Man Without Qualities

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Among The Clintonoids

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. today joins Dick Morris in arguing that Howard Dean has been demolished by the Clintons:

To understand the 2004 presidential campaign we must bear in mind that there are actually two campaigns going on. The first appears to be a campaign among Democrats for the party's presidential nomination. Actually, as is becoming clearer every day, it is a campaign for control of the party for years to come; and that the Clintons are waging it is increasingly apparent. The second campaign is a historic struggle between the two factions of the 1960s generation -- once known as the young right and the young radicals -- to claim that generation's identity once and for all. ...

The most imminent of these campaigns now is the Clintons' campaign to maintain control of the Democratic Party. Last summer's noisy rise of Mr. Dean, the outsider, sent alarm through the Clinton camp. The open field after New Hampshire is more to their liking. It allows for Bill's high-profile trip to Washington this week. His influence will grow, and the arrival of a bruised Democratic frontrunner at the convention this summer will allow Senator Hillary to play a dominant role. ....

Sources in the Kerry camp and the Edwards camp told my colleague "The Prowler" at that much of the opposition research that smeared Mr. Dean in Iowa came from the Clark campaign. "It wasn't just Clark, though," a Kerry staffer reported, "We know of at least two different stories that came from people currently on staff with the DNC, who fed the material to reporters." Says an Edwards staffer, "These are folks who worked for Clinton back in '92 and '96 and in the administration."

That all pretty much tracks the Morris analysis. But what about the future? Where is this all going? Where are the Clintons taking it? In particular, Mr. Tyrell, in my view, veers towards the highly unlikely:

Will frontrunner Mr. Kerry be the next victim of the Clintons' political research teams? Possibly not ... He may be limping in after still more primary battles. Then Hillary ...[may] allow herself to be nominated to the No. 2 spot...

Senator Kerry may or may not be strong in the Convention, but he is not obviously offensive to the Clintons' ambitions as the nominee. He has not threatened to dismantle the Clinton influence in the DNC or the Party generally. Of course, he may simply be keeping quiet about such intentions and do it anyway if he obtains the nomination. But the threat Senator Kerry poses to the Clintons lies in the possibility that he may actually win the election. That development would, of course, be completely inconsistent with Hillary ever becoming president. There no significant likelihood that Hillary Clinton would accept the No.2 position on a ticket she wants to go down to defeat. No. The Clintons would be perfectly happy with Senator Kerry becoming the nominee, not disrupting the current of the DNC an the Party generally - and then losing.

Returning to Mr. Tyrell's question: Will frontrunner Mr. Kerry be the next victim of the Clintons' political research teams? Not soon, at least with respect to releasing anything fatal. Instead, the Tyrrell/Morris approach suggests that the Clintons' would do that only after Senator Kerry becomes the nominee. Of course, at that point the research could not directly or obviously come from the DNC. But indirection is well within the Clintons' capabilities.

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