Wednesday 12 March 2008

Falling out of love with the Clintons

In an early episode of Brothers and Sisters, Nora says of her conservative daughter Kitty's book collection: 'I never knew there were so many biographies of Ronald Reagan'. If you were to see the bookshelves in our house, a similar thought might occur to you in relation to Bill and Hillary Clinton. I think we must own a copy of just about every book written by or about the former First Couple. And then there's our DVD collection, with its copies of The War Room and The Hunting of the President. When we visited New York last year, we were ridiculously thrilled to find ourselves seated in the 'Clinton corner' at the Carnegie Deli: at the very table where Bill and Hill had sat with their secret service entourage.

In other words, H. and I have been long-term, dedicated Clinton fans, aware of our political idols' faults but cheering them on relentlessly - at a transatlantic distance - and defending them against the barrage of charges levelled at them by the Right.

But that was before this year's presidential campaign. We started out feeling pretty even-handed in our liking for the two Democratic frontrunners, impressed by Barack's Kennedy-like freshness but appreciating Hillary's tenacity and dedication. As the campaign has gone on, though, our liking for Obama has grown, and our attachment to Clinton has rapidly diminished.

The behaviour of the Clinton campaign since January has appalled us. First it was the fake tears in New Hampshire - a calculated attempt to play gender politics. Then there were the underhand schemes to have certain results deemed less legitimate than others, and to rewrite the rules over Florida and Michigan. In February, there was the 'kitchen sink' offensive, with its cynical appeal to the politics of fear and its campaign to diminish a rival through repeated negative attacks. Openly declaring that your rival is less fitted for office than the Republican candidate, as the Clinton campaign has done, puts self-interest and the desire for power ahead of the interests of party and country - and risks gifting the election to McCain, whoever ends up being the Democratic nominee.

Finally, and most distastefully, there has been the attempt to play the politics of race. Bill Clinton's ill-judged comments in South Carolina and suggestions by campaign spokespeople that black-dominated states are somehow less important, have now been capped by Geraldine's Ferraro's ugly intervention, more or less accusing Obama of trading on his blackness. Ferraro's attempt to play the victim in this story, and Hillary's less-than-convincing distancing of herself from her comments, have brought the Clinton campaign to a new low. 

Let Keith Olbermann speak for all of us disillusioned former Clintonites:

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