Editor’s Note: Lanny J. Davis, a Washington attorney, is a supporter of and fundraiser for Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. From 1996 to 1998, he served as Special Counsel to President Bill Clinton. He is the author of “Scandal: How ‘Gotcha’ Politics is Destroying America.” In this commentary, he responds to an opinion piece by Carl Bernstein on the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency. To read Bernstein’s blog entry, click here.
I really wanted to write a detailed rebuttal to Carl Bernstein's extensive attack on Hillary Clinton on CNN.com. But try as I might, I could not.
(Carl and I have known each other and have been friends for many years, so I will call him "Carl").
How does one respond to a what was largely a series of personal adjectives, character attacks, and vitriol - with few, if any, facts cited to back up those adjectives and part of an completely one-sided presentation?
Emblematic is Carl's reference to "Whitewater" as one factual example of Hillary Clinton's negative record while she was in the White House. Even Ken Starr and his successor could make no finding of wrongdoing against Hillary Clinton (or President Clinton) on Whitewater after years of investigations costing tens of millions of dollars. Carl forgot to mention that.
Numerous other examples of wrongdoing he cites during the her years in the White House are also devoid of any factual basis - even though they were the subject of many accusations and headlines, innuendo and TV punditry. None of them involving Mrs. Clinton stood the test of due process and a verdict based on the facts.
Similarly, Carl's negative characterizations of Senator Clinton's presidential campaign, such as "repugnant," are entirely subjective without facts to back them up. I do find a lot of double standard in judging the Clinton vs. the Obama campaign tactics, as I will briefly describe below.
The best brief positive statement of what I believe are the facts about Hillary Clinton is this:
Ever since I knew her in law school during the late 1960s to the present day, she has been a progressive Democrat who supported and was often on the front lines of leadership in every major progressive Democratic Party cause in the last 40 years, from civil rights to human rights to women rights to children's rights to public education to health care to economic justice and legal services for the poor to the environment to choice to worker's rights and the minimum wage...I could go on and on. Those are facts. Undisputable facts omitted by Carl. And so is the fact that Hillary Clinton was with her husband on the front lines in the White House for eight years and participated in, consulted, or was party to many of her husband's crucial foreign and domestic policy decisions of the successful two-term Clinton presidency.
As to Carl's reference to her "repugnant" campaign, that's a strong word among the many personal-attack words he used in his piece. But at the very least it should be clear that he uses a double standard in judging her and her campaign.
Two examples only should suffice:
First, Carl criticizes the Clinton campaign for being negative - "her Pavlovian resort to trench warfare...angry, demonizing...."
First, this is a baseless statement - he cannot cite an example of such a personal attack on Senator Obama by Senator Clinton. But Carl also omits any reference to the constant stream of personal attacks on Senator Clinton's character and integrity from the Obama campaign, especially in recent months. In fact, in the summer of 2007, it was Senator Obama himself, who promised not to engage in such personal attacks, who began it all in a front page New York Times story, when he called Senator Clinton "untruthful and misleading." That is the summer of 2007. And if you read that article, you will be hard-pressed to find a single factual example offered by Senator Obama of her untruthfulness.
Second, Carl refers critically to Senator Clinton's vote for the war resolution in October 2002 (a vote joined in by 28 other Democratic Senators, such as Obama supporters John Kerry and Jay Rockefeller, whom Carl also forgot to mention in the piece).
But, as to Senator Obama's record on that war vote, Carl omitted the fact that in 2004, when he was running for the U.S. Senate, Senator Obama was asked how he would have voted had he actually been a U.S. Senator. After saying he didn't think that President Bush had made the case for war, Senator Obama went on to respond how he actually would have voted. His answer: "I don't know." This is the same candidate who based the core message of his entire campaign on criticizing Senator Clinton's judgment at the time she voted for the same resolution.
Senator Obama also said in 2004 that he didn't think there was "much difference" between himself and President Bush on the war.
But Carl omitted reference to those two facts concerning Senator Obama's record on the war.
The obvious explanation for these and many other omissions by Carl is that this is a one-sided presentation by someone who clearly does not like Senator Clinton. Surprise.
For me, I admit my personal bias: I am strongly supporting Senator Clinton because I believe she is the more qualified and experienced of the two candidates. She is ready to be president from day one, in my opinion, more so as compared to Senator Obama. As to her personal and character qualities, the Hillary I know has integrity, is kind, funny, fair, caring, a great mom, and one of the best friends anyone could have. It is no coincidence that so many people who have known her for decades still admire and trust and respect and love her after all these years. And it is no surprise, to me at least, that so many Republican U.S. Senators have told me and many others that she is one of the nicest and easiest-to-work-with people in the Senate. (Carl gives her at least this much credit for being "widely commended by former skeptics in Congress and the press.")
So this is my response to Carl Bernstein - who remains my hero during his Watergate reporting days and has been kind and generous to me personally through the years that I have known him:
You are entitled to your opinion. And I am entitled to mine. But at least we should both remind readers to know what is a fact and what are substantive issues versus what is an opinion and personal attack, and to appreciate the difference.
– Lanny J. Davis
Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?
Well done Lanny. You nailed it. I have heard many people who know Sen. Clinton personally describe her as you do–caring, kind, funny. I also know that she is hugely qualified, incredibly courageous, focused, and dedicated to public service. The rest is all spin and misogyny perpetrated by those who do not know her. Thank you for posting this piece!
The Obamabots need to stop chugging the Kool-Aid.
Just. Say. No.
I still amazes me that people will blindly follow someone like Hillary Clinton. Go ahead, many a republican did the same thing with Bush and look where that has gotten us. Hillary won't be any better.
The problem is with the Clintons and the truth. Their judgments on many things are correct; however, Hillary should learn to say "I don't know" as Obama has, instead of repeating an offensive lie 3 times about bullets in Bosnia, while brave young Americans were actually dodging real Bosnian bullets. It's the equivalent of Bill's "I never had sexual relations with that woman".
Lanny, if they've offered you a political position if elected, don't quit your day job.
Thanks Lanny for being brave enough to give us your view! I say brave enough because I'm sure that you must have known how you would come under attack from the other camp with the old "if you aren't for us then you are against us" mentality.
The fact remains the Clinton's are a political juggernaut, bent on destroying Obama's credibility in hopes of winning the nomination, regardless of the damage to the Democratic party or the future of Barack Obama. In truth, perceptions are more powerful than these contested "facts" of Bernstein's essay, if Clinton is perceived as these things, well I'm sorry but that's what people will probably think. The same story for Obama. Why do you think pictures of him in Islamic garb "somehow" made it to the press with a juicy story of Islamic sympathy attached, despite no tangible connection to him and Islam? Unfortunately, it's forums like these that dull the mind of the voter offering polarized, opinionated and useless commentary about our next president.
Thanks for that, Lanny. It's not often these days that you see pieces written about Senator Clinton that are not drenched in hate and contempt. Personal attacks on these candidates are not what politics should be about, and yes... all sides are guilty of it. I had more respect for the Obama campaugn before he started condecending the American people and treating Hillary like "the little lady". He's a fine speaker and all, but when you boil down his eloquent speeches, there's not much left that's truly nourishing... more so than your regular political speech. Just my opinion....
Lanny, oh Lanny, I would love for you to represent me because I truly believe you would go down with the ship. But you ahve been forced to take som many positions defending this candidate that it is sad to watch you drown.
By her own actions and assertions and because of the way she will be perceived by a majority of Americans who either did not vote for her or wish they could change their vote, her presidency would fail. In three weeks she has gone from the hunted (Bosnia) to the hunter (ducks). She is against free trade but her top two advisors (husband and Penn) have made more than a million dollars supporting it. She bowls but she doesn’t.
She spends more time trying to bring Obama down than raising herself up. In truth, we are seeing why she has spent so much time riding his coattails. I truly beleive he would not have been president without her but that doesn’t mean the tables can simply flip. She will do better in the Senate, where the glare of politics and media does not shine so brightly. She simply can’t handle the light.
Which is also the funny thing about her support from women. She is not Dianne Fienstien or Barbara Boxer or Nacy Pelosi. She is where she is because of the man she picked, 28 of her 35 years of service are directly tied to him. Is this really the best option for a woman at the top of the ticket? You are a soldier for your team, but it is a losing cause.
Excellent rebuttal. Because of the attacks on Clinton you cited this democrat will never vote for Obama.
This was supposed to be a an article reviewing Carl's article? All I see is more Obama bashing by comparing and contrasting subtle less obvious issues (with a lot of personal chest pounding). Nothing new.
I guess someone forgot to point out to Mr. Davis that Mr. Bernstein's blog was an opinion piece, not a detailed, referenced, footnoted book of fact (sort of like the one Bernstein wrote and then based his opinion piece on).
I find it honorable that Mr. Davis continues to stand up 100 percent for Senator Clinton, no matter the criticism and no matter the facts.
He is as loyal a friend as anyone could ever want.
But as the designated defender when things get tough for the Clintons, his opinions really don't carry much weight.
Why on earth anyone should count his musings as more serious than those of a serious journalist who wrote a serious book on Senator Clinton is beyond me.
How unfortunate that all the lovely things you say about your friend are overshadowed by her desperation at winning this nomination race. I used to respect her and thought she would make a fine president. Now, I press the mute button when she is on TV.
Thank you Lanny. Such attacks should not go unanswered. Always love seeing you on TV.
I don't understand the reasoning behind the hatred towards Clintons. As a matter of fact, all Americans, the rich and the poor, own Clintons a big THANK YOU for eight years of peace and prosperity!
Well said > Barbara
Well said Lenny. This is consistent with what I have been seeing throughout the campaign from people who really know Hillary. I am sure Barack Obama is a very good man and I believe he is easily the second best candidate of the two major parties but I can't stand to hear comments from supposedly intelligent, informed individuals like Carl B. (whom I respect) perpetuate as fact things they must know to be false regarding Hillary. Such an impressive individual deserves much better in my opinion.
The problem with the Clintons and those in their circle is that they have never understood the fundamental argument. It doesn't really matter if all of the accusations about the Bill and Hillary over the years are true or how much doubt you can cast on said accusations. People have a hard time lending credibility to such a sketchy, scandalous group (vis a vis George W Bush). The Clintons have done a lot of good things over the years in public service, but like Ted Kennedy, Hillary has been a party to too many scandals to ever be the President.
This is what makes this race so interesting... I agree that Hillary has the best of intentions, but the methods she and her campaign have used, for which she is responsible, are questionable at best.
She will lose this primary battle. My only hope is she loses with grace, puts her support behind Obama, asks her supporters to fully support Obama. Without her full support, she is giving up any future opportunity she might have.
Hey Lanny....How do you explain the Bosnia sniper fire story? Oh! that's right – Hillary has come up with a new name for "tall tales" – "mispeaking".....HRC may be all that you indicate in your artible, but nevertheless – also and still a LIAR.....
I have always been amazed at the FACT that four people at the same intersection at the same time witnessing the same accident see four different perspectives and causes of the accident. Each of them believing his/her version to be the correct one.
That's why it doesn't surprise me that good, intelligent, caring people in this country are able to view these two candidates so differently. What does surprise me is the ease with which people buy into mis truths. I believe that the campaign of HRC, fully aware of how easy it is to spread damaging falsehoods has lowered itself to levels even the pessimistic me finds unbelievable. HRC & company know for a fact that BHO is far from elitist, yet they continue to spread this lie. They know that Senator Obama has done more to unite this party and this country than anyone since JFK, yet they call him polarizing. I guess when you realize that you are a loser, you will resort to anything to try to win. As a lifelong Democrat, one who voted Bill Clinton twice, I am appalled at the campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton. This campaign has done more to damage our party and our candidate than the Republicans ever could. To her the motto "win at any cost" holds true. What does it matter, when she accepts the fact that she has lost the nomination she knows that her future political life is at best stagnant. What does she have to lose. It's time Hillary for you and all of your supporters to put the best interest of this party ahead of your own self serving interests. Accept the fact – there is no legitimate way for you to win this nomination. And please know that if somehow you and your cronies are able to steal this nomination, you will not receive my vote. I will not vote for McCain I will write in the name of Senator Obama. And I believe millions of others will as well. This may well give the nomination to McCain – splitting the Democrats – but I honestly believe even McCain has more morals and ethics than you do.
Lanny You Are Apparently Very Out Of Touch, with who the REAL Hillary Clinton is, and that's really sad given the fact that she's shown at least 4 different sides of her Sibel Personalities since the campaign started....
I'm so glad Mr. Davis pointed out the way commentators and Obama supporters smear Clinton with vague personal attacks and don't back them up. They selectively omit her accomplishments and embellish her flaws. Coming from a decent journalist like Berstein, it is particularly sad. Meanwhile, the amount of energy spend vetting Obama is just a fraction of what is slung at Clinton. I regret deeply that this race has become so shallow but I do not blame Clinton for this at all.
I too believe that she is the more qualified of the two candidates, not that the Obama supporters care about qualifications. This is not a rock concert or a pep rally. This is not the civil rights movement. This is the election of the President who must mop up after Pres. Bush. I want to put my children's future in the hands of the most qualified candidat . . . Hillary Clinton.
Lanny Davis is one reason why Hillary is where she is. With delusional supporters like Lanny that could have help Hillary be prepared for the race of her life early on, she floundered instead.
Lanny and so does Hillary, focuses only on Obama. Hillary is suppose to have 35 years of experience. We do not hear what Hillary plans to do or how she is right for Ameria.
All we get from her and those like Lanny Davis is subliminal and explicit messages that Obama can't WIN.
What a tired and sad campaign! Hillary should have been sooo much better! You let us ALL down Hillary! Blame youself and and your Husband who has done more to hurt you than help!
I am really starting to believe that the only non-connected, Rich and famous voters who will support Hillary Clinton are the self proclaimed abused women of America who feel they have to hurt and destroy all who have not been a victim sometime in their life. Of course there are also the weak, fumbling, fearful and low self esteem men who will support her as well. And we must add the Rep. Geoff Davis types as well.
These are people who are just like Hillary and Bill Clinton. These types of people will abuse, lie, cheat, and steal in just about any form to get their fix for themselves. It seems, this is what happens to Americans who lose their jobs, homes, health care. They cling to these feelings for the rest of their lives and they teach them to their children. It’s no wonder so many American's are voting for Hillary and John McCain
See, it’s not hard to analyze the Clinton's.
Thank you mr Davis, Great rebuttal.Carl Bernstein Should keep his opinion to himself if he dont have the evidence to back up his words then he should shut up and go away.Mrs Clinton will be our next Presedent and there is nothing he can do about that.
This is about the 20th time I have posted on a CNN ticker and I have yet to see anything I write make it to the comment section, however like Senator Clinton, I do not give up, just keep typing away.
To Lanny: Great Piece! You speak the truth.
Carl Bernstein is a hack who is trying to revive his sagging journalistic career....at the expense of Senator Hillary Clinton and the great reputation of former President Clinton. Any reader with intelligence can see that Carl Bernstein has an agenda, otherwise why would anyone print such hate and vitriol.
As far as Obama and his claim that he was going to keep this campaign positive....well, he has not done that, has he? However, his wife, campaign staff and supporters and the MEDIA have far exceeded his expectations for NEGATIVE campaigning and hate-filled lies! I am looking forward to another Clinton Presidency.
THANK YOU SHARON! I love how Clinton supporters always try to make it appear as though Obama is some sort of thief who is taking away what is rightfully Hillary's. I guess winning a majority of the states and delegates does not give someone the right to EARN the presidential election. Hillary would not even be a presidential candidate right now if Bill hadn't been president. She wouldn't even be a senator. I live in NY, and I can tell you that once Hillary loses the presidential election – she will more than likely not be re-elected as a senator because many New Yorkers are disgusted with her politics. I live about ten minutes from her "home" in NY, and even the majority of her "neighbors" are Obama supporters. She never lived in NY and only moved here because it was the most viable opportunity for her to win a senate seat and position herself for the presidential election.
Regardless of what either Carl or Lanny or whatever other political pundit that they have running, I look at what the candidates have done and said over the past 6 months. I have been impressed with both, and even with HRC's knowledge, but she continues to just do and say things that messes it up everytime. She's not acting very presidential.
I would much rather have a candidate who stated something incorrectly - even if he IS an Elitist... over someone who has LIED, and seemingly for no reason, time and time and time!
Why is it worse to be seen as someone who possibly has been an Elitist as opposed to someone that you don't know when they are telling the truth!
I'm taking my vote for Obama!
Hillary grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. When she first dabbled in politics - SHE WAS A REPUBLICAN, not a democrat. She started out in politics as a member of the Young Republican Party. Park Ridge is a staunch, staunch, very white republican town. Also, out of law school, she interned for a law firm that was sympathetic towards communists, and here in Chicago, that firm had a repuation as being a "communist law firm." As an intern, she worked, without charge, feverently on an appeal for the Black Panthers. During her early years, she was known as a Black Panther sympathizer here in Chicago. As everyone knows, although bred here in Illinois, she did not win Illinois in the primary. If people knew the real Hillary, they would know that her views are more Republican in nature, than Democratic. She only became a democrat when she married Bill Clinton.
Lanny Davis is the most biased person of all time. He can make up
an explanation for anything. He has no values or sense of truth. He is the perfect Clinton supporter.
First, after seeing Mr. Davis numerous times in a panel setting, it's refreshing to see him speaking quietly in print, rather than talking over and shouting down other panel members as is his want, and as seems to be the want of most supporters of Senator Clinton. I suppose they think that, when trailing, they need to shout to be heard by those in the lead. Secondly, he should realize that Mr. Bernstein brought up character issues precisely because of the fact that, with the Clintons, there ARE character issues, many of them, and that's why Senator Clinton finds herself behind in this race.
Did he forget the "shame on you comment" openly stated in Ohio by HRC about NAFTA?
Which now screams hypocricy when finding that one of her top inner-circle workers is actively lobbying on behalf of CAFTA....
How about all her attacks on the the out-of-context statement he made in regards to how blue-collar Americans are feeling and how they resort or cling to familiarity.
Dude be real.
Way to GO! Lenny! you are so right on! Thank you for speaking the truth! and not being intimidated by all these people who call themselves journalist ??? they said they only report the facts??? Hellooooo what facts??...anyway it's people like you that make a difference in this world...What an honor for Hillary and Bill to have a truthful and loyal friend has you! That tells me alot more about the kind of people they are! And that is the kind that i want for President of the United States!
You have always been, and well remain to be one of my favorite people! in this world! Thank you for being you!
If you want to see what Barack Obama's presidency looks like, go to any city where 65 percenmt of the white people moved out because it wasn't safe to live there anymore and they elected an African American. Go to New Orleans, a self described chocolate city, Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit where crime and murder are riddles the mayor or their police cannot stop. In Carl Bernstein's favorite city, Washington D.C. the African American mayor was arrested on more charges than I can put here. When he was released from prison, he went back to Washington D.C. and ran for mayor again and was elected with 98 percent of the Black vote. Is this racism? AS for Bernstein, he is more accurate when Bobn Woodward write his first drafts. If not for Woodward, Bernstein would still be on the city newspaper's local beat.
i agree with lanny. before you attack or criticize someone, make sure that you have the facts. there's always two sides of the coin and give the credit to where it is due.
hillary is not perfect, she makes mistakes just like everyone else but one thing i like with her is she readily admits her own mistake as oppose to obama who tries to change the facts beats around the bush before finally admitting that he made a mistake.
i believe that hillary will be a good president.
Good for him! I agree
and I agree with dash
Why is people always call Hillary a liar but you never hear it about Obama? Is it because it's always the Obamaniacs that are the ones "casting the first stone"? I can think of several things that Obama has said that make him a liar too:
1. Contributions from Rezko
2. His stance on the war in Iraq (as evidenced above)
3. How his parents met at the Selma march in his book (Obama was born 4 years before the march took place)
4. Talking to the Canadians through his economic advisor
Say after me: Obama is a liar, Obama is a liar.
If you aren't going to vote for Hillary because she is a liar and you aren't going to vote for Obama because he is a liar – who's left assuming that you are a Democrat?
NEWSFLASH: All politicians lie and tell you what they think will win them votes. So get over it and look at their records and what they have done in there lives. Educate yourself and make a decision!
As as African who has been following the election avidly it never ceases to amaze me how fanatical Obama supporters can be. It would appear that they have been blinded by his political rhetoric and fail to see his lack of any significant track record with regard to real actions on important issues (as opposed to just words of change).
The only thing worse than his arrogance on the campaign trail is his hypocrisy. People accuse Hillary of playing dirty but to us it appears as if it is the Obama supporters who are the real, bitter mudflingers (with unsubstantiatied hatred of Hillary at every turn on this winding road).
I hope they eventually see through his shiny facade and realise it covers a very empty shell.
People like Lanny Davies should always be ignored. He is a spinner and always try to spin issues.
We have our own brain and we will always use it..
Thank you Lenny. I have not ready anything Carl Bernstein wrote since the Watergate days, and now I know why. I got halfway through this piece and thought, "What a load." Mr. Bernstein's piece wasn't measured, or thoughtful, or factual, or even very well written, it was the nonsensical rant of a three-year old. His demonization of Senator Clinton, who by all accounts of anyone who ACTUALLY KNOWS HER AND WORKS WITH HER ON A DAILY BASIS, is, as you say, hard-working, kind, caring, and easy to work with, is far worse and far more personal than anything the Clinton campaign has said about Senator Obama. Mr. Bernstein should be ashamed, and so should the Post for continuing to print this type of unfiltered hate speech. This piece really had no place in a major newspaper.
Hey Vince in Los Angeles– right on! Sign me up. How Lanny can say with a straight face that Clinton hasn't made any attacks on Obama is beyond me.
Talking about honesty, please, take a small quiz:
When was Obama honest?
1) When he said he just did 5 hrs. work for Mr. Rezko or when he said he was a 20 years friend?
2) When he said he did not hear Rev. Wright’s sermons or when he said he listened to them?
3) When he said he was against NAFTA or when his surrogates told the Canadian government that it was just ‘campaign talk’?
4) When he said that he will withdraw our troops from Iraq in 16 months or when his surrogates told the British government that it was just ‘campaign talk’?
5) When he said his grandmother was a ‘typical’ white person or when she appeared in his last ad?
6) When he said he was a trans-racial person or when he attended for 20 years Rev. Wright’s church?
7) When he said he was MORE electable than Mrs. Clinton or when he keeps offending the bigger voting blocks in the country (and counting….)?
8) When he equates Mr. Clinton’s presidency to GWB’s? Who told him that Rev. Wright?
9) When he compares the economic situation of Mr. Clinton’s presidency to GWB’s? Was he in the country at the time or he was still in Indonesia?
10) When he calls Mr. Clinton a racist after a lifetime of interaction with the black community?
11) When he compares himself to Mr. Clinton? Of course, some people are brilliant, but ….(you fill it)?
12) When he (mostly his supporters) insult/offend/look down Mrs. Clinton supporters and expect to have their support come November?
13) When he lists his lifetime of achievement and compares himself to many politicians in both sides of the aisle? Some are brilliant, but….(you fill it).
14) When he continuously talk about his absentee father, but seldom about his mother and grandmother?
15) When he claims he is a typical ‘hood’ guy or when he has a mansion and a Harvard law degree according to him coming from a GI bill loan?
I could continue, but you better decide on your own.
Thank you for your attention! You may get an award in November depending on your answers.
People that have always helped the Clinton Family, like Peter Paul, and Dick Morris, are telling Americans the truth about these lieing, users of spin.