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What's Wrong with Mudslinging? It Depends on Who is Throwing?

Just as Democratic candidates have been having a simmering spat about mudslinging, I have been waging a friendly 'battle of wits' over the use of this tactic with my pal and colleague, Lee Ward.

Mudslinging was first raised in a obvious set-piece, sound bite by Hillary very early in the Las Vegas debate. "When somebody starts throwing mud at least we can hope it's accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook," Clinton said, after Edwards questioned whether she could restore trust in the White House.

Edwards the next day on CBS's 'Face the Nation' called Hillary Clinton's mudslinging charges "absurd," warning that attacks on her so far are "milquetoast" compared with what's to come in the fall of 2008..

I would probably prefer the term 'muckraking' to the term mudslinging, the latter is based on an ancient Latin proverb," Fortiter calumniari, aliquia adhaerebit,' or "Throw plenty of dirt and some of it will be sure to stick".

Lee takes a firm unequivocal stand: I agree with the sentiment expressed by others that the mud slinging is counter-productive and detrimental to the party and Democratic efforts to retake the White House..

I"m a little more ambivalent, whether it should be called mudslinging and whether it sometimes doesn´t enhance the debate and clarify the candidates and their personalities.

Today, Jay Tea in kind of a negative reinforcement on his post on wizbang classic Go Hillary! in giving his reasons why he is growing more smpathetic to Hillary, were precisely the reasons I still have trouble with her nomination. Basically, it's her 'tough as nails' approach to protesters and all adversaries, that some conservatives like Jay have a closet respect for.

And the latest ratcheting up of this tension between the three Democrat candidates occurred when Obama said,

I sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So I have frequent interaction with world leaders who come to visit here, (the US) and I take trips on various fact-finding missions, whether it's to Iraq or Russia or Africa. But you know, probably, the strongest experience I have in foreign relations is the fact that I spent four years living overseas when I was a child in Southeast Asia "(in Indonesia, when he was six to ten years old)

Sounds innocent enough, but Clinton piled on, "Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges that the next president will face," Mrs. Clinton said. "I think we need a president with more experience than that." Ouch!

And Edwards communications director, Chris Kofinis rounded out the fray. "Now we know what Senator Clinton meant when she talked about 'throwing mud' in the last debate. Like so many other things, when it comes to mud, Hillary Clinton says one thing and throws another."

So the slanging match is definitely on, but what we are having with the Dems, is alot of slinging but not much mud, whereas the Republicans have a lot of mud but not much slinging.

M.J. Rosenberg gave me the idea of the title with an excellent post at tpm cafe/ The Coffee House site.

What's the deal? The Bernard Kerik issue should be enough to knock Giuliani right out of the race. The guy America's Mayor pushed to be in charge of homeland security is, is appears, an out and out crook. Then there is the sex molester priest on Rudy's staff.(Monsignor Alan Placa) That, by itself, should finish him off.

But it doesn't. In fact, none of the other Republicans mention any of this. Why? They don't want to be accused of "mudslinging" or of giving Democrats ammo we can use should Rudy be the nominee.

Of course, we'll use this stuff anyway, whether Republicans bring it up or not. They don't write our playbook.

The striking thing, for me, is that it is so damn unpatriotic for Rudy's opponents not to tell GOP primary voters who he is. Romney, McCain and the rest are so afraid of a voter backlash against them for mudslinging that they essentially protect Rudy. As a result, he could become the nominee.


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Comments (4)

Lee Ward:

If you're trying to convince folks that Hillary questioning whether Obama's residency in a foreign country (age 6-10) constitutes "foreign relations experience," as Obama has claimed, is mudslinging I think that's just as laughable as Obama's claim.

I hardly consider that mudslinging because I hardly consider living outside the U.S. while attending first through fourth grade in elementary school any sort of foreign relations qualification at all. We're speaking to qualifications here - not claiming that Obama is lying or misleading voters - just addressing his claim of qualifications.

Claiming Hillary is engaging in mudslinging by questioning Obama's claim -- is just more mud - but I'm sure you and Karl Rove would disagree with that, Steve... *wink.

Now, if I went on to point out that Obama is showing a high degree of immature desperation by engaging in this kind of mudslinging THAT would be mudslinging in return, and of course - I'm above that (lol)

Steve Crickmore:

Lee, it is all in the context. Obama was just waxing expansive about his foreign childhood as a learning experience in seeing first hand, (in retrospect) how others lived. Actually, I don't know if it made much an impression anyway, because the day before, he talked candidly about his Hawaii high school days. I made some bad decisions . He probably would have been better off completing his schooling in Indonesia, by the sounds of it. Clinton on the other hand, was organizing United Way campigns when she was 13.

But I'm not convinced that meeting so many world leaders blah, blah when she was first lady is so valuable. This is what Obama was probably trying to play down. Just look at Dubya, who is still convinced coup leader Musharraff and Putin are democrats..We have the same problem in Brazil with Lula who thinks Chavez is the same, and is pushing for Venezuela to enter the Mercosul South American free trade area.. Kissinger says that most leaders and foreign policy experts use only the intellectual capital they have acquired until the time they have left university. After that they really don't learn too much or read much, apart from memos.

I don't want to put too fine a point, but here are some biographical comments from Hillary on her childhood. Her father, an army drill instructor ran their family like a boot camp...I think we have the origins of what makes Hillary tick. She is "one tough lady" as her husband says.

Lee, I agree it would be great alchemy to have something like a Clinton/Obama ticket to complement their strengths, but that doesn't seem posible. I just hope after the Bush/Cheney foreign policy disasters we need a much different style. Maybe she can pull it off? She is certainly smart enough!

And I agree too that Obama must be made of sterner stuff than going over the top and accusing the Hillary camp of 'swiftboarding' about an unnamed rumor from the Novack column. He should just say "I'm not impressed , print it, and then I''l talk about it". As Edwards indicates this is nothing compared to what's coming round the corner, when we go head to head with the Republicans.


Lee Ward:

Bottom line, when candidates move away from the issues and attack the credibility of an opponent instead -- that's what I consider mud. From what I've seen, Clinton has not responded to Obama's and Edwards' mudslinging in kind.

I don't have a problem with Edwards and Obama's attacks on Clinton -- better to include these kinds of attacks now (which would be mounted by Republicans against Clinton anyway) as a part of the vetting process in the primaries. Let's see how Clinton will reply and what effect the attacks and her response will have on the voters.

I see a lot of consistency in the way Clinton responds to Obama and Edwards versus responding to Republican attacks. She's showing that same measured, calculated "Woman of Steel" personna that scares the holy crap out of Karl Rove.

I like consistency. When candidates change their uniforms, as Obama has in the last few weeks, it makes me wonder "who they really are".

So which is the real Obama, Steve? The one who four weeks ago was all about changing the way we politic in America? Or the one we see now who steals pages out of Karl Rove's "How to Beat the Democrats" handbook?

Steve Crickmore:

My honest answer is I don't know? Rove in that piece was just saying show a contrast, a snapshot.. Probably Obama has said enough for the time being as has Edwards...As Clinton said it was getting "exciting" but there is not much point if
a lot people are turned off
and it is mainly spin anyway. Clinton is in a enviable poisition. She is considered by the public more experienced, shrewder, and more capable than Obama and Edwards, but on the only two major difficult political decisions she has ever made, the way she conducted her healthcare study group and her Iraq vote, well..she got them wrong. What can the other candidates do? I just followed the Argentinan presidential election and it was the same with the glamorous Cristina Kirchner (without the pant suit )becoming the new President; taking over from her husband. If that's what the public wants...Hey, I liked Bill too and he should be able to keep her level-headed. He persuaded her to move to a realistic position on Iraq. He's the only one of the 91 world leaders whom she has met that really matters as an influence.(though she didn't say that).. Compare that to Obama's youthful 4 years in Indonesia.. You are right, it pales.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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