Tales from the Trail

Psychotic firemen and circular firing squads: the Clinton post-mortem

WASHINGTON – It’s not exactly news that Hillary Clinton‘s presidential bid was hobbled by a dysfunctional staff that seemed to spend more time battling each other than rivals like Barack Obama. Still, the Atlantic Monthly’s inside look at the Democrat’s campaign paints a detailed — and highly entertaining — picture.

clintonobama.jpgAtlantic reporter Joshua Green got his hands on two dozen internal e-mails that portray the strategic vacillating and backbiting that reduced the New York senator from frontrunner to also-ran.

Here are some of the juiciest:

“This makes me sick. This circular firing squad that is occuring is unattractive, unprofessional, unconscionable, and unaccptable … It must stop,” adviser Robert Barnett wrote to other senior staffers on March 6, after a Washington Post story about the campaign’s internal battles.

How about this for an opener? “I don’t mean to be an asshole, but …” pollster Geoff Garin wrote on April 12 in a message urging staffers to respect the authority of communications director Howard Wolfson.

Wolfson get off some bon mots as well. Defending his irascible deputy Phil Singer, Wolfson said to a colleague that “when the house is on fire, it’s better to have a psychotic fireman than no fireman at all,” according to the Atlantic.

Clinton and Obama as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire?

clintonobama.jpgNEW YORK – Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire — that’s how Sen. Clinton put it on Thursday at a women’s breakfast where she joined the Democratic White House hopeful to campaign for him in New York.

She said Obama had noted that she looked rested since she ended her campaign against him for the Democratic nomination, and she told him she’d been exercising for a change.

“During the campaign …  Barack would get up faithfully every morning and go to the gym. I would get up and have my hair done,” she said as she introduced him.

Obama stirs some intrigue over VP search

kennedy.jpgNEW YORK – White House hopeful Barack Obama had reporters in his entourage wondering on Wednesday if his search for a vice presidential running mate is intensifying.

While in Washington for some Senate votes, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee dropped by a Pennsylvania Avenue office building for some meetings but the campaign would not say what they were about.

The building happened to be the same one where former U.S. deputy attorney general Eric Holder works. Holder and Caroline Kennedy, daughter of slain U.S. president John F. Kennedy, are heading up Obama’s search for a No. 2.

McCain says: “Obama’s word cannot be trusted”

mccain-pic.jpgLOUISVILLE, Ky. – Can people trust what Barack Obama says?

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Saturday that, at least in some instances, they shouldn’t.

Campaign finance was the issue at hand. McCain, speaking at a Republican fundraiser that netted some $2 million, slammed the Illinois senator and presumptive Democratic nominee for going back on a promise to take public funds during the general election if his Republican counterpart did the same.

“This election is about trust and trusting people’s word,” McCain said. “Unfortunately, apparently on several items, Senator Obama’s word cannot be trusted.”

Obama, Clinton to join forces in Unity, New Hampshire

ALBUQUERQUE – It is no secret that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will be hitting the campaign trail together on Friday.

The Obama campaign announced last week that the two former rivals would appear in public for the first time since the Illinois senator captured the Democratic presidential nomination on June 3.hillary4.jpg

But the campaign kept the location of the joint appearance under wraps. Until now.

Campaign debates over sexism, racism, ageism rage on

obama5.jpgNEW YORK – One thing seems certain in the race for the White House — the debate that the campaigns have sparked on sexism, racism and ageism in the United States is nowhere near resolved.

The media’s handling of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain – each running a groundbreaking campaign — has drawn attention to the way women, blacks and older people are seen in America, according to a panel of experts that met on mccain2.jpgclinton2.jpgTuesday at the Paley Center for Media.

 ”I think it’s time for journalists to stop and look back at what they did and not say, ‘Well, we’re not covering Hillary Clinton any more so gender is no longer an issue,’” said panelist Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania governor says he drank Obama Kool-Aid

rendell.jpgPHILADELPHIA – One of the most ardent supporters of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination has disclosed the secret behind his now public support of Barack Obama: he drank the Kool-Aid.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who often accused reporters of having “drunk the Obama Kool-Aid” during the nominating process, said he now has had some of the sweet drink himself.
At a fund-raising event on Friday, just a week after Clinton pulled out of the Democratic race, Rendell said that Obama supporters had brought him a big carton of Kool-Aid and told him to “drink up” when Obama became the nominee.
“I gave Senator Clinton $1,500 in the primary so I thought just for old-time sake I’d give Senator Obama $1,499,” Rendell said, sparking scattered boos from the crowd.
Rendell calmed them by saying “that was before I drank the Kool-Aid.” He said he has a check for $2,300 to give to the Obama campaign. 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Tim Shaffer (Clinton and Rendell share a laugh during a campaign event in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in March)

McCain raises money, praises Romney, thanks lobbyists

WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate John McCain spent a marathon day raising money on Monday, and it went well: after events in Virginia and Washington, D.C., the campaign and the Republican Party pulled in more than $2 million.
“We won’t raise as much money as our opponent but we certainly will raise (a) sufficient amount of money to win this election,” the Arizona senator told a gathering at a Ritz Carlton hotel in Northern Virginia.
His opponent, of course, is Democrat Barack Obama, who has consistently broken records with his fundraising in the primary contests.
McCain congratulated Obama on his victory over rival Hillary Clinton in the Democratic nominating battle but needled the Illinois senator for a lack of experience by saying the White House was not a place for on-the-job training.
McCain was certainly on the job bringing in cash. One event included tickets to a “victory dinner” and two receptions for a contribution — raised or donated — of $50,000. Whew.
And even those lobbyists out there got a thank-you.
“I’m going to thank some corrupt unscrupulous lobbyists that are destroying America as we speak, everything we stand for and believe in,” McCain joked at one fundraiser. 
Finally, there was praise for his opponent-turned-supporter, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
“There’s nobody who represents me better today than Mitt Romney,” McCain said.
Are you listening, governor? That could be the sound of a vice presidential offer coming down the road …

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria. McCain talks at a news conference after visiting the Everglades Safari Park in Miami, Florida, June 6, 2008.

Laura Bush defends Michelle Obama

rtx6hp9.jpgMichelle Obama has a new defender from those who say she isn’t patriotic enough — First Lady Laura Bush. In an interview with ABC News, Bush said that Obama’s February remark that she was proud of the United States “for the first time in my adult life” was misconstrued.

“I think she probably meant ‘I’m more proud.’ That’s what she really meant,” Bush said from Afghanistan.

“You have to be really careful in what you say because everything you say is looked at and in many cases misconstrued,” she said.

McCain says he’s the underdog against Obama

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – It’s June. The U.S. presidential  election is in November. So does it pay to be the front-runner now — or the underdog?mccain7.jpg

Republican John McCain has gone with underdog, declaring himself just that in an interview with ABC News’ Charles Gibson on Thursday, two days after Illinois Sen. Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee.

“Are you the underdog?” Gibson asked, according to a transcript of the interview.
“Oh, yes, I think so. I think so,” McCain replied.