Obama and the Nevada Eight - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Obama and the Nevada Eight

It’s less than eleven months until the Nevada caucuses. The Nevada caucuses? That’s right, Sagebrush State Democrats have moved their contest to January 19, tucked in between the January 14 Iowa caucuses and the January 22 New Hampshire primary, the races that have traditionally kicked off the race for the major party nominations. That means that Nevada has entered into the long-term relationship with the candidates that Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have suffered through in the past, and yesterday in Carson City the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees hosted eight of the Democratic presidential hopefuls at the first event of its kind this cycle.

The format was reminiscent of speed-dating, with each candidate making his case to the assembled union-members with a few minutes of opening comments, three questions from George Stephanopoulos (one of which was taken from an audience member), and then a few more minutes of closing statements.

In this room, the clear star was John Edwards, whose union-pandering went down smooth with the audience; Edwards received the most enthusiastic applause of any of the candidates when he took the stage. And the nightmare that would come from handing the foreign policy steering wheel to the Democratic grassroots was in full display: The crowd cheered every call for precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, and for Dennis Kucinich’s claim that the Bush administration is “trying to steal the oil that belongs to the people of Iraq,” but greeted Joe Biden with dead silence when he explained to them that a quick withdrawal without a plan (Biden favors a soft partition) would be a disaster.

While Barack Obama skipped the forum, pleading a scheduling conflict, Obama’s ghost seemed to dominate the event. The news of the day concerned a press-release battle between Obama’s campaign and Hillary Clinton’s campaign triggered by comments that Obama-supporter David Geffen reported in Maureen Dowd’s New York Times column. Among other caustic remarks, Geffen told Dowd that while “[e]verybody in politics lies,” the Clintons “do it with such ease, it’s troubling.” Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, released this statement:

While Senator Obama was denouncing slash and burn politics yesterday, his campaign’s finance chair was viciously and personally attacking Senator Clinton and her husband.

If Senator Obama is indeed sincere about his repeated claims to change the tone of our politics, he should immediately denounce these remarks, remove Mr. Geffen from his campaign and return his money.

As Arianna Huffington pointed out, though, Geffen isn’t part of Obama’s campaign; he merely co-hosted one Obama fundraiser. Obama’s communications director Robert Gibbs, shot back:

We aren’t going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters. It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when [he] was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln bedroom. It is also ironic that Senator Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina State Sen. Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because he’s black.

Most of the candidates seemed to want to avoid those kinds of fights. Chris Dodd emphasized “bringing people together,” Clinton called for “a united front” among Democrats, Bill Richardson said the candidates should all pledge to avoid negative campaigning, and Biden endorsed Richardson’s pledge. Prodded by Stephanopoulos, Clinton invoked “the politics of personal destruction” regarding Geffen. Stephanopoulos asked Richardson if Obama should denounce Geffen; “Yes,” Richardson answered.

Slate‘s John Dickerson thinks that the Geffen episode was a misstep for Obama. I’m not so sure. It served to insert Obama into an event that was supposed to be about the candidates who showed up. And as Oscar Wilde observed, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

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