratic, I cannot and will not support "politics-as-usual" Clinton. If Hillary gets the Democratic nod, it is tantamount to allowing the Republicans to keep the White House. It will happen. The country will not elect Hillary as president. Beyond her polarizing impact, she and her husband bring such baggage that the Republicans won't even have to be choosy about the fodder for attacks. Ugly, ugly. I am disgusted, insulted and embarrassed that Bill Clinton stoops so low (what's new?) to smear Barack Obama with lies and slurs. The Democrats are really a stupid bunch--take an up-and-coming brilliant star such as Obama--and blow him to smithereens. That is just what our country needs....Barack Obama HAD TO stand up to the lies and prove he would not roll over and play nice or play dead in the face of the two-teaming tactics of the Clintons. This is an early scrimage for him. The Republicans, however, would have to dig pretty deep to discredit him. Hillary Clinton took more than $800,000 from a donor who is being indicted under really shady circumstances. Obama's contributions from Rizco (sp?) is a mere tempest in a teapot. Have American politics really met a new low? No one of worth will want to run for important offices. Why subject yourself to threats, falsehoods, smears and lies? Should a Republican return to office, in the face of the George W. Bush legacy. it signals to me that our country is irreparable in the short-term. And, the short-term is at least a generation I can't wait. I won't wait. As a 13-year-old, I volunteered for Robert F. Kennedy's California campaign. It is the only time and last time I really believed in a politician. A function of my impressionable age, no doubt. Well, I still am impressionable. And this is my impression: I cannot live in a country that will not recognize the dishonesty of the Clintons and return a Republican to office following the disaster we call the Bush Administration. Good luck, y'all.
Posted By Anonymous KAR, Bakersfield, California : 12:42 AM ET
Mr. Bernstein--you are taking the Clintons too personally. your one-sided negativity towards this couple is unambiguous and ,mind if I say, shameful. I know you wrote a book about Hillary Clinton around the time she announced her presidential candidacy. But with such biased perspective, I am wondering why CNN would even put you on screen supposedly acting as neutral commentators. you have hijacked CNN for your personal political views against candidate you dislike. this is pathetic. you might sell more of your book but your moral standing is despicable.
Posted By Anonymous lochukung : 12:17 PM ET
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