Wednesday, April 23, 2008

'The Low Road'

There's been a lot of talk today about this morning's New York Times editorial, "The Low Road to Victory," that took Hillary Clinton's campaign to task for its methods in Pennsylvania:

The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.

Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.

And this was from a newspaper -- her hometown newspaper -- that endorsed her in the primary.

The Times went on to hammer Hillary for becoming "the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11" in a fear-provoking TV ad that was "torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook." But the editorial also targeted Barack Obama for "increasingly rising to Mrs. Clinton's bait, undercutting his own claims that he is offering a higher more inclusive form of politics.

"All that does is remind Americans who are on the fence about his relative youth and inexperience," the editorial said.

The Times went on to conclude that for all the sound and fury about the differences Clinton and Obama want to beat into the brains of voters -- whether their health care plans cover everyone, what they would do about bringing troops home from Iraq, who can do more to move the country toward energy independence, etc. -- it's actually an asset to the party that they share many of the same essential values and sensible policy prescriptions.

"It is their strength, and they are doing their best to make voters forget it," the Times sniffed.

In his appearance on Larry King Live tonight, Clinton supporter James Carville said (and I'm paraphrasing) that the New York Times is a good newspaper, but they don't know anything about politics. (You've gotta love The James.) He went on to scold Obama for Obama's reported unwillingness to debate Clinton in Indiana and North Carolina (those debates would be the 21st and 22nd of the series). He said later on Anderson Cooper 360 that when you're running for president, "you can't go hide behind the New York Times' editorialists' skirt" every time controversy erupts; Clintonista Paul Begala chimed in, calling the Times' editorial board staffers "ninnies," "wimps" or "wussies."

This may be a complete coincidence, but as I was listening to Paul Begala, I suddenly felt the urge to relive the days of my young childhood and break into a chorus of, "I know you are, but what am I?" or "I'm rubber, you're glue; whatever you say bounces off me and sticks on you!"

SIDEBAR: It would have been nice for Carville to have informed us when the newspaper endorsed Hillary Clinton that its writers don't know anything about politics. Or maybe he believes they've forgotten everything since they endorsed her ...? END SIDEBAR
Anyway, the Times noted in its endorsement of Clinton that "any Democrat will face tougher questioning about his or her fitness to be commander in chief," so its objection to the nastily negative turn the campaign took in Pennsylvania is not based in a desire to see tough questions go unasked. Rather, the Times is simply demanding that the candidates keep their debate above board -- and for two people who purport to have the leadership skills to take the helm of our great nation and tackle the complex problems we face, something as simple as civil campaigning should be a piece of cake.