April 14th, 2008
01:52 PM ET

David Gergen: Slouching towards the fall

Pope Benedict XVI

For the first time since this long, dramatic campaign began, people are asking me whether we are heading into a fall with yet another set of disappointing candidates.  Sadly, these past few weeks seems to have diminished all of them. 
"Are we really going to have to choose between candidates who can't lead us out of the mess we are in?" asked a major business figure this weekend - and this from a Republican stalwart!  From conversations over the past few days, I am finding that there are some serious, influential Republicans who are grumbling about John McCain's domestic policies, especially on the economy.  Some were appalled by his swerve last week on mortgage foreclosures.  Not only did he turn on a dime away from a position he took only a couple of weeks ago, but his new ideas seem to inject the government directly into administering who is a deserving homeowner and who is not - a position that is anathema to most free marketeers.  Will he provide sound stewardship of the economy?  That is a question we may hear more often in days ahead.
But if McCain is prompting some questions, that is nothing compared to what is happening to diminish the candidates on the Democratic side.  Clearly, Barack Obama stumbled in his comments and before the wrong audience when he rambled on about church goers and gun owners in small towns across the Midwest.  It's not that what he said is actually wrong; historians have often said, for example, that people enduring hard times often find their religious faith to be even more important. But the way Obama said it - and perhaps even the fact that he said it at all - could easily give offense in rural America.  He was smart to acknowledge it right away, and he was smart to get Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania out on television yesterday in his defense. 
One wonders, even so, whether Hillary Clinton hasn't gone too far in the way she has unleashed a relentless barrage of attacks against him in the days since. 

Sure, she has managed to make an issue of it, and she has managed to cut off coverage of her own problems (Bosnia, Mark Penn, etc.).  But she is doing it in a way that can leave deep scars.  There used to be a standard in campaigns that if you are running against someone in your own party, you can attack an opponent's positions but not his person.  Remember Reagan's 11th Commandment?  Last night in the Compassion Forum on CNN  - where she might have calmed things down - Clinton once again slashed away at Obama personally, calling him elitist, out of touch, and patronizing.  Not surprisingly, she is deeply annoying and antagonizing his supporters (people she may need one day).  And she is fueling their suspicion that out of fierce ambition, she is trying to make him unelectable this fall so that she can win in 2012.
It's not clear what genius in the Democratic party created a four-week break between the last primary and Pennsylvania.  But it hasn't served to do the Democrats any favors.    

– David Gergen, CNN Sr. Political AnalystClick here for more blogs from the 360° team

Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?


Filed under: Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
soundoff (109 Responses)
  1. Becky - Huntsville

    David, no. One doesn't wonder, whether Hillary Clinton has gone too far. It is quite obvious to this one that she has jumped off the precipice. It started with the 3:00am ad in Texas. Billary will do anything to anyone in order to get back in power. I find that very scary. So scary that if she manages to wrest the nomination away from Obama, I plan to vote for John McCain.

    April 15, 2008 at 1:09 pm |
  2. Glyde Miller

    You make the comment that big business is unhappy with the candidates. This is either to bolster McCain to the common folk or they are getting ready to back an independent of their own choosing.
    The way Rudy G. pretended he was running and then went to Florida to be the front man for McCain. Brilliant.... Obama is not ready for this type of nonsense. The Dems. have forgotten the dark side. I just pray Hillary can stand up to it. She seems to have the Moxy.
    This Democratic race is nothing to what is going to happen in the General. There is too much at stake for big business. There is nothing wrong with business but you also have to have balance.

    April 15, 2008 at 12:19 pm |
  3. Adrienne

    Mr. Gergen's comments were interesting, but untrue. There IS one person capable of leading this country. It is so obvious, that I really don't need to say that it is Barak Obama.

    The real issue is, why does CNN not cover this political race responsibly, giving equal positive and negative coverage to each candidate? The real story is: why do the cable news shows obviously favor one candidate over another? Is that really news? Where can America find unbiased, fair coverage of politics???? MSNBC, (though I love them) favors Obama. And you, CNN, have a strong, obvious bias toward Clinton. What is this about????

    April 15, 2008 at 12:13 pm |
  4. Kathy in Oregon

    Melissa M - you said exactly what I was thinking.

    If anyone over-reacted, it was Obama. I saw him attacking Clinton over this..and he looked ridiculous during his "Annie Oakley" rant in front of a Penn audience.

    The man went TOO FAR - name-calling, and using a mocking, sarcastic tone. Ecouraging the crowd to laugh at his characture of Clinton. The man totally lost his "COOL"!!

    Obama's behavior was extremely immature and unbecoming of a presidential candidate. After witnessing his temper-tantrum, I can't imagine that man as president. EVER.

    April 15, 2008 at 11:18 am |
  5. Laidetea

    I am glad that Obama is an intelligent individual who recognizes his stumbles and immediately make it known to correct his own statements.

    As for Hillary and McCain, these two politicians motives are one of the same. They are working together to gain absolute power over the nations people. There are concentrating their efforts to gain such power with the old and uneducated. This is scary. With the economic crisis that has arise, I've not heard either one of these two say anything that will convince me to vote for them.

    Therefore, I am convince that despite what the others have been saying about Obama....he is world reknown as a true leader. He will prevail. I am going to stand behind the democrat whom has demonstrated perseverence, strength, integrity, and one who truly has spoke to the people.

    CNN please post my comment.

    April 15, 2008 at 11:17 am |
  6. Phil

    Cry me a mountain of tears. Everyone thinks it's Hillary's job to make Obama look good. They say she should use kid gloves on him.

    Even his supporters know he's weak. That he can't take a punch.

    Let them fight it out. If Obama's supporters are worried that he will be too wounbded to fight the Repubs, then they should vote for someone who is unquestionably strong enough to stand against the Repubs. No one ever complains that people are "too tough" against Hillary do they. They know better.

    April 15, 2008 at 10:57 am |
  7. Chriss in CT

    Yes, Gergen is right on.

    Hillary knows all is lost for her this time around so she is really only trying to destroy Obama, setting the stage for a Republican coup so she can be the candidate in 2012.

    What she fails to realize is she is also destroying her own chances then as well as people remeber how you make them feel and she will not even come close in 2012 if her plans are realized this election cycle.

    April 15, 2008 at 10:52 am |
  8. Justin

    I would never vote for Barack Obama and I'm African-American. Obama has been nothing more than your typical slick politician since he came on the scene. He's flip-flops constantly and when he's caught he flips again. He panders to what ever group he happens to be infront of at the time. He strategically chose Chicago as the place to launch his career to pander to the African-American Community. Then he expects everyone to believe that he so connected to urban America when he grew up priveleged living all over the world. Barack Obama is going to loose the General Election and I believe that his supporters know this. If it comes down to McCain (white man) v.s. Obama (black man)......who do you think America's going to pick? hmmmmmm???????

    April 15, 2008 at 9:46 am |
  9. Nora

    Hillary will pay the price.
    Democrats will pay the price.
    Country will pay the price.Sad as it is.
    Next 4 years of MCBush – and people will despise Hill-Bill even more. She will NOT win 2012.

    April 15, 2008 at 9:40 am |
1 2 3