I know I'm posting a little too regularly for someone who claims to be on hiatus, but John Dickerson's latest nonsense on Slate required another addition to my occasional "Hey Douchebag!" series. (For more, click here; for an explanation of the "Hey Douchebag!" series, click here.)
The background: David Geffen, founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of Dreamworks, said the following in an interview with Maureen Dowd: "Everybody in politics lies, but they [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it's troubling." Geffen also called Hillary Clinton an "incredibly polarizing figure." Geffen's no right-wing hack; now a Barack Obama backer and fundraiser, he used to donate lots of money to Bill Clinton.
In response, the Clinton team demanded that Obama sever ties with Geffen and renounce his comments. Given the Clintons' history with politics and money, that demand is incredibly ironic, to say the least. (Note: Generally speaking, I like the Clintons, but they have some major moral failures I cannot reconcile with my own personal beliefs.) Obama's communications director, Robert Gibbs, responded thusly:
"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 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.'"
Pretty apt, and a fair defense. Sure, it's a negative response, but it's certainly fair. Geffen's an independent person with no obligation to vet his public views.
Dickerson's Douchebaggery: Dickerson claims Hillary Clinton looks better in this battle because Obama has vowed to run a campaign without mudslinging. Here's the relevant portion of Dickerson's piece:
"The response from the Obama campaign was good, old-fashioned hardball. You call me a hypocrite, and I'll respond by raising something out of your ugly past. But that wasn't the way Obama has said he'll play the game. It's very hard to run in the political system while simultaneously running against the system, but that's what has seemed so audacious about his campaign rhetoric. He has promised to lay down a lot of political weapons, and voters will reward him for taking that risk. But apparently, the weapons are still in his back pocket. (An Obama aide says I'm "overthinking" things.)
Does the Clinton team look a little thin-skinned? Yes, but they'll take the rap for being thin-skinned if they can show their opponent to be a hypocrite."
Ridiculous. Dickerson's first problem: Gibbs' response was accurate and fair; if every campaign had to disavow every statement from a contributor and return donations, campaigns would have little money. Politicans are responsible for what they and their staff members say, not for what their supporters say.
Dickerson's second problem: He says the Clinton team looks "a little thin-skinned." Actually, they look very thin-skinned, shrill, and unnecessarily reactionary. There's something very desperate about their behavior. One of Clinton's top advisors, Howard Wolfson, absurdly refers to Geffen as Obama's "finance chair," even though Geffen is only a fundraiser. Plus, he calls Gibbs' response an attack on "personal behavior." Actually, no, how one uses the White House to repay big donors and relies on endorsements that make baldly backward claims (Ford) is political, not personal. Of course, the Clinton campaign is apparently pointing to Dickerson's piece as support. Douchebaggery all around.