Obama’s Anti-Clinton Spin At Odds with DNC

…Or, how Democrats Eat Their Own.

Talking Points Memo has an article up describing Obama’s latest mailer attacking the Clinton Presidency:

In what may be Obama’s most direct and aggressive criticism of Bill Clinton’s presidency yet, the Obama campaign dropped a new mailer just before Super Tuesday that blasts “the Clintons” for wreaking massive losses on the Democratic party throughout the 1990s.

“8 years of the Clintons, major losses for Democrats across the nation,” reads the mailer, which goes on to list the post-1992 losses suffered by Dems among governors, Senators and members of the House of Representatives. The mailer was forwarded to us by a political operative who told us it was sent to Alaska, though it was probably sent elsewhere, too.

link: http://tpmelectioncentral.talk…

So, being the curious blogger I am I was wondering what the DNC’s official take on the Clinton years was. Below is their take on Bill Clinton’s legacy, taken from their website (my emphasis added):

In 1992, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States. President Clinton ran on the promise of a New Covenant for America’s forgotten working families. After twelve years of Republican presidents, America faced record budget deficits, high unemployment, and increasing crime. President Clinton’s policies put people first and resulted in the longest period of economic expansion in peacetime history. The Deficit Reduction Act of 1993 – passed by both the House and Senate without a single Republican vote – put America on the road to fiscal responsibility and led to the end of perennial budget deficits. Having inherited a $290 billion deficit in 1992, President Clinton’s last budget was over $200 billion in surplus. The Clinton/Gore Administration was responsible for reducing unemployment to its lowest level in decades and reducing crime to its lowest levels in a generation. In 1996, President Clinton became the first Democratic president reelected since Roosevelt in 1936. In 1998, Democrats became the first party controlling the White House to gain seats in Congress during the sixth year of a president’s term since 1822.

In the 2000 elections, Democrats netted 4 additional Senate seats, one additional House seat, and one additional gubernatorial seat. Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote for President by more than 500,000 votes. In 2001, Democrats regained control of the Senate under Majority Leader Tom Daschle, while Democrats swept to victory in races all across the country, including races for Virginia Governor and Lt. Governor, New Jersey Governor, and 39 out of 42 major mayoral races including Los Angeles and Houston.

link: http://www.democrats.org/a/par…

So, Obama’s message on the Clinton years: we didn’t get enough done because the Democrats lost seats due to how divisive the Clintons were. The DNC’s message on the Clinton years: we got a lot of things done, including ripping the mantle of “fiscal responsibility” away from the GOP, and we didn’t need Republican support to get there.  Heck, we even ended up with more elected Democrats at the end of it all.

While both versions of history have some validity, the overall problem with Obama’s recent mailer is this: it is at odds with how the Democratic National Committee wants to view itself during the Clinton years. That’s a bad thing.

Being officially agnostic on Hillary versus Obama, I’m not going to claim the Clinton years weren’t divisive. They were (now, whether or not that was actually the fault of the Clintons is a matter that could be up for discussion). And if Barack Obama wants to hit Hillary hard on being a divisive figure, I say have at it. Not only is this a valid line of attack but there’s more than enough polling data to actually, factually back that one up.

However, when Obama’s messaging on the Clinton years starts to directly conflict with the DNC’s, it’s time to throw in the penalty flag. The Democratic Party, as an entity, has a vested interest in pointing out that Bill Clinton (and by association the DNC) left the country better than they found it, because they can make that same pledge to voters this year in the general election. “It takes a Democrat to clean up after a Bush” should be the rallying cry come November.

But it can’t be if Obama takes away that rhetorical goose that could lay all of those golden soundbite eggs.

If Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama want to destroy each other in the primaries, fair enough. That’s not something I’d prefer but with stakes this high I can see how that one can happen. But when they start to go after the effectiveness of the Democratic Party and its messaging, it’s time to reign in that line of attack.

We all want to elect more Democrats this year. Let’s not lose sight of that goal.


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  1. I just wanna Dem to win, be it a butcher, baker or candlestick maker.

  2. …with your diary more than i do.

    the truth of the clinton administration’s handling of any number of events is ripe and ready to be discussed openly, e.g., (1) the impact of the iraqi sanctions that caused the deaths of 1.5 million iraqis, 500,000 of them being children under 12–and, the mouthpiece maddy albright’s statement that the sanctions were a good thing; (2) his administration’s attitude toward the taliban in the late 1990s, including his involvement in big oil going after the natural gaslines from turkistan through afghanistan; (3) the administration’s ignoring of the rwandan tragedy; (4) his administration’s lack of support of the international criminal court, and reluctantly signing on one of his days in office; (5) the pardon of marc rich and the resulting campaign donations to his wife, and the $450,000 donation to the clinton library; (6) his administration’s failure to investigate gwh bush for war-crimes that occurred during the first bush war.

    the list is not a complete one, but, a good starting point in properly assessing the clinton years.

    of course, senator obama will not campaign on this list, and i do not thing he ought to do so; but, the fact that senator obama is willing to see and say that that king had no clothes is refreshing, correct, and timely.

  3. both candidates took in the last debate where they outlined their positions and differences rather than attack each other.

    But with that being said, I’d be the last one to say that we need to muzzle any criticism of Dems. If that were one of the rules, I think most of us on this site wouldn’t have much to say. Do I think the Repugs are worse, yes. But I’ve not been too impressed with the Dems either. And I do think there is material to both praise and criticize Bill Clinton. If he wanted to stay above the fray – he might have done two things:

    1. Stand up against the Repugs and Bushco over the last 7 years (the only time I can remember him getting feisty at all prior to this campaign was when the ABC movie criticized him – where’s he been???)

    2. Campaign for his wife, but stay out of the mudslinging himself.

  4. Clinton would often portray himself as occupying the middle position between the unreasonable Republican Party and the unreasonable Democratic Party.  It was great if he was just interested in his own welfare, but it did not “build the party’s brand,” as we say, and made it easier for the party to lose steam during the 90s and thereafter.

    I don’t blame him so much for the 1994 loss; after his courageous decision on the budget act, it was not all that unlikely, at least in retrospect.  But blowing health care reform was a problem that year, which was the biggest “Democrats in Disarray” year I can recall.  But he was not good to his friends and allies — he used them and abandoned them as he saw fit.  If you contrast this with the more party-oriented actions of Republican Presidents, there is a huge difference.

    And that is what I think Obama was talking about.  Rightly so.

  5. when they start to go after the effectiveness of the Democratic Party and its messaging, it’s time to reign in that line of attack.

    Better to acknowledge past mistakes than ignore them.

    It’s in no one’s interest here to see a repeat of Newt and ’94.

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