Mr. Nice Guy

Yesterday, Barack Obama’s campaign team conducted a teleconference call with reporters which they began by going hard after Hillary Clinton, accusing her of being dishonest. Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, led off:

[Y]ou know, the truth is that Senator Clinton has not been fully vetted, in our view, by the press on a very important issue, which is that she is not seen as trustworthy by the American people. She has consistently in this campaign engaged in political calculation to mislead voters.
And despite the fact that this hasn’t gotten an enormous amount of press scrutiny, the voters have sort of settled on this as an issue. Remarkably, in the latest Gallup poll, 53 percent do not think Senator Clinton is trustworthy. It will be next to impossible to win a general election if more than half the electorate believes that you’re not trustworthy.
And I think that the weight on that scale has only increased in the last few days, as we see more information coming out of her schedules. Senator Clinton essentially misled the voters of Ohio, strongly suggesting she was always opposed to NAFTA privately.
But now we see that she had meetings where the sole purpose was to cheerlead for NAFTA and press for its support. You know, Senator Clinton likes to talk about do-over elections. The only do-over election we might want to consider is in Ohio, since Senator Clinton misled the voters in Ohio about her support of NAFTA, even though she knew and her campaign knew that she had pressed for its passage. ***
So it’s these kind of evasions and political calculation that the American people are tired of. So if Senator Clinton wants to have a discussion about electability and vetting, we’re happy to have it. She would be a deeply flawed nominee. There are character issues here that will cause us real problems in the fall.

Foreign policy adviser Greg Craig weighed in:

I will say that, when it comes to the way she’s explained her vote in October of 2002 [authorizing the Iraq war], I think that deceives the American people.

There was more in the same vein. It’s fair to say that the teleconference consisted almost entirely of bashing Hillary Clinton’s character. Later in the day, Obama himself gave a press conference in Portland that included this exchange:

QUESTION: Senator, your campaign manager this morning said that Senator Clinton was too dishonest and untrustworthy to be elected president. I’m wondering if that’s the campaign that you wanted to have at this stage of the (inaudible).
OBAMA: Well, I’m not familiar with the quote. So, here — what I — and I suspect that that wasn’t the entire sentence, so that may not have been the — I don’t know what the context was in which was stated. What I’ve said consistently is that the American people need straight talk in their elected officials, and that’s what we’re going to try to provide in this campaign.

This quality of Obama’s–pretending to be above the fray while in fact conducting a bare-knuckled political campaign–has understandably infuriated Hillary Clinton and her supporters. The Clinton campaign did a teleconference with reporters yesterday, too, which included a number of attacks on Obama:

Senator Obama talks about voter participation while he actively disenfranchises millions of Americans. He calls for high-minded debates while practicing low-down politics. He promises a different kind of campaign, while attacking Senator Clinton’s character. He promises transparency, while hiding basic info and stonewalling the press.
So it’s no wonder that Americans are coming to see that for all the rhetoric, for all the speeches, you know, his candidacy is really just words.

The Democrats all hope they can somehow select a candidate prior to their convention and avoid the bloodbath that could result if the superdelegates choose the nominee in a floor fight. But it’s hard to see how that could happen. There is no way for the 800 superdelegates to get together to try to reach some kind of consensus, and the animosity between the Clinton and Obama campaigns is deep and real. Absent unexpected results in the remaining primaries, it’s hard for me to see how the Democrats can avoid a pitched battle in Denver.
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