By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Clinton's presence inside the room ignited a noisy ruckus of cheers and countercheers that divided the attendees. White-T-shirted supporters of Mrs. Clinton loudly chanted "Hil-la-ry! Hil-la-ry!" while Obama supporters in red T-shirts raised their fists in the air and chanted back, "O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" Obama supporters were outraged by Clinton's presence in the caucus room. "This is a dirty trick," Mirage-resort cook Maria Cortez said angrily. "He's the one who is trying to intimidate us. No other candidates are in here. What's he doing here? Just trying to pressure us." Another Culinary Union member, Amelia Morland, said: "Everything's changed about Clinton. He's not the man he used to be."
In his long navy-blue wool coat, McAuliffe looked like he might have just walked off the set of The Sopranos. And he sounded like it too. "We were told that any of us could come to talk to voters," he told me when I asked him if he was complying with the rules of the caucus. "We're encouraging people to vote. There is no intimidation." Funny, there was no reference to intimidation in my question.
Clinton's antics were rewarded with Hillary's edging out Obama in the Mirage caucus by about 20 votes among 350. And the scores of culinary workers who vociferously supported Mrs. Clinton seemed neither intimidated, inhibited nor restrained. Whatever supposed union intimidation there was, if any, was ineffective, as Hillary won 51 percent of the state's popular vote to Obama's 45. However, Obama may end up with more delegates, having won 11 out of 17 Nevada counties.
Bill Clinton's show at the Mirage was but the culmination of a weekful of verbal assaults and smears he leveled at Obama. As I've written before in these pages, Bill is nothing less than Hillary's Super Surrogate, freely mouthing off that nominating Obama would be "a roll of the dice," that Obama's opposition to the war is but a "fairy tale," and that Obama has revealed himself as a Reaganite.
By fortuitous circumstance, I had been in close quarters with the Clintons in Des Moines just an hour or so before the caucuses opened and when they apparently had already sensed the drubbing they were about to take. The pained looks on their faces, the heaviness that hung in the air around them was palpable. So was their determination, by any means necessary, to reverse the trend. The result has shocked even those once among the most loyal of Clintonites. Bill Clinton's former secretary of labor, Robert Reich, writing in his blog on January 24, noted his own revulsion:
I write this more out of sadness than anger. Bill Clinton's ill-tempered and ill-founded attacks on Barack Obama are doing no credit to the former President, his legacy, or his wife's campaign. Nor are they helping the Democratic Party. While it may be that all is fair in love, war, and politics, it's not fair — indeed, it's demeaning — for a former President to say things that are patently untrue (such as Obama's antiwar position is a "fairy tale") or to insinuate that Obama is injecting race into the race when the former President is himself doing it. Meanwhile, the attack ads being run in South Carolina by the Clinton camp which quote Obama as saying Republicans had all the ideas under Reagan is disingenuous.
For years, Bill Clinton and many other leading Democrats have made precisely the same point — that starting in the Reagan administration, Republicans put forth a range of new ideas while the Democrats sat on their hands. Many of these ideas were wrong-headed and dangerous, such as supply-side economics. But for too long, Democrats failed to counter with new ideas of their own; they wrongly assumed that the old Democratic positions and visions would be enough. Clinton's 1992 campaign — indeed, the entire "New Democratic" message of the 1990s — was premised on the importance of taking back the initiative from the Republicans and offering Americans a new set of ideas and principles. Now, sadly, we're witnessing a smear campaign against Obama that employs some of the worst aspects of the old politics.
My point exactly. It represents the worst that could come out of this nominating process, a popular ratification of the politics of business-as-usual. And this goes beyond transitory tactical decisions and speaks directly to the core strategy of the Clinton campaign. It's a conscious exploitation of fear, uncertainty and conventional caution, all with a markedly geriatric tinge. It's what in the good old days we used to simply call reactionary.
Indeed, Hillary Clinton's hallmark theme in this campaign is that from "day one," as she likes to say, the next president of the United States will be faced with one cataclysmic, unanticipated horror after another which only she, of course, can be counted on to successfully manage. Obama and Edwards might want to change the world, but Hillary Clinton wants to protect us against it. In a world brimming with danger and uncertainty, Hillary argues from the stump, there's no time to waste daydreaming about pie-in-the-sky promises of reform. Instead, the American people must choose a leader ready to immediately start fixing the problems that already exist, and one who is immediately ready to face the inevitable and "unpredictable" crises looming right over the horizon. And that would be Clinton.