Carl Bernstein: Dems Dislike Clintons' ‘Scorched Earth’ Campaign (Updated)

Author and CNN commentator Carl Bernstein was interviewed on the Wednesday night edition of the Tavis Smiley show on PBS, and warned that the Clinton campaign has devolved into "the kind of campaign that we’re used to seeing against Republican right-wing opponents who the Clintons have identified over the years as their enemies. That is very much a take-no-prisoners scorched earth campaign, and I think that there are reasons to think that is causing a fissure within the Democratic Party that might be very damaging in the long run." He also suggested the former president was at his "most petulant" and "most disingenuous" in his attacks on Barack Obama.

UPDATE: I originally misread this as an attack on scorched-earth right-wing campaigns against Clinton, instead of Clinton's usual scorched-earth campaigns against right-wing opponents. I made Bernstein out to be more anti-conservative and so less troubled by intra-party division, and suggested he was ignoring history, when he was not. Smiley responded:

TAVIS SMILEY: So what ought Bill Clinton, with his wife fighting for the nomination, what ought he or any other husband do at this point?

BERNSTEIN: No, no. First of all, I think you have to separate Bill Clinton from any other husband. I think what we're talking about here is an ex-president of the United States with tremendous abilities to talk about the best in America, the best in his party, his own accomplishments, the accomplishments of his administration.

And I think in what we've seen in the last few weeks, rather than seeing the best of Bill Clinton we've seen him at his most petulant, we've seen him at his most disingenuous, we've seen the Clinton campaign devolve into a kind of disingenuousness that in the short term might work, but there is going to be some long-term damage.

Later, Bernstein underlines how the Clinton campaign is organized around the sticky strategy of stressing experience while trying to blank out all negative memories during those years of gaining experience. Their job is to "push away memory of the circus," a job the media’s shared:

As somebody says in the afterword to my book, a very close friend of the Clintons who is named, "Look, Hillary realizes she can't match Barack Obama in the change department, so experience, obviously, is what she is going to run on."

And with that experience comes a sense for some people, I think, that this is a tired exercise, that it goes back to the notion of a certain Clintonian circus, that that's part of the baggage that they carry. And the job of the Clinton campaign is to push away that memory of the circus. And by the circus I don't mean, incidentally, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

What I mean is a kind of constant focus on the personalities of the Clintons, their relationship, how they do business, how they campaign, how they tell the truth or don't tell the truth.

As they have tried to referee (and discourage) the Clinton-Obama fight, the media have certainly not stressed how it's quite strange, for example, for Hillary Clinton to suggest someone ELSE should be ashamed of a self-dealing real-estate relationship. This is why books get written, like Whitewash.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis