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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
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. I’m not apologizing,
I’m not resigning, I’m 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
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
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
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
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