The Bitter Comment: Hillary Adopts Rovian Tactics

I voted for Senator Clinton during the primaries and I think she would make a good President. But I also think Senator Obama would also make a good President and this whole debate over this “bitter” comment and how Team Clinton has put over the edge. While I have resisted the bandwagon calling for Clinton drop out, I think what she and her chief strategist Geoffrey Garin have been saying borders on Swift Boat dishonesty. First the comment in question:

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Reading this paragraph in the context of the entire discussion, you can see why Josh Marshall posted Obama’s November 2004 interview with Charlie Rose. Senator Clinton takes the bitter comment out of context and falsely claims it shows that Senator Obama is elitist and out of touch. But what Obama was saying was just the opposite of elitism and being out of touch. Greg Sargent catches Obama making this very point. Josh also features the Clintons expressing similar sentiments.

Greg on Mr. Garin:

Hillary chief strategist Geoffrey Garin dramatically raised the stakes in the battle over Barack Obama’s comments about small-town America, saying in an interview that they would be “damaging” to him in a general election, could set back the Democratic Party’s efforts to reach heartland voters, and should be something that super-delegates consider when deciding whom to support. “These are the kinds of attitudes that have created a gulf between Democrats and lots of small-town and heartland voters that we’ve been working very, very hard to bridge,” Garin told me today in his first public comments about the flap. “I saw Senator Obama’s comments as a step backward to building those kinds of bridges,” Garin continued, saying the following of the impact that the comments could have in a general election: “They will be damaging. And they could be significantly so…I don’t think that the kinds of attitudes that Senator Obama expressed are consistent with Democrats doing what we need to do to win a general election.”

If Garin’s approach to securing the nomination of our party for his client is to lie to us in the same way Rove and his minions did, let me suggest that he leave our party. Of course, it would help if our press reported the truth and demonstrated how dishonest Mr. Garin and Senator Clinton are being on this particular faux controversy. But since the press appears to be so incompetent again – let’s applaud the folks over at TalkingPointsMemo for covering this.

Update: Andrew Sullivan beat me to my point:

The “bitter” spat is gold for Morris-Rove politics, which is why Clinton is exploiting it so baldly. It is exactly the kind of debate that has constructed American politics since Vietnam; it is exactly the kind of politics that Obama has been trying to transcend. Clinton will use anything at this point to destroy Obama’s candidacy and message; but by adopting Rovism at its reddest, the Clintons do risk looking too obvious.