Questioning Where Criticism Fits in the 'Politics of Hope'
As Barack Obama begins to attack Hillary Clinton more frequently, the two campaigns increasingly are debating what the "new kind of politics" Obama spoke of when he announced his candidacy actually means. Noting Obama's comments over the weekend, when he promised to take on Clinton more aggressively, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said on the Today Show "he's going to abandon the politics of hope, come after her, attack her."
David Axelrod, Barack Obama's top political adviser, who has been greatly involved in crafting the candidate's optimistic rhetoric since the pair started working together back in 2003, says this is false choice: Obama's promise of a different kind of campaign is not violated when he attacks Clinton. "His politics was never to not raise differences between himself and his opponents," Axelrod said in response. "That's what campaigns are about. But the politics of hope are bringing unity instead of division. It's about being straightforward and candid with people instead of politically calculating on every answer."
In an interview over the weekend, Axelrod was even more explicit on this point. Referring to Clinton's aides, he said "to them, the politics of hope is hoping we don't mention when their candidate gives conflicting answers, hoping we won't challenger her when she refuses to answer questions on fundamental issues. I think that's a feint hope."
Ahead of today's debate in Philadelphia, both Obama and former North Carolina Senator Edwards are signaling similar themes, namely that they will attack not just Clinton's positions, but her character.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Edwards suggested Clinton was running for president out of personal ambition, an interesting charge for a man who has essentially been running for the Oval Office for the past five years. "She said it, didn't she?" Edwards said. "Wasn't her phrase early on in her campaign, 'I'm in it to win?'"
Of himself, he said "Being honest, you can never say personal ambition doesn't play a role," Edwards said. "But I do think that I'm driven by something different. I'm driven by making this country work for the kind of people I grew up with."
Phil Singer, a Clinton spokesman, said in response, "whatever happened to the John Edwards of 2004 who used to go around saying 'if you are looking for the candidate that will do the best job of attacking the other Democrats, I am not your guy.'"
And trying to reprise the role Edwards played in 2004, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has all year suggested senators know little about managing a government, cast himself as the man running a positive race while Edwards and Obama are slamming Clinton.
"I think that Senators Obama and Edwards should concentrate on the issues and not on attacking Senator Clinton," Richardson said in New Hampshire. "It's OK to get aggressive on the issues, but to make personal attacks on somebody's attachments to lobbyists, that's not the kind of positive tone I want to see."
--Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post editors
October 30, 2007; 11:51 AM ET
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