Update: Ezra Klein takes some potshots at Clinton as well.
Bill, that is.
From ABC News:
"You know the former president, who I think all of us have a lot of regard for, has taken his advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling," Obama said during his first morning television interview since coming in second in Nevada. "He continues to make statements that are not supported by the facts -- whether it's about my record of opposition to the war in Iraq or our approach to organizing in Las Vegas.
"This has become a habit, and one of the things that we're going to have to do is to directly confront Bill Clinton when he's making statements that are not factually accurate," Obama added.
I do think that there should be some standards of honesty in any political discourse. That's part of the change I want to bring about. If you have something that directly contradicts the facts and it's coming from a former president I think that's a problem, because people presume that a former president is going to have more credibility and i think there are certain responsibilities that are carried with that.
President Clinton went in front of a large ground said that I claimed only Republicans had any good ideas since 1980. And then he added, 'I'm not making this up.". He was making it up. And completely micharacterizing my statement.
Here's what Obama really said about Reagan:
"And, you know, the Republican approach, I think, has played itself out. I think it's fair to say the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10, 15 years, in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom. Now, you've heard it all before. You look at the economic policies when they're being debated among the presidential candidates and it's all tax cuts. Well, you know, we've done that, we tried it."
Either way the new strategy of going after Bill Clinton is one that should pay some dividends for Obama. This really solves the problem that Obama has struggled with for some time: how to attack Hillary without appearing sexist or rude. He obviously will have no such consideration when it comes to attacking Bill Clinton. In addition, he can burnish his toughness credentials by standing toe-to-toe with a former president answering the charge from critics who have questioned whether he is tough enough for the job.
Fighting it out with Bill Clinton also has the extra advantage for Obama in that it sidelines Hillary. By focusing the media coverage on Bill Clinton, Obama helps to marginalize Hillary and raise questions in the voter's mind about which Clinton will really be calling the shots if Hillary is elected. This is surely a campaign tactic that the Republicans will use with vigor against Hillary should she get the nomination. The Clintons will have some tough choices to make about whether having Bill serve as the campaign's attack dog helps more than it hurts.
Obama needed to do something with Super Tuesday coming up or he's going to get blown off the map. The Mr. Nice Guy approach got him this far but it won't get him across the finish line against a pair of rough-and-tumble politicians like Bill and Hillary.
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