Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Sweet Oct. 30 Dem debate extra 1: Clinton's Penn memo on politics of hope.

| 2 Comments

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BALTIMORE AND WILMINGTON, DEL.(Amtrak en route to Philadelphia)--The Clinton team is trying to box Obama in at the Democratic debate tonight.

Chief Strategist Mark Penn sent out a memo titled "What are the Politics of Hope?" aimed at forcing White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) to either pull any contemplated punches--or wear the jacket as political attackers

In the meantime, Penn annointed frontrunner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as the candidate of hope.

But wait! that's Obama's thing! And Edwards!

"Losing ground in the polls, Senator Obama announced over the weekend that he will abandon the politics of hope and attack Hillary in tonight’s debate. Senator Edwards, who rose to prominence in 2004 by eschewing attacks on other Democrats, formally announced last night that he is going to attack Senator Clinton’s character," Penn penned.


The reality is there is a third way: one can draw distinctions without being negative or looking whiny--but it is difficult. While Obama has improved, debates are not his specialty. It takes him forever to even tell his Fired Up! Ready to Go! closer at rallies.

Below, the Penn memo....
To: Interested Parties

From: Mark Penn, Chief Strategist

RE: What Are The Politics of Hope?

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about the “politics of hope.” But what does the term mean? What are the “politics of hope?”

Does the “politics of hope” mean launching attacks on one candidate? Or does it mean laying out a vision for the American people? Does it mean questioning a rival’s integrity? Or does it mean talking about the change we need?

The Clinton campaign believes the “politics of hope” should be about outlining how our candidate will reverse the policies of the Bush Administration and give America a new beginning for the 21st Century. That’s why Senator Clinton has spent the last few months detailing:

- Her plan for ending the war in Iraq.

- A health care plan that provides coverage for all Americans and that builds on the present system.

- A middle class economic plan that rebuilds the road to the middle class by making our economy work for all of us, not just some of us.

- A plan to make college more affordable by expanding the Hope Tax Credit and Pell grants.

- The American Retirement Security Accounts to enable people to save for retirement and take those savings from job to job.

- A plan to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act and provide a better work-family balance.

- How she would use aggressive diplomacy to avert war and deal with Iran.

Contrast that with the campaigns of our two leading rivals, both of whom made their names by promising a “politics of hope” and have now abandoned that promise.

Losing ground in the polls, Senator Obama announced over the weekend that he will abandon the politics of hope and attack Hillary in tonight’s debate. Senator Edwards, who rose to prominence in 2004 by eschewing attacks on other Democrats, formally announced last night that he is going to attack Senator Clinton’s character.

Considering that both Senators Obama and Edwards made their names by pledging to be positive, the last thing one would have expected was for either of them to go out and announce with pride that they were now going to go negative on a fellow Democrat. It’s unprecedented in my experience.

Of course, Hillary will not hesitate to set the record straight on the issues that opponents raise about her. But as we move deeper into the Fall we are seeing the clear contours emerge:

One candidate is defining the “politics of hope” while the others are abandoning them.

Want to guess which one?

###


2 Comments

Did anyone else notice how Senator Obama decided to go after Senator Clinton"s candor? He was aked the question and he put great effort in to make the charge that She's not open about her views. He needs to elaborate and build the argument.

She's a careful politician. Another timid leader who will cave in to politics as usual because that is what perpetuates her power in a time when we need big change. He can build the case further to substantive issues like Social Security where Clinton gave a non answer in the last debate in New Hampshire. On Iran although he definetely has no excuse for issing the vote. If he believed in what he's saying he absolutely should have been fighting for it because it's such an important issue-I don't care about the vote tally. But I digress. And finally he needs to make the distinction onf Iraq war support prior to the invasion more clearly and directly.

I get it, he does not like attack politics. It's not in his DNA.

But on this issue he needs to turn to Mrs. Clinton in tonights debate and say to her, "Senator Clinton, you did not vote to send President Bush to the United Nations in 2002. You voted for war. Everyone knew that Bush and Cheney were not seeking authority to go to the United Nations they were seeking authority to use force against Iraq with that vote. The hawks didn't just include Bush and Cheney but men like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, and Douglas Feicht whom you chose to trust you trusted officials like Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld who had already testified that Saddam must be removed by military force in the 1990s. You made the case of an operational link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, which was one of the most dubious claims from the beginning. You accepted the idea of launching a war and occupation in the heart of the Middle East at a time when the world lived and coninues to live in heightened fear and ignorance. As a legislator you relinquished your constitutional responsibility to declare war and defend checks and balances. Your judgement on the most important issue of the day was dead wrong. I was opposed to the war from the beginning because of the consequences it might entail both for our security and our prestige and the pains of the casualty figures from an occupation filled with uncertainty." He'll have to cut that down of course but his argument has always been stronger than hers and the media is very nonchalant about it even considering how important it is.

He will have to defend the politics of hope by saying, "the politics of hope does not mean you always agree with Senator Clinton. If fewer people had agreed with Senator Clinton in 2002 we would not be at war in Iraq."

Just some unsolicited advice Mr. Obama...
Tyrone Stevens, Cornell University (Sent Tuesday, October 30, 2007 12:30 PM)

For the past several months Obama has been hitting Hillary on her Iraq position. All of the juice has been squeezed from that orange.
Now, Obama has changed the subject to Social Security an issue that he has been less than consistent on. He wants Hillary to spell out her policy thinking, which is fine. But being from Chicago (at least in recent years) he should know that it is his turn first. We would all like to hear his SS policy, not about leaving everything on the table, but what pieces should be on the table and why he has changed his thinking. If his handlers now want him to throw punches he cannot do so with impunity. He criticized Hillary's vote on the recent Iran boycott vote but didn't even bother to show to vote himself. Hillary is probably one of the best policy wonks in the business whereas Obama is getting his head filled by reading position papers written by his various committees. I say to Obama, take those gloves off but when the punches start coming back you better be ready!!

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on October 30, 2007 12:37 PM.

Sweet blog special: In runup to Dem debate tonight Obama demands answers on Blackwater immunity deal. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet Oct. 30 Dem debate extra 2. Will Obama come out swinging? is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.