Political Animal


August 23, 2012 10:25 AM Deploying the Big Dog

By Ed Kilgore

Greg Sargent argues this morning at WaPo’s Plum Line that the new Obama campaign ads featuring former president Bill Clinton represents the long-considered answer to a central and long-discussed question about this election: how to address Obama’s performance on economic policy in the context of creating a sharp contrast with Mitt Romney and the congressional GOP. Here’s Greg’s take:

What we’re seeing here, I believe, is the beginning of the Obama campaign’s pivot to a more concerted effort to draw a contrast between what an Obama second term would look like and what a Romney presidency would look like. And yet, paradoxically, Clinton needs to reach into the distant past to draw this contrast.
In the spot, Clinton focuses on the future and on the past before Obama was president. The contrast it draws is between Clinton and Obama’s approach on the one hand and Bush’s and Romney’s approach on the other. As Steve Kornacki notes, the ad plays the Bush card without saying his name. The ad also draws this contrast without discussing what has happened under Obama. Clinton carefully says Obama has “a plan” and that we “need to keep going with his plan.” This stops just short of saying the recovery is underway, but it hints that we’re moving foward and promises recovery in the future, just as happened under Clinton….
This [approach] is rooted, I believe, in a reading of the electorate by the Obama campaign that has gone underappreciated. The Obama camp makes a distinction between whether voters think Obama has failed, and whether they are merely disappointed that he hasn’t lived up to expectations, but find that understandable given the situation he inherited.

It’s a pretty subtle message to get across in 30 seconds, but I agree Clinton’s the right person to make the argument, since memories of his administration are still reasonably current and if anything increasingly positive. But the advent of Clinton as a straight-on-to-the-camera spokesman in Obama ads is a pretty big deal in and of itself, and potentially more important than the Convention speech he’s already agreed to give. At some point, we need to see Clinton skewering the idea that reintroducing the high-end tax rates of his own presidency would devastate the economy (paired, perhaps, with the notoriously failed predictions of Republicans that tax increases in Clinton’s first budget would cause a deep recession). And most of all, if the Romney/Ryan campaign continues to use Clinton’s past image in its mendacious and racially inflammatory “welfare” ads, nothing would be more effective than using Clinton’s present image and voice in rebutting them, and indeed turning the tables by showing that it’s the GOP that is threatening work-based welfare reform with its systematic attacks on work supports in the federal budget and tax code.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • martin on August 23, 2012 10:37 AM:

    Clinton saying Obama has a plan "to rebuild America from the ground up" is just what the screaming loonies want to hear. He hates America and wants to build it from the ground up into a Keyan Socialist Hell Hole where old white people are subservient to their colored lessors.

    Let's hope they are too blinded by Clinton to catch on.

  • c u n d gulag on August 23, 2012 10:46 AM:

    This can help on a number of levels.

    First, it takes some of the steam out of the remaining PUMA @$$holes - though most of them didn't need much of an excuse to blast Obama in '08, or join the Conservative anti-Barack chorus.

    Second, Bill is still pretty popular with a some white males, who may not otherwise consider even thinking of voting for Obama.

    Third, he's still associated with a time when the country was growing - and most people with it.

    I wish he had said the name George W. Bush over and over again.

    And said in an ad:
    'Well, if you liked those W years, and the results we've seen after those years for the last 4 years, then by all means vote for Romney and Ryan.

    They want to do what W did, only even more of the same.

    Look on the plus side - instead of waiting almost 8 years for a very good economy to almost collapse, maybe it'll only take them 4 years to totally collapse a recovering economy.

    Your choice?
    Clinton to Obama v. W to Mitt.
    Choose wisely."

    Now that, might be a winner!
    (But of course I'm going to say that - I just wrote the damn thing! :-)

  • Gandalf on August 23, 2012 11:13 AM:

    First and foremost whatever Obama has done to get the economy going has been fought tooth and nail by the republicans in the senate and the house. If you don't prescribe to that line of thinking then your not facing reality or remembering what actually has taken place in the last four years. It's a fucking miracle that we're not a whole lot worse off then we are right now.

  • c u n d gulag on August 23, 2012 11:23 AM:

    NE Elizabeth,
    Are you a one trick pony, or do you have some other moves, like Rafalca?

    If you can't come up with anything original, or at least an original way to say it, please crawl back under your rock until a new thought dents your thick cranium.

    PS: What about the date rape accusation against Ronald Reagan?

  • Peter C on August 23, 2012 11:43 AM:

    Clinton is a good communicator. I'm glad the Obama campaign is using him.

    The economic issues of our situation and the structure of our government are neither obvious nor simple. In a depression, when individuals and businesses are re-trenching after a credit shock, government must spend (and not re-trench) in order to avoid long-term pain and stagnation. This is a complicated idea, but it is PROVEN. Under our governmental system, the President's powers are LIMITED, and even when elected by a landslide (as Obama was), the opposition party have plenty of ways to sabotage a president's agenda. This, too, is a complicated idea, but it is WHAT REALLY HAS BEEN HAPPENING.

    The Romney campaign is betting on the power of a simple message: "You, IN PAIN! Obama, BAD! VOTE FOR ME!" They are playing to a 'cave-man common denominator". It's a 'vote your gut!' strategy. It takes effective communication to counter this sort of visceral appeal.

    Happily, both Obama and Clinton are good at communicating. Anyone who loves Democracy had better hope they are good enough at it; cavemen don't often get the option of democratic government. Let's hope we deserve it.

  • c u n d gulag on August 23, 2012 11:52 AM:

    NE Elizabeth,
    Ok, so you ARE a one-trick pony!

    You know what one-trick ponies do in a very short period of time?

    Bore people.

    So, no matter how many comments you make, on how many posts, until you learn a second trick, I suggest everyone respond to you in the following manner:

  • Northeast Elizabeth on August 23, 2012 12:05 PM:

    [move along now - mod.]

  • evan500 on August 23, 2012 12:06 PM:

    I'm curious about the avoidance of mentioning Bush's name. Why is that? It seems to me the Democrats should be making ever effort to remind voters that Romney would bring back the dismal Bush economic policies.

  • Joe Friday on August 23, 2012 12:14 PM:

    Northeast Elizabeth,

    "Maybe Clinton can also do an ad about how his rape of Juanita Broaddrick wasn't one of those 'legitimate rapes' Akin was talking about."


    Broaddrick previously signed a sworn affidavit, under the guidance of her own personal lawyer, that nothing had ever happened. Subsequent to changing to her revised story, Ken Starr repeatedly tried to get her to sign a sworn affidavit to support her charges against President Clinton. She steadfastly refused. She was obviously quite aware of the ramifications of well-documented perjury.

  • Peter C on August 23, 2012 12:15 PM:

    Wow! A troll infestation. I haven't seen one of those here for a long time (if ever). Karl Rove must be getting nervous.

  • c u n d gulag on August 23, 2012 12:20 PM:

    Ne Elizabeth,
    I don't hate women.
    You don't know me, so how can you make accusations about people you don't know?
    And regular commenters here will support me, since they know me, and know I have as high a respect for women, as for men.
    Those that earn it, that is - men, AND women.

    I don't even hate you, despite what you said.
    I feel sorry for someone as ignorant and hateful as you.
    I hope your Mommy is proud of you.
    Did you learn your ignorance and hate from her?

    Actually, more than sorry, I feel pity for you.

    You can write a decent sentence, so it's a pity you waste your time and your mind writing the same thing over and over again, and accuse everyone who's not on your "side" of misogyny, and other hateful things.

    Even the waste of a mediocre mind like yours, is still a waste.

    And, having wasted my time responding to someone like you, I now back to my new usual response to you:

  • Tomm Undergod on August 23, 2012 12:23 PM:

    Agreed that Bush should be named as often as possible and Mitt Ryan superglued to his multiple failures. Also think Obama should run against the donothingist congress and its systematic and deliberate campaign of obstruction, voting down all his economic proposals this year, blocking even the most uncontroversial appointments, etc. etc. Does not take getting too much into the weeds to say congress has obstructed, and the case is easily made.

    But what I really wonder is when someone with the time and resources will dig up a boatload of doomsaying from the pre-tea establishment when they attacked Clinton with fang and claw over his highly successful economic/tax policies. The same alleged debt fanatics faux-freaking over the inflationary dangers of this nation's Negative interest rates did the same thing then as they are doing now.

    They could be mocked, scorned, derided, and turned into a punchline for persistent and unvarying predictions based on their idiotic econ theories as demonstrated by their past hysteria and return to the same now. Someone just has to round up the clips for YouTube of the Daily Show, and at least let a collection of their quotes spam e-mail IN boxes.

  • dede21206 on August 23, 2012 12:50 PM:

    @c u n d gulag and others

    NE Elizabeth reads like she's earning 25 cents a post.
    Don't encourage her.

  • LAC on August 23, 2012 12:57 PM:

    @dede - and don't forget all the cheetos and soda she can stuff in her face. The GOP is tres klassy when paying their media minions.

  • Mitch on August 23, 2012 1:52 PM:

    @gulag & NE Elizabeth,

    What it boils down to is this: There was no trial, Clinton (Reagan, too) was never found guilty of rape. Last time I checked, the American Way includes the classic clause, "Innocent until proven guilty by a court of law".

    To condemn anyone - ANYONE - for simply being accused is about as un-American as it gets. I can't say anything about Broaddrick. Who knows what actually happened? None of us, that is for sure. And since nobody knows, claiming authority on the matter is juvenille and foolish. Clinton (and Reagan) must be presumed innocent of rape. Period.

    Now, on the real fun side is this: NE Elizabeth, you will find MANY MANY more Democrats/Liberals/Progressives who dislike Clinton, than you will Republicans/Conservatives/Teabaggers who dislike Ronald Reagan. As a matter of fact, Reagan has been placed on a pedestal by the modern conservative movement that approaches sainthood.

    Many people left-of-center are upset with Clinton for various reasons. The ending of Glass-Steagall, for example.

    Whereas people on the Right tend to get angry if you mention that Reagan negotiated with Iranians, presided over several tax increases, and helped to create an unspeakably large increase in our debt.

    Also, NE Elizabeth, Reagan is dead (and was incapacitated for many years before his death) and so he could not be at the GOP convention. So harping on Clinton being at the Dem one is, well, kind of stupid.

  • c u n d gulag on August 23, 2012 2:15 PM:

    Mitch, I never said I believed the accusations against Reagan.

    My point to her (him posing as a her?), was that they were both just accusations!

    And if she chose to believe the ones against Clintons, than I could choose to believe the ones against Reagan.

    And, "kink of stupid," would be a step up for, who-or-whatever...

  • Mitch on August 23, 2012 2:45 PM:


    I know, my friend. I'm just trying to the soothing voice of reason (more or less). Probably futile on teh intratubes, but I've always been a glutton for punishment. I usually ignore tolls, like NE Elizabeth appears to be, but the modern (mostly conservative) American habit of assuming guilt much of the time just bugs the heck out of me.

    Obviously I don't disagree with you very often. Actually, I don't know that I've ever disagreed with you, but I'll assume that I might have about something, because we're all people with unique outlooks. You're my favoritest regular and have been for a loooooong time. I missed you when you were gone, and I'd hug you without hesitation, if we ever met.

  • Mitch on August 23, 2012 3:17 PM:

    @NE Elizabeth

    Show me the endorsements, instead of asserting them.

    About Tryavov/Zimmerman: “I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this,” Mr. Obama said. “All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen.”

    I would imagine that we ALL would like cases of even accidental death investiaged.

    About Palin, well, she did put a bulls-eye over Gifford on her Facebook page and said, "Don't retreat! Instead - RELOAD!" Was Palin complicit? No. Was it bad taste? Yes. Politics should not be pushed to the extreme by saying things like that. Most people will not take it literally. But some people are insane, and may very well take such statements literally. Public figures should be more responsible in their statements. Period.

    Also, Reid did not accuse anyone of anything, he was spreading what he claimed to have heard. Is gossip in bad taste? Yes. Did many, many liberals (including numerous posts by Ed & others here at Political Animal and Ten Miles Square) condemned Reid for spreading gossip? Yes.

    You have no idea what you are talking about, if you assume that Liberals all think alike. Very few of us do.

    Anything that "everyone knows" is almost always wrong. And tribalism is bloody stupid. Do you agree with everything every Conservative says? I surely hope not. And I know no Liberals who agree with every other Liberal on half of the issues. I disagree with Obama about a great many things, vocally.

    That's as much as you are going to get out me. Have a good day!

  • c u n d gulag on August 23, 2012 3:42 PM:

    Stupid troll, proving how stupid a troll the stupid troll really is, "let me spell this out for you real s-l-o-w-l-y:"

    NO ONE called anyone a slut here - EXCEPT FOR YOU!

    And you accused everyone of doing what they didn't do, on every comment.
    Maybe ONE commenter might have used that term out of frustration.

    Mod's, I don't mind debatins a troll with more than two brain cells, but this one doesn't meet that minimum standard.

    It bores me.

  • Doug on August 23, 2012 6:44 PM:

    I found the last paragraph of Greg Sargent's quoted by Ed Kilgore to be verrry interesting (I never COULD "do" Arte Johnson!).
    Just how many of those who, when polled, end up in the "view unfavorably" column because they feel Mr. Obama hasn't, for whatever reason, done ENOUGH? I would hope that a good portion of President Obama's convention speech is dedicated to what he's tried to do and how those efforts have been rebuffed by the Republicans in Congress. He should also tie it into every campaign speech he gives from then until the election. There are an awful lot of people out there who don't seem to realize that they really need to keep an eye on politics year-round; if only because it's THEIR tax dollars being spent.
    The shameful part is that it's the President who has to do so, when the various cable/network/dead tree news organizations SHOULD have been on this from the beginning. I mean, how long does it take to say "Republicans opposed" or "Republicans prevented" on a broadcast? But I guess that's what happens when "news" merely becomes yet another commodity dependent on advertising dollars; what matters si pushing the sponsors' products not what's inbetween the ads.
    Which MIGHT explain some of the "old" media's aversion to the intratubes...

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