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Sun

16

Dec

2007

Remember Punjab-Gate, Homophobia-Gate, Wasted-Lives-Gate?
Sunday, 16 December 2007 22:11
by Larry C. Johnson

Barack Obama has had to apologize plenty of times, but hasn’t apologized face-to-face to Sen. Hillary Clinton, as she did yesterday when she sought to meet and apologize personally on the tarmac of a Washington, D.C. airport for the remarks of Bill Sheehan, a campaign co-chair, about Sen. Obama’s youthful drug usage. Mr. Sheehan resigned yesterday. The “gates” include:

Punjab-gate: The opposition research department for Obama’s campaign wrote a dossier titled “Hillary Clinton (D-Punjabs)’s Personal Financial and Political Ties to India,” suggesting that Clinton’s pro-India proclivities “will compromise her commitment to Americans.” Reason identified Obama’s hit piece as “Lou Dobbs-level rhetoric.”

The dossier was distributed to reporters by the Obama campaign in June “on the condition that they could not attribute it to the campaign,” wrote WaPo’s Anne Kornblut. Reason’s Kerry Howley observed, “It’s nice, I guess, that Obama wants to bring people together. Now perhaps his research team can find a social glue superior to a shared xenophobia.”
 

Members of South Asians for Obama were shocked and upset: “In addition to being offended by the clear anti-Indian sentiment in the memo, we were particularly disturbed because the memo flies in the face of what we respect most about Senator Obama — his inclusive message and his ability to relate to people of all backgrounds.”

The supporters were also disturbed that it took Obama so long to apologize: “What really bothers me is that a (D-Israel), (R-Vatican) or (D-Mexico) would have triggered an immediate apology. We deserve the same consideration.”

There’s a hint of more racism in Blacks-Only-Gate. And there are Homophobia-Gate, Geffen-Gate, Wasted-Soldier-Lives-Gate, along with personal attacks on Sen. Clinton. More about those below the fold.

First, There’s Obama’s Failed Promise: Most notable about Punjab-gate — besides his attempt to shift the blame to his staff — is that it goes against Obama’s promise that “his opposition research team would focus on contrasting candidates’ policy differences, not personal attacks.”

As The Hill’s Ben Goddard noted, “[Obama’s] ham-handed attack on Clinton’s ties to India made the non-politician sound very much like the old-school crowd he’s been trying to position himself against. Voters tell me he’s not what they’d hoped for as an alternative.”

Then There’s Obama’s Frequent Shifting of Blame to His Staff: Jake Tapper wrote at his ABC News blog, Political Punch:
In his first public comments about the controversial opposition research his campaign prepared about Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, trying to tie her to outsourcing in India, Obama today blamed — for the third time in 5 months — his staff.

"It was a screw-up on the part of our research team," Obama told the Des Moines Register (LINK). "It wasn’t anything I had seen or my senior staff had seen." […]

Obama has blamed his staffers for other campaign mishaps.

In February, after Obama contributor David Geffen slammed Bill and Hillary Clinton in Maureen Down’s New York Times column … Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said "We aren’t going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters.”

Obama later distanced himself from that comment, telling reporters he had been flying from Los Angeles to Iowa during the whole dustup and that, "I told my staff that I don’t want us to be a party to these kinds of distractions because I want to make sure that we’re spending time talking about issues. My preference going forward is that we have to be careful not to slip into playing the game as it customarily is played.”

In May, Obama blamed staffers for his missing an event with firefighters in New Hampshire. …

Boy, it must be tough to be so continually disappointed with your staff.

Not to mention to have a campaign you have so little control over!
And Then There Are the Media Aiding and Abetting Clintonian Conspiracy Theories: Critic pundits like hyper-loquacious Chris Matthews are piling on Hillary Clinton right now, creating imaginative but factually-unsupported theories about how Bill Sheehan’s questions about Obama’s past drug use and Sheehan’s subsequent resignation were crafted directly by Sen. Clinton to damage Obama — helped along by “reporter” David Shuster twice terming Sen. Clinton’s laugh during yesterday’s Iowa debate as a “cackle.” The media can’t say a good word about Sen. Clinton these days. Even CNN’s usually fair-minded Wolf Blitzer, in a poll of how the candidates drink their coffee, said that Sen. Clinton is a “flip-flopper” because she sometimes drinks her coffee black, and sometimes with cream.

Writes Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum, Sen. Clinton is “polarizing not because she wants to be, but because the right-wing attack machine made her that way. She’s ‘polarizing’ only because a certain deranged slice of conservative nutjobs detest her.” Either without consciously realizing how they’ve been influenced by the “conservative nutjobs” — or, more frighteningly, because they’re pandering to their conservative friends and viewers — the media like Tucker Carlson, Chris Matthews, et al. are promoting the memes that she’s polarizing and conniving.

This is not new media behavior. We saw the media turn on Vice President Al Gore during his presidential campaign.

In November 1999, Chris Matthews said, “[I]sn’t this getting ridiculous? . . . Isn’t it getting to be delusionary?.” The next night, Matthews was beating the same drum: “What is it, the Zelig guy who keeps saying, ‘I was the main character in Love Story, I invented the Internet. I invented Love Canal’.”

This is not shocking new media behavior to the Clintons. The Clintons vividly recall the happy day of December 13, 1995 when — in the midst of shenanigans by the Office of Independent Counsel and outcries from Republicans during the Clinton administration’s two terms — the Resolution Trust Corporation released its supplemental report on Whitewater — which, to their relief, exonerated the Clintons, and disproved all of the Whitewater conspiracy theories.

“It is recommended,” said the RTC’s report, “no further resources need be expended on the Whitewater part of this investigation.”

What was the media’s response after 150 copies of the report were distributed to all major media organizations? Silence. There were no articles in the New York Times or Washington Post, and no TV news reports. Two weeks later, the Times printed a short item in its “News of the Week in Review,” but the Washington Post never mentioned the report exonerating the Clintons.

For a Moment, Imagine That a President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama Were Under Constant Assault From the GOP Coupled With Silence From The Media: What would a President Obama do then? Blame his staff?

Will the media, that are fawning towards him now, treat him the same way then?

History tells us much. We know that Sen. Clinton has weathered the storms, the attacks, and the inconsistencies of media reporting — particularly during eight years in the glare of the White House spotlight. Yes, she has scars. But it’s better to be cautious and proactive against assaults than to blame others or fumble the apologies. Or, as Sen. Obama has failed to do: Not once apologize directly to Sen. Clinton for his or his campaign’s attacks on her.

For a Moment, Let’s Try Out Another Scenario: Imagine if Hillary Clinton had responded as Obama did yesterday:
The moderator asked how he squares his promise to bring change with his use of so many former Clinton advisors. Hillary had a good laugh at that one. But he shot back that he looked forward to getting her advice when he’s President, too.
What would Chris Matthews et al. have said if it had been Sen. Clinton who said she’d look forward to getting Obama’s advice when she’s President? They would have said that “there she goes again, implying that she’s inevitable.”

The Rest of The Gates:

Wasted-Soldiers’-Lives-Gate: Lynn Sweet wrote in February:
In his first stumble, White House hopeful Barack Obama on Monday took back words from the day before, when he said the lives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq were “wasted.”
Homophobia-Gate: From Radio Left blog’s, “Senator Barack Obama, Tarnished Angel,” November 3, 2007:
Obama organized a series of gospel concerts for black evangelicals in South Carolina. The objective was to bring them into the Obama for President camp.

Donnie McClurkin, a black gospel singer who claims to be cured of his homosexuality through Jesus Christ, headlined the events. (To see Mr McClurkin prance around the stage, you would never guess he had gone back into the closet.)

When challenged about McClurkin by LGBT and civil rights groups, Senator Obama ignored the concerns and not only kept McClurkin on the program, but allowed him to talk to the audience from the stage. Mr. McClurkin, as would be expected, told them that homosexuality is a sin and he had been cured through prayer.

Senator Obama apologized, and hired a gay evangelist to appear at later concerts in the series.

Totally necessary

Senator Obama made a mistake that demonstrates his lack of experience – a primary concern about his candidacy. Worse, it was totally unnecessary. He could have allowed McClurkin to sing, but not make a speech. He could have engaged another gospel singer who doesn’t have McClurkin’s baggage. McClurkin’s comments and McClurkin himself were not a requirement for Obama to successfully reach out to black evangelicals. To me, that is the saddest and most hurtful aspect of the entire affair.

[…]

Barack Obama owes that audience an apology for subjecting them to Donnie McClurkin’s diatribe against gays.

So, far all Obama has done is make an incomplete apology and step into it again. …
Blacks-Only-Gate: Also from Radio Left blog’s, “Senator Barack Obama, Tarnished Angel,” November 3, 2007:
Senator Obama delivered a civil rights speech in South Carolina which compounded the offense by scrupulously limiting it to blacks. He didn’t mention the struggle for civil rights of any other group.

[…]

I have never seen anyone I respected be so hypocritical as to pander to bigotry in a civil rights speech until Obama’s Civil Rights speech in South Carolina yesterday. It is common practice at least, and required under these circumstances, to make mention of the other groups that have struggled along with blacks for civil rights.
Geffen-Gate: The New York Times’s business reporter David Carr caustically noted “media mogul David Geffen’s drive-by maiming of the Clintons earlier in the week in remarks he made to Maureen Dowd of The New York Times.”

Despite David Geffen’s vicious attacks on Hillary Clinton and his ardent campaigning for Obama, Barack Obama refused to apologize.
Campaigning in Iowa, Obama said to the AP, “It’s not clear to me why I’d be apologizing for someone else’s remark.”
I guess that Sen. Clinton could have said something similar about Bill Sheehan’s remarks. Instead, while she pointed out that she did not know about or authorize Mr. Sheehan’s remarks about Sen. Obama’s past drug use, she took the extra step of personally meeting with Sen. Obama and apologizing to him, to his face.
UPDATE: “[T]he Obama campaign yesterday circulated a negative, and ultimately false, story about Bill Clinton — that he allegedly made money giving a speech on September 11, 2006.” — Greg Sargent, TPM’s Election Central, June 15, 2007. The Drudge Report headlined the false story, according to an investigation by The Carpetbagger Report, June 15, 2007. So the Obama campaign sends its negative attacks, with a don’t-tell-anyone-where-you-got-it, to Matt Drudge? Carpetbagger Report: “[W]hat really bugs me is that the Obama team got the story wrong. They dug up some dirt, dished it, but screwed it up and hit a very popular former president for something he did not do.”
 
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