Posted Jan. 22, 2008 – There was one thing clear in the days, even hours, leading up to Monday’s Democratic presidential debate in Myrtle Beach , S.C. : The Obama-Clinton truce is officially over.
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And last night’s verbal brawl at the Palace Theatre erased any doubts. Aside from the usual blows over policy and vision, the two Democratic Senate colleagues got down and dirty. For instance, at one point, after Clinton accused Obama of singing the praises of former Republican President Ronald Reagan, Obama quipped, “What I said is that Ronald Reagan was a transformative political figure because he was able to get Democrats to vote against their economic interests to form a majority to push through their agenda, an agenda that I objected to. Because while I was working on those streets watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart.”
But Clinton was armed and dangerous too. “I was fighting against those ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, Resco, in his slum landlord business in inner-city Chicago ,” she countered.
And there were a lot more blows where those came from. Like the time Obama accused Clinton of being too cozy with corporate lobbyists, too inconsistent and obtuse in her positions on the Iraq war and too dishonest in her attacks on him. Clinton , on the other hand, pummeled Obama for missing 100 votes as an Illinois legislator, including those that dealt with important issues such as predatory lending and sex abuse, forcing him to explain away. “Well, you know, Senator Obama, it is very difficult having a straight-up debate with you, because you never take responsibility for any vote, and that has been a pattern,” she said.
This marks the second week in a row that Clinton and Obama were locked in mortal combat.
Who was verbally socked in the stomach, and who was hit with an uppercut? And why was Bill told to "chill?" Go to the next page for the answers.
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Last week, the two presidential frontrunners agreed to tone down their personal attacks, lest their venom fuel a racial rift too deep and too wide to repair in time for the November general election. Among the unsavory highlights of the past several days were the furor over Clinton’s ill-timed remarks, which appeared to give President Johnson more credit for the Civil Rights Act of 1965 than Dr. Martin Luther King; husband Bill Clinton’s reference to Sen. Barack Obama as a “kid” and his position on the Iraq war as a “fairytale”; and BET founder and Clinton supporter Bob Johnson’s highly publicized foozle – and subsequent mea culpa – regarding Obama’s early drug use.
But, after a day or two of peace between the two camps, the rivals put the gloves back on. At least Bill Clinton was wearing a pair over the weekend. He socked the Illinois senator in the stomach with the Ronald Reagan rumor, certainly not the kind of talk Obama needs floating around as he pulls into primary states with large Black populations. (African Americans, in general, despise the former Republican president.) Then he hit Obama with an uppercut, railing against his alleged lack of both experience and a game plan for a failing economy. And during the entire time that Bill had Barack on the ropes, Hillary flitted from campaign rally to local cafe with her characteristic toothy smile and promises of hope and prosperity under a Clinton White House. Obama’s camp accused the Clinton tag team of playing "good cop, bad cop."
On “Good Morning America” Monday morning, and again during the debate that evening, Obama called for campaign "standards of honesty," complaining that he had his hands full with "two formidable opponents … Senator Clinton and President Clinton."
"You know the former president, whom 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. "He continues to make statements that are not supported by the facts... 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."
In fact the former president’s assault was so relentless that Rep. Jim Clyburn, the Democratic House Whip and the nation’s highest-ranking Black politician, asked Bill to “chill.” Said Clyburn, speaking to CNN: "I can understand him wanting to defend his wife's honor and his own record, and that is to be expected. But you can't do that in a way that won't engender the kind of feelings that seem to be bubbling up as a result of this…. He is revered in many sections of the African- American community, and I think he can afford to tone it down."
In South Carolina , which will host the next primary election on Saturday, African-American voters comprise about half of the state’s Democratic electorate. As the Clintons have ganged up on Obama, many Blacks have mobilized behind him. Several recent polls show that the Chicago senator has crushed Clinton ’s early lead, and African Americans now overwhelmingly say they are behind Obama.
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