[Note: We will have our usual live coverage of tonight’s debate. The debate will be on MSNBC starting at 9:00 p.m. EST. The debate will also be streamed live on the web.]
On September 14, 2000, Rick Lazio attacked now SENATOR Hillary Clinton in a televised debate in the New York Senate Race. Tim Russert was the moderator.
Tonight, there will be a
mugging debate with the Democratic candidates for president. Tim Russert will be a co-moderator. Hillary Clinton will once again be under attack.
The desperate Barack Obama and the equally desperate John Edwards will be impersonating Ripublican Rick Lazio.
For Obama the stakes are high. Obama has promised his dwindling group of discouraged supporters that this time he will attack Hillary ferociously.
If Obama fails to attack, his dwindling group of discouraged supporters will be reduced to Michelle Obama and the Obama paid staff. Obama had promised a “new politics” campaign, but as this past weekend’s gay bashing tour demonstrates, Obama’s “new politics” is the old Ripublican attack politics of division.
But Obama, in both a speech last week in New York and one today in Chicago, is now moving past his earlier strategy, which was to distinguish himself from Clinton by arguing that she voted for the war and suggesting that she is more divisive than he because Republicans have spent years targeting her. He’s not using Clinton’s name or talking about Whitewater or scandals from the 1990’s, but Obama is in an area some of his advisers had suggested earlier he would not go: a critique that moves beyond policy toward her character.
Obama wants to blame Democrats for Ripublican and Bush failures, “That is why it is not enough to change parties,” Obama says. And in light of this past weekend’s gay bashing tour in South Carolina, Obama’s other promises sound hollow too: “I will always tell the American people the truth. I will always tell you where I stand. It’s what I’m doing in this campaign. It’s what I’ll do as President.”
Attack politics is not what Barack Obama had promised. Barack Obama lied. Cynicism.
“Talking to a friend the other day, Obama stated the obvious about Tuesday night’s debate … “I’ve got to do something in Philly.” Whatever happened to Obama’s politics of hope?
Remember this, Barack?:
John Edwards will be Rick Lazio tonight as well. John Edwards in the past promised not to attack other candidates. John Edwards attacked the “politics of cynicism” and was against attacking other candidates and “tearing other people apart”. That was then, this is the desperate now.
Rick Lazio John Edwards is now desperately practicing the politics of cynicism:
The argument marks a shift in a race where Edwards and Clinton’s other Democratic opponents have criticized her stance on policy but usually have avoided taking on her character directly. In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, Edwards said Clinton is part of a corrupt Washington system. [snip]
Edwards is a former trial lawyer with a penchant for making effective closing arguments that are strong on emotion, and he is likely to press his case when the Democrats meet for a debate Tuesday night in Philadelphia. His shift against Clinton comes as she is leading in every national and state poll.
Clinton leads even though a study out Monday found that she got some of the most negative media coverage of the White House field. And she’s in front even though Edwards has been ramping up his criticism of her since the summer, particularly on her ties to lobbyists.
Barack Obama and John Edwards should remember Rick Lazio and his failed attacks on Hillary:
“Character issues are the most powerful attack lines in a general election, but they are risky in a primary, especially when questioning the honesty of someone like Hillary Clinton who remains among the most popular in the party,” Cutter said. “It can backfire. At the same time, the Clinton campaign would be wrong to ignore it.”
Personal attack is John Edwards version of “new politics” too:
Edwards suggested Clinton is mostly running for president out of personal ambition.
Is Edwards ambitious?
He acknowledged that personal ambition played a role in his 2004 presidential campaign, but he said it is less so in this bid.
“Being honest, you can never say personal ambition doesn’t play a role,” Edwards said. “But I do think that I’m driven by something different. I’m driven by making this country work for the kind of people I grew up with.”
Clinton’s campaign responded by pointing to what it said are differences between Edwards’ first and second White House bids.
“Senator Edwards’ entire campaign has devolved into a daily routine of negative personal attacks against Senator Clinton,” said Clinton spokesman Phil Singer. “He’s a far cry from the John Edwards of 2004 who rose to prominence by decrying personal attacks against other Democrats.”
Obama has already promised relentless attacks against Hillary:
Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia will be the first test on the national stage for Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) to carry through on his pledge to engage rival and Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) more directly and forcefully.
In a weekend interview with The New York Times, Obama said “now is the time” for him to step up his efforts to knock Clinton off the top spot.
Obama has implicitly criticized Clinton and her policies repeatedly, mostly recently in an ad released over the weekend that contained indirect references to the senator. The ad, entitled “Winds,” is an apparent attempt to hit Clinton for her reluctance to commit to an answer in a question about Social Security posed during the last Democratic debate. [snip]
Elmendorf said that by announcing the campaign’s strategy to step up confrontations with Clinton, Obama basically acknowledges that he knows he’s in trouble.
“He certainly telegraphed that punch, which isn’t always the best way to do this,” Elmendorf said. “Time is running out, and they clearly know that.”
The New York Times reported that several Obama supporters have been critical of the Illinois senator’s apparent reluctance to criticize Clinton aggressively.
Edwards, on the other hand, has been more outspoken by far in going after the front-runner, and he indicated Monday that he might be capable of moving that criticism into a higher gear.
But perhaps the most striking moment of the evening came not with Mr. Lazio and Mrs. Clinton, but with the first lady and the moderator of the debate, Tim Russert, the host of NBC’s Sunday program ”Meet the Press.” He showed a videotape from the ”Today” program of Jan. 27, 1998, in which Mrs. Clinton, just after the Lewinsky scandal broke, defended her husband and denied the allegations that he had had an affair with a White House intern. Mr. Russert asked Mrs. Clinton if she regretted ”misleading the American people” and if she would ”now apologize for branding people as part of a vast right-wing conspiracy.”
Hillary with a commanding presence faced down Rick Lazio and Tim Russert seven years ago.
Tonight Hillary will have to face down Tim Russert and all the other men surrounding her on the stage, again.