Editorial: Petty bickering drags down the Democratic presidential hopefuls
Two weeks before the California primary, the relatively congenial bantering between Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton erupted into acrimonious mudslinging Monday night in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The party’s front-runners spent much of the night questioning each other’s honesty in the most bitter debate of the election season.
Obama and Clinton sparred over Ronald Reagan’s legacy, special interests and how they would finance their proposals. As the debate sizzled, they routinely raised their voices, interrupted each other and stared as though they were facing President Bush, not a fellow Democrat with similar ideas for America.
We’ve come to expect this type of behavior from politicians, but it’s still disheartening. Rock ’em, sock ’em brawls make good theater, especially for journalists seeking unscripted quotes, but they’re often short on substance and long on ego.
They also often sink to the level of “he said, she said” antagonism.
At one point Monday night, for instance, Obama reacted to Clinton’s charges against him by snapping: “Not factually accurate. The same typical politics.”
Clinton retorted later with this: “You never take responsibility for any vote.”
Meanwhile, John Edwards – a distant third in most polls – challenged his opponents. “This kind of squabbling – how many children is this going to get health care?” he asked.
Maybe two: Clinton and Obama.
For weeks, the two have been content to let their campaign operatives snipe at each other over statements blown wildly out of proportion.
First, Obama staffers dive-bombed Clinton when she praised President Lyndon Johnson for signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that she said helped realize Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams of racial equality.
“The power of that dream became real in people’s lives because we had a president who said, ‘We’re going to do it’ and actually got it accomplished,” Clinton said.
King illuminated the civil-rights struggle that helped Johnson further King’s cause. Certainly, King should receive the majority of credit for getting civil-rights legislation passed, but given the prejudice of the day, he alone could not have finished the job without Johnson’s clout and political expertise.
From our viewpoint, Clinton stated the obvious and intended no slight to King’s legacy or majestic leadership.
Clinton’s people, including former President Bill Clinton, have been just as irresponsible. They hammered Obama for saying recently that former President Reagan transformed U.S. politics.
“Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not,” Obama was quoted as saying. “He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.
“I think it’s fair to say that the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10 to 15 years in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom,” Obama said.
There’s nothing in the above paragraphs that distinctly praise Reagan or Republicans. Obama’s stating what he considers the obvious without going into detail.
Fair enough. Why the fuss?
Because both camps want their candidates to hold the most powerful job in the world. And that’s a heck of an incentive to overreact when it’s politically convenient.
Let’s halt the petty bickering. It demeans American politics and insults voters.
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