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April 7, 2008

The James Carville/Bill Richardson Judas Kerfuffle


There was yet another absurd campaign kerfuffle last week, beginning with the endorsement of Barack Obama by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who had himself been running until three months ago.


Richardson, a former Secretary of Energy and Ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton Administration, had been considered a better-than-even bet to back Sen. Clinton, but decided to back Obama after the Illinois senator gave his famous "race speech" in Philadelphia in March. This led to a not-very-positive reaction from longtime Clintonite James Carville, who opined to a New York Times reporter that Richardson was a "Judas" for failing to back the wife of the man who had appointed him to two jobs.


Even though this analogy implied two things that are somewhat questionable to say the least that the Clintons are analogous to Jesus, and that Richardson's "betrayal" was tantamount to sending someone to their death Carville did not apologize, as most surrogates accused of weekly gaffes throughout the campaign have done.


Instead, Carville told the Times that "I was quoted accurately and in context, and I was glad to give the quote and I was glad I gave it. Im not apologizing, Im not resigning, Im not doing anything. Then he turned around and wrote a whole op-ed in the Washington Post defending the comment and bemoaning the dying art of loyalty in politics.


Richardson, in turn, took the pages of the Post the following day to defend himself with an op-ed of his own.


All very absurd, yes. But who wouldn't rather talk about this than rehash Jeremiah Wright again?


Richardson is, of course, free to endorse whomever he chooses. He says (though the Clintons and Carville disagree) that he never promised Hillary his endorsement, and why should the loyalty he supposedly owes to Bill Clinton extend to Hillary? Maybe Richardson believes that Bill Clinton was a perfectly good president, but Hillary wouldn't be quite as good. That's also the position held by myself and, I suspect, tens of millions of other Americans.


And besides, as Richardson asked in the op-ed, had he gotten a job from Carville, would he then be required to maintain political loyalty to Carville's wife, Mary Matalin? Probably not, since Matalin is a conservative Republican who has worked for multiple GOP presidents. And would the Clintons have found anything untoward if someone long loyal to Obama had endorsed them? Would they refuse the endorsement, or be upset with the person giving it? Of course not.


And as Richardson also pointed out, he spent nearly a year running for president himself, also against Hillary. Was that somehow disloyal?


What if Richardson had won? This reminds me of Bill O'Reilly, in one of his rants last year about a "war within the Democratic Party," putting Richardson on the same side of the Clintons. Richardson, who was already running for president at the time, was presumably on his own side.


It's not even really about Richardson. In reacting the way they are, the Clintonites are sending a message to anyone who attained any sort of power during their administration: Endorse at your own risk. Cross us, or do anything else to help Obama, and you're a traitor. You're on the level of the man who betrayed Jesus.


And since people who have long been associated with the Clintons are well-represented among superdelegates and superdelegates are Hillary's last, best hope to win the nomination this scorched-Earth reaction is really their only option.


Barack Obama, somewhat absurdly, has been likened to a Chicago Machine politician, which is sort of absurd, considering that 1) the Daley machine in Chicago was very much a whites-only affair that would support the Green Bay Packers before supporting black candidates; and 2) Obama's political hero, the late Mayor Harold Washington, was the man who took down that machine.


In this case, however, it is the Clintons who are acting like the machine politicos of yore, professing politics in which loyalty and patronage comes before merit and skill.


2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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