Finally, Barack and Bill talk, if only on the phone. Obama's people describe the conversation as 'terrific'. Clinton's people go for 'very good'.
The Telegraph reports that Bill is still mad as hell and says Obama can 'kiss my ass'.
I just don't see how he keeps this up for long. He may not think Obama will win, but most rational observers would conclude that there is, at the very least, a strong chance he's wrong about that. What if Obama wins without the former president coming out of his sulk? Bill Clinton's reputation in the party, and in the country, would sink to a low it will be hard to recover from. He'll surely come round - and he'll have to do it before the convention.
The first joint appearance of Obama and Clinton since the nomination race was concluded went off pretty well yesterday, garnering the TV and press coverage that the Democrats were looking for. The candidates spoke well of each other, seemed happy and relaxed, gave good body language, even bantered a bit. Couple of observations. One, why on earth did they make the chair on the stage the right height for Obama to perch on but too tall for Clinton to get up on (she went with standing in the end)? There will surely be gnashing of teeth amongst the more conspiratorial Clintonite die-hards about this.
Also, Obama's riff about how Clinton had demonstrated that women 'can do anything in America...and do it better than men' was pretty strong, but then undermined by the addition of 'and do it in heels'. It made it seem as if he hadn't meant it - that he'd put that riff together solely so that he could land on that rather limp and maybe slightly patronising gag.
Finally, I wish Obama had included a passage he included in his speech to Clinton's donors on Thursday (away from the cameras), about how when he spoke to his grandmother during the nomination battle, she'd express her support for him but then express admiration for Clinton too, and wonder if she was getting a fair shake from the media. It's a nice personal way of illustrating Obama's 'more that unites than divides' point. But maybe he doesn't want to draw attention to his grandmother so much, I don't know.
Chuck Todd muses on Republicans' labelling of Obama as a 'typical politician':
The problem with trying to use this line with Obama is that the historical nature of his candidacy makes it harder for the voter to think the word "typical" when they see him. (And, of course, Clinton had her own problems on this issue.) That said, Obama continues to fuel this line of attack by making conventional decisions like ducking the town hall idea, flipping on campaign finance, trying to straddle the fence on guns, etc. And unlike McCain, Obama doesn’t have years of good will with his brand; he only really has about 18 months. McCain has made a lot of subtle shifts away from his so-called maverick independent streak. But because his brand was cemented over years, he’s been given more of a benefit of the doubt with the public. Obama’s brand reservoir isn’t as deep, and he should be much more sensitive to this collecting narrative that he isn’t what he claims.
I'm not sure I agree with the latter point, at least not with regard to the 'typical pol' claim. The fact that he hasn't been around for ages makes it more difficult to paint him as just another Washington operator - he seems fresh because he's new and relatively young - and of course because he's black. So I think he can go on making these somewhat dodgy shape-shifting moves for quite a while before people start to think of him as anything but a big signifier of CHANGE.
The real danger of his 'shallow brand reservoir' will always be, not that he represents too little change from the norm, but too much change - that's he's an un-American outsider or secret Muslim or whatever.
In that context the 'typical pol' allegation may actually help rather than hinder him, in the end, by normalizing his image a bit for those whose are wary of him.
Clinton's policy director - and architect of her healthcare plan - has signed on to the Obama team as head of domestic policy. A sign that Clinton may be the driving force behind health policy in an Obama administration.
In another brilliant column Peggy Noonan wonders if McCain has already won the prize he really cares about:
And there is another problem that is bigger than all of that, and he is going to have to think himself through it. And that is that there is a sense about his campaign that . . . John McCain has already got what he wanted, he got what he needed, which was to be top dog in the Republican Party, the party that had abused him in 2000 and cast him aside. They all bow to him now, and he doesn't need anything else. He doesn't need the presidency. He got what he wanted. So now he can coast. This is, in the deepest way, unserious. JFK had to have the presidency—he wanted that thing. Nixon had to have it too, and Reagan had to have it to institute his new way. Clinton had to have it—it was his destiny, the thing he'd wanted since he was a teenager.
The last person I can think of who gave off the vibe that he didn't have to have it was Bob Dole. Who didn't get it. And who had a similar lack of engagement in terms of policy, and philosophy, and meaning.
Read the whole thing. Her exercise in clairvoyance at the end is the most plausible prediction of how this campaign will play out I've seen.
It is a sign of the current confusion amongst Republicans about how to deal with Obama that their pre-eminent political strategist of recent years can't seem to settle on a line of attack. Only a few days ago, Karl Rove was portraying Obama as an effete, martini-sipping snob. But in his latest Wall Street Journal column, he rips into Obama for being, of all things, too macho:
Having effectively sewed up the Democratic nomination, he could have agreed to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations (states Hillary Clinton had carried)...But Mr. Obama supported cutting these battleground-state delegations in half. At a time when magnanimity was called for, the candidate decided he'd strut.
Mr. Obama's alpha-male attitude was evident even as he stumbled towards and over the primary finish line. (My emphases).
It's a surprising charge, coming from Rove. Anyone remember Mission Accomplished?
Aides to both senators say hard feelings between the two camps are dissipating by the week — many people from both sides, in fact, were friends before and remain close — but some habits remain. In the primary, aides to Mrs. Clinton referred to their rival as B.H.O. — initials of Barack Hussein Obama, including his middle name, which has been a politically sensitive issue — while Mr. Obama’s team simply referred to him as B.O.
Hillary Clinton's Senate staff welcomed her back to the office yesterday by staging a table-tennis smackdown between two staffers (implying that's all they'd been doing for the last six months). Here are the photos:
Apparently she advised the loser to concede gracefully.
Bill Clinton's bare-minimum statement of support has got people wondering what Obama will have to do heal that particular rift (more than Hillary, it is thought that Bill is taking things personally). But this, from Chuck Todd, suggests that Obama may soon be at the mercy of the great seducer's charms, whether he likes it or not:
Bill's just not there yet. That said, one Bill confidante recently said to us that the former president still loves to heal rifts, that he thrives on it, and that at some point he'll go on his own Obama charm offensive so that suddenly the Democratic nominee finds himself so smitten that he begins begging 42 to start campaigning for him.
Sam Anderson of NY mag discusses Obama's use of rhetoric, and worries that his acceptance speech at the convention in August may not be able to live up to the hype:
Convention speeches are by definition conventional: overproduced, stadium-sized, riddled with ritualized applause, cheese-ball taglines, balloon drops, and coded appeals to key demographics. Under the g-forces of so much demographic and institutional pressure, Obama could easily surrender to the occasion and be a little less impressive.