August 27th, 2008
08:06 PM ET

Behind the convention cheers – Obama's discipline

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Carl Bernstein
AC360° Contributor

Barack Obama is getting the convention he wants, under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. The convention he is building reflects him and his priorities: it’s thoughtful, not just red-meat; and he’s in surprising control of the message, given the forces he’s dealing with. Indeed, the convention-building and the message may be far more sophisticated and effective than we instant commentators were prepared to discern. Witness the opening night grousing on-air about the convention’s supposed thematic absence, and aversion to instant butchery of the opposition.

Task Number One for Obama:
Defining himself as a person, not just a politician: telling his story and that of Michelle Obama and their family. An American story, meant to definitively undermine the oppo-narrative of the Clinton campaign, and now the Republican oppo-narrative – that he is some kind of vaguely alien, exotic candidate. (For some undecided voters, that also means uncomfortably black). Michelle Obama – as well as the team that produced her bio-pic – delivered with perfect pitch on Night One.

This was the real opening business of the convention, the essential themes to get right. As well as to establish an umbilical connection between Obama and the greatest of Democratic traditions and immutable principles… a generational passing of the torch that Caroline and Ted Kennedy declared unmistakably – and emotionally – had now moved past the Clintons.


August 25th, 2008
07:21 PM ET

The convention's a big story unfolding

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/25/art.dnc.pepsicenter.jpg caption="Inside Denver's Pepsi Center, host to the 2008 Democratic National Convention."]Carl Bernstein
AC360° Contributor

A few observations as the convention is about to convene:

This is Barack Obama's convention. It will have his stamp on it, including ushering the Clintons off center-stage and into supporting roles-however reluctantly.

It is also a Democratic Party convention, with threads of history and some immutable principles since the 1960s-especially regarding civil rights, women's rights, and a certain perspective on economic issues. The Clintons are (whatever their shortcomings) a big part of that story, especially the successful parts: Bill Clinton is the only Democrat to be
elected twice to the presidency since FDR.

The Clintons-like Ted Kennedy, who will be powerfully present tonight-do not want to see the presidency turned over to John McCain or four more years of Republican policies: remember, they have spent their adult lives fighting against the Republican Right....even to the extent of Hillary Clinton labeling it "the vast right-wing conspiracy."

We journalists, especially on television in the past few days, have placed far too much emphasis on recent polls, a notable example being trying to divine the effect of Joe Biden's addition to the ticket within hours of his being named. This is silly.

The presidency will be won in the electoral college, something very different than national polls about the popular vote. Polls can be good snapshots, useful tools-but, as Mark Penn and Hillary Clinton learned, they can be far off-course.

Barack Obama confounded almost every poll to defeat Hillary Clinton-and concentrated on superior organization, the consistency of his message (sometimes perhaps vague in terms of what he would specifically do as president), and remarkable discipline. Most Republican professionals I have talked to believe he has a large organizational advantage in the states he must win to become president.


July 24th, 2008
12:50 PM ET

Growing up segregated

Program Note: In the next installment of CNN's Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Watch encore presentation Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m. ET

We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.

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Editor’s Note: In 1989, Carl Bernstein published a memoir about growing up in a segregated, McCarthy-era Washington, titled Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir. Part of the book focuses on Washingtonians –including Bernstein’s parents and their black and white friends – who worked to desegregate public places in the nation’s capital. It was a Jim Crow town, including its restaurants, hotels, and the segregated schools that Carl attended until he was in the sixth grade, when the Supreme Court struck down segregation of public education– in the case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. It is a little remembered fact that the companion case to Brown was Bolling v. Sharpe, in which the justices held unanimously that “Racial segregation in the public schools of the District of Columbia is a denial to Negro children of the due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.”

The following excerpt from Loyalties describes the demonstrations Bernstein participated in—as a child–in 1951 and 1952. FULL POST

Filed under: Black in America • Carl Bernstein
June 4th, 2008
10:05 PM ET

Hillary Clinton's concession call to Barack Obama: "I am prepared to help"

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/04/art.clintonobama.jpg caption="Senators Clinton and Obama at the NAACP annual convention in July, 2006."]
Carl Bernstein
CNN Political Analyst and author of "A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton"

Senator Hillary Clinton personally assured Barack Obama today that she recognizes he has won the Democratic nomination for president, and that “I’m prepared to help in any way I can,” according to a person familiar with their conversation.
Though she would prefer to be on his ticket as the vice presidential nominee, said this person, Senator Clinton has said her  only requirement  as the campaign goes forward is that “she be a player in the whole process. She doesn’t necessarily want to leave the Senate,  but she does want to be sure that key people from her campaign will have a role in Obama’s  presidential campaign and—if he wins the presidency—his administration.”

“Yes, it is somewhat a power play for vice president,” said this person, a Clinton supporter in Washington with whom she sometimes counsels on important matters.  “But being on the ticket is  not a requirement” for her unqualified help, especially in convincing her supporters to embrace Obama’s candidacy.   “Her speech [Tuesday night] was about being a player and making sure she was a player.”  

Filed under: Barack Obama • Carl Bernstein • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
May 24th, 2008
09:18 PM ET

Bernstein anticipates Clinton's every move

With dwindling chances of winning the Democratic nomination for president, close friends and supporters of Senator Clinton are looking for a “graceful exit strategy” from the race. One option is a joint ticket, with Clinton as the vice presidential nominee.

Two weeks ago, Carl Bernstein anticipated this very discussion. You can read Carl’s analysis here.
And you can read Suzanne Malveaux’s report on the exit strategies being discussed here.

Filed under: Carl Bernstein • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
May 12th, 2008
09:42 AM ET

Carl Bernstein: Could Clinton land the VP nomination?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/POLITICS/05/10/bernstein.clinton/art.clinton.afp.gi.jpg caption="Carl Bernstein writes that Hillary Clinton's campaign recognizes that it faces an uphill battle."]

Carl Bernstein
360° Contributor

Friends and close associates of both Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are now convinced that, assuming she loses the race for the presidential nomination, she is probably going to fight to be the vice presidential nominee on an Obama-for-president ticket.

Clinton "is trying to figure out how to land the plane without looking like surrender," a prominent figure in the Obama camp said Friday. This means, in all likelihood, bringing her campaign to a close in the next few weeks and trying to leverage her way onto an Obama ticket from a position of maximum strength, said several knowledgeable sources.

A person close to her, with whom her campaign staff has counseled at various points, said this week, "I think the following will happen: Obama will be in a position where the party declares him the nominee by the first week in June. She'll still be fighting with everybody - the Rules Committee, the party leaders - and arguing, 'I'm winning these key states; I've got almost half the delegates. I have a whole constituency he hasn't reached. I've got real differences on approach to how we win this election, and I'm going to press the hell out of this guy. ... Relief for the middle class, universal health care, etc.; I'm Ms. Blue Collar, and I'm going to press my fight, because he can't win without my being on the ticket.' "

Read full story

Filed under: Barack Obama • Carl Bernstein • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
March 26th, 2008
10:14 AM ET

Bernstein: Hillary Clinton: Truth or Consequences

Hillary Clinton has many admirable qualities, but candor and openness and transparency and a commitment to well-established fact have not been notable among them.  The indisputable elements of  her Bosnian adventure affirm (again) the reluctant conclusion I reached in the final chapter of A Woman In Charge, my biography of her published last June:   

Hillary Clinton

“Since her Arkansas years [I wrote], Hillary Rodham Clinton has always had a difficult relationship with the truth... [J]udged against the facts, she has often chosen to obfuscate, omit, and avoid.  It is an understatement by now that she has been known to apprehend truths about herself and the events of her life that others do not exactly share. " [italics added] 

As I noted: 

“Almost always, something holds her back from telling the whole story, as if she doesn’t trust the reader, listener, friend, interviewer, constituent—or perhaps herself—to understand the true significance of events…”

The Bosnian episode is a watershed event, because it indelibly brings to mind so many examples of this tendency– from the White House years and, worse, from Hillary Clinton’s take-no-prisoners presidential campaign. Her record as a public person is replete with “misstatements” and elisions and retracted and redacted and revoked assertions...     


Filed under: Carl Bernstein • Raw Politics
January 24th, 2008
08:05 PM ET

Calculating the Clintons

The calculated decision that Bill Clinton will lead his wife's attack on Barack Obama - here and now, and increasingly leading up to the February 5 Super Tuesday primaries - represents a shift in the fundamental Democratic campaign dynamic, which is unnerving influential Democrats, both in her camp and Obama's.

They fear that the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has thus taken on an ugly aspect that is already spinning out of control, and could damage the party's chances in November; strip the former President of his unique position as the Democrats' most popular and influential figure; and - worst of all - focus attention not on electing Sen. Hillary Clinton as president, but rather, the less palatable question of the Clintons' - plural - restoration to the White House.

The whole question of Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and their difficult relationship to the truth is now front and center. Or, as one of the Clintons' suppoters put it to me, "The circus is back. Many Democrats may love Bill Clinton - and they do - but not many relish the prospect of the circus back on center-stage" in American life.

However, the Clintons believe this course - with Bill Clinton leading a careful but unrelenting attack on Obama's credibility and credentials - may be the only way to reduce the chances that Hillary Clinton could get grievously injured in the February 5 Super Tuesday primaries and lose the nomination to Obama.

- CNN Contributor Carl BernsteinEditor's note: Carl Bernstein discusses his views with Anderson on tonight's 360 at 10p ET.

Filed under: Carl Bernstein • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
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