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banyon
12-11-2007, 01:25 PM
Thomas B. Edsall
The Huffington Post
As Iowa Nears, Clinton Allies Quietly Raise Obama's Cocaine Use
December 11, 2007 10:56 AM

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/12/11/as-iowa-nears-clinton-al_n_76235.html


On Monday morning, Hillary Clinton's campaign included a cryptic, somewhat ominous, note in an email to journalists and supporters:

Something to Chew On: Respected columnist David Yepsen notes that "it's important for Democrats to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate. Clinton's negatives are well-known, Obama's less so. Any shortcomings, inconsistencies or misstatements in Obama's past will be exploited by Republicans in the fall campaign if he's the nominee. It's best for Democrats to vet them now."
The Clinton campaign email did not spell out Obama's "shortcomings, inconsistencies or misstatements," but other Democratic activists have quietly received messages from Clinton allies pointing in the likely direction. Those messages provided a link to an Iowa Independent story by Douglas Burns headlined "The Politics Of Obama's Past Cocaine Use."

Burns' article on Obama posed a question that Clinton has been unwilling to raise herself and that has received little attention during the Democratic primary battles: If Barack Obama becomes the nominee, will the GOP be able to turn his acknowledged cocaine use into a debilitating issue.

Burns cited two June polls.

One, a survey by Scripps Howard, found that 58 percent of respondents believed American voters are not ready to accept a president "who tried cocaine as an adult." The other, by the New York Times, found that 74 percent said most people they know would not vote for a presidential candidate who has ever used cocaine.

"What will be fascinating to watch is whether Americans' views on cocaine will play out in the election booths as a defining factor or anything close to that. If it does, that could spell trouble for Obama," Burns wrote.

"Junkie. Pothead. That's where I'd been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man," Obama wrote in his book Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. "The highs hadn't been about that, me trying to prove what a down brother I was. Not by then, anyway. I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory."

The issue has not been publicly raised by Obama's opponents, and only occasionally by reporters. On CBS' 60 Minutes, Obama said:

It's not something that I'm proud of, but that's part of the journey that I've taken. I like to think that by letting people know the mistakes I've made that maybe young people behind me are looking and saying 'You know what? This is a guy who made mistakes and he was able to right his life and get on track.' And that's I think an important message.
The raising of questions about Obama's electability poses a larger dilemma for strategists in both parties during the primary season.

On one side, there is a strong case to be made that wounds opened during primary fights only make the job easier for the opposition in the general election. Republicans, in theory, are supposed to honor Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment: Speak No Ill of a Fellow Republican -- although few, in fact, do abide by this precept.

Yet there is the counter argument: that a crucial function of the primaries is to weed out candidates who will be losers in the general election; that the intraparty fights are the first tests of how well the competitors are likely to do next November.

In 1988, for example, the Democratic primaries failed to fully exhume Michael Dukakis' handling of the Willie Horton controversy, and the Horton case became a cause celebre in the general election.

This dilemma is only likely to intensify as the Obama campaign is beginning to demonstrate that it is prepared to throw a punch or two that some might view as below the belt.

Hillary Clinton's "electability" has always been a subtext in the contest, although her opponents have been very cautious in the ways they have raised the issue. With the Iowa caucuses less than a month away, Obama aides are doing so more aggressively, if indirectly, by pointing reporters to a column by Bloomberg executive editor Albert R. Hunt that describes a recent focus group of Democratic voters in Philadelphia.

"[The participants'] concerns about Clinton, 60, a New York senator, are that she is devious, calculating and, fairly or not, a divisive figure in American politics," Hunt wrote - music to the ears of the Obama camp.

Members of the focus group, according to Hunt, said that Obama "would be inspirational, motivating, charismatic and compassionate. After praising Clinton's experience and intelligence, they say she would be demanding, difficult, maybe even a little scary."

banyon
12-11-2007, 01:26 PM
The Politics Of Obama's Past Cocaine Use
by: Douglas Burns
Thursday (12/06) at 15:57 PM

http://iowaindependent.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=1594

When Barack Obama speaks frankly about his youthful drug use in a generic sense on the campaign trail here, voters often respond positively to the Illinois Democrat's straightforward handling of the personal failing. In fact, many see it as revealing a canyon-sized difference between Obama's Generation X candor and the equivocation of Baby Boomers like the Clintons on such matters.
That said, when polls are examined more closely, and the question is posed to voters not on drugs generally but specifically on cocaine (which Obama admitted to using in his best-selling memior,"Dreams From My Father," by noting that he did "maybe a little blow when you could afford it.") the results show some potential vulnerabilities for the senator.

His Democratic opponents haven't seized this issue a in high-profile way. But Republican presidential Mitt Romney has challenged Obama on the drug angle, perhaps presaging a general-election strategy, while two western Iowa conservative Republicans see the issue as having no traction and being fraught with tripwires for their party if mishandled.

Douglas Burns :: The Politics Of Obama's Past Cocaine Use
"I think it's important for us not to go into details about the weaknesses and our own failings as young people for the concern that we open kids thinking that it's OK for them," Romney said.
What will be facinating to watch is whether Americans' views on cocaine will play out in the election booths as a defining factor or anything close to that. If it does, that could spell trouble for Obama.

A survey of 1,010 adults conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University finds many Americans voice concerns about candidates who've used cocaine.


Adults in the survey were equally troubled over prospects of a president who tried cocaine in his youth, something Sen. Barack Obama has admitted. Only 34 percent said they think most Americans would accept this while 58 percent said it would not be acceptable.
In a New York Times poll in June, 74 percent of respondents said they did not think most people they know would vote for a presidential candidate who has ever used cocaine.

"In the few polls that explicitly ask about cocaine use in a presidential candidate (as opposed to the softer more generic 'Drug Use,')" says one Washington, D.C. insider, "Seventy-four percent say cocaine use makes a person unfit to be president. It's the highest negative apart from 'no government experience.' Put differently, never in the history of the presidency has a front runner openly admitted to using cocaine. So now that Obama is talking about the drug use more often, I am absolutely certain it's because he and his team know that the cocaine issue is going to roar forward. It will be a major issue if he is the nominee.The GOP will ride it hard and he is trying to inoculate."

On the ground here in western Iowa, the co-chairman of the Carroll County Republican Party, John Werden, a county attorney who has handled many cocaine-related cases, says Obama's admission should not be disqualifying. What's more, Werden has a different take on the Obama drug question than Romney, the candidate the long-time western Iowa prosecutor is supporting in the Iowa caucuses.

"As a father and a prosecutor I'm not willing to write off anyone for good public service because of bad things they've done in the past," Werden said.

This doesn't mean Werden doesn't find Obama's drug admissions troubling in one respect. In working with people addicted to drugs, Werden said, there are always concerns that they will grasp on to comments from successful, high-profile people about use and abuse to justify their own actions.

"In an indirect way, it absolves them and in some circles encourages drug usage," Werden said.

Both Werden and veteran Iowa journalist Chuck Offenburger referenced the late Iowa icon Harold Hughes, a popular U.S. senator and governor who was open about his battles with alcohol. Iowans were ahead of their time in accepting this, a history that could play out in Obama's favor with his contemportary admissions of past drug use.

"Everyone knew he (Hughes) had a problem with alcoholism," Werden said. "And that was back in the 1960s before many people even accepted there was a thing as alcoholism."

In southwest Iowa, State Sen. Jeff Angelo, a Republican from Creston and an evangelical Christian, thinks his party enters dangerous waters if it attempts to go after Obama on cocaine use, which Angelo thinks would be old news by the time the nominating process is complete.

"No, I don't think that we can," Angelo told Iowa Independent. "We were all really outraged about many of the allegations against George W. Bush."

Angelo says a 24/7 news cycle takes the shock value out of stories, cuts the legs out from underneath "news" that only years ago would have been catastrophic for candidates.

"I think the voters at this point have become rather numb to these kinds of revelations," Angelo said. "I just don't see it being used as a viable issue."

In fact, he sees some Christians being potentially drawn to Obama for admitting a flaw and seeking redemption.

In respone to a question from Iowa Independent on a conference call this morning, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, also does't see the cocaine question as having any traction with Iowa voters. And he doesn't see how Republicans make it work in a general election.

"I suppose they might try," Harkin said. "I mean, they'll try anything. I think as long as you're open and honest and above board I think more people will say at least he's honest about it, admitted it, and is moving on. A lot of people make mistakes in their lives and have done something that was illegal."

Harkin added, "I think that was one of this Bush's selling points when he ran for president. He admitted he'd been really a heavy drinker and all and kind of pulled himself together and overcame it. What the heck. I think that says a lot about a person."

One influential Obama suporter in Iowa, former state Democratic Party chairman Gordon Fischer this morning told Iowa Independent that George W. Bush would have been wise in 2000 to use the Obama strategy of today on revelations of personal shortcomings. A story about a Bush DUI broke late in the general election cycle and posed serious problems for the campaign, Fischer said.

"If he had talked about it in the primary process people would have said that was dumb but what else do you have," Fischer said.

Fischer said he's been to many Obama events and has never heard anyone raise the question of Obama's past drug use.

"Drug use has never come up, not explicitly or implicitly," Fischer said.

Mr. Kotter
12-11-2007, 01:26 PM
If they are really going to go down this road, it just reeks of desperation to me...Hillary's internal polling must be showing some real erosion that hasn't hit the public quite yet.

HolmeZz
12-11-2007, 01:28 PM
They really must not have much dirt at all if they're resorting to stuff Obama made public himself.

banyon
12-11-2007, 01:28 PM
I agree it says more about Hillary than it does Obama.

NewChief
12-11-2007, 01:30 PM
If they are really going to go down this road, it just reeks of desperation to me...Hillary's internal polling must be showing some real erosion that hasn't hit the public quite yet.

Let's hope so.

Brock
12-11-2007, 01:31 PM
Are we really expected to believe Hillary never used cocaine?

Mr. Kotter
12-11-2007, 01:35 PM
:hmmm:

...One, a survey by Scripps Howard, found that 58 percent of respondents believed American voters are not ready to accept a president "who tried cocaine as an adult." The other, by the New York Times, found that 74 percent said most people they know would not vote for a presidential candidate who has ever used cocaine...


If the Clinton camp is hanging their hat for this strategy on that, they are making a big miscalculation IMO. Her alledged brainy group of consultants and advisors aren't nearly as smart as the media seems to think, if this is the case.

Those kinds of numbers are questions asked in the abstract, which in the specific circumstances of this campaign would not be so significant, necessarily.

Pitt Gorilla
12-11-2007, 01:37 PM
If they are really going to go down this road, it just reeks of desperation to me...Hillary's internal polling must be showing some real erosion that hasn't hit the public quite yet.I agree, and I don't think folks in Iowa are going to care. The people who will vote for Obama aren't going to change their mind due to coke use years ago.

Next week, they'll start a rumor that he is black.

stevieray
12-11-2007, 01:41 PM
Rodham/Clinton.
petty.
predictable.

Cochise
12-11-2007, 01:44 PM
This isn't the big thing they are sitting on. That wouldn't be very Clintonian. They'll save it for right before Iowa or right before super tuesday, if they feel they need to use it.

It's not dirty-trick enough to be a Clinton dirty trick.

irishjayhawk
12-11-2007, 01:55 PM
:hmmm:




If the Clinton camp is hanging their hat for this strategy on that, they are making a big miscalculation IMO. Her alledged brainy group of consultants and advisors aren't nearly as smart as the media seems to think, if this is the case.

Those kinds of numbers are questions asked in the abstract, which in the specific circumstances of this campaign would not be so significant, necessarily.


That quote makes me crack up. People don't know anything apparently. (the quote that's absent from this quote)

I hope Hillary goes down in flames.

Sully
12-11-2007, 03:21 PM
Drug use rumors didn't hurt Bill Clinton.
They didn't hurt GW.
Why would they suddenly hurt Obama.
I'm not the most educated political scientist, but this seems ridiculous.

NewChief
12-11-2007, 03:28 PM
Drug use rumors didn't hurt Bill Clinton.
They didn't hurt GW.
Why would they suddenly hurt Obama.
I'm not the most educated political scientist, but this seems ridiculous.

It does bring up an interesting question of race and public perception of drug use, though.

What if Obama had confessed to using crack? (also fitting since the mandatory minimum discrepancies between crack and powdered coke are currently being examined by the SCOTUS)

patteeu
12-11-2007, 03:50 PM
I don't really see how this would be all that damaging. Unless they can make people believe that Obama is still using, I think people will look past former use from a "clean" and "articulate" black man, so to speak.

redbrian
12-11-2007, 03:55 PM
I agree, and I don't think folks in Iowa are going to care. The people who will vote for Obama aren't going to change their mind due to coke use years ago.

Next week, they'll start a rumor that he is black.


Followed by the rumor that his mama was white trailer trash from Kansas.

StcChief
12-11-2007, 04:09 PM
Are we really expected to believe Hillary never used cocaine?
Yep... she just didn't inhale. ROFL

Cochise
12-11-2007, 04:11 PM
I don't really see how this would be all that damaging. Unless they can make people believe that Obama is still using, I think people will look past former use from a "clean" and "articulate" black man, so to speak.

Unless he was dishonest in some way about it I don't see the big issue either.

It could be part of a trend from the Clinton camp to try to expose everything even remotely negative about him. This wouldn't hurt his support in itself, but if they can line up 4 or 5 things that a few people wouldn't like, get all of those things into everyone's mind, people might start to feel like they have a trust-like reservation about him. Just kind of a general feeling that he's not as squeaky clean as he portrays himself.