Bottom line: I don't buy the line that Obama is a wonderful guy and the Clinton attacks on him are the height of depravity. Both have, no doubt, done less-than-reputable things of the sort that all politicians do, but the Clintons' stuff isn't nearly as bad as it's made out to be.
Take, for example, Bill's "fairy tale" remark. This is supposed to be obviously disreputable? Political campaigns, and the media coverage that surrounds them, a chock full of fairy tales. You don't have to be a genius to think a tale being spun by your opponents is a fairy tale, but it at least shows you're smarter than the people who are shocked at the very idea that any such thing is going on.
Or, consider this fuller list of supposed Clinton "lies" which I found linked, unfortuantely, by the normally first-rate Richard Chapell. One of them is demonstrably not a lie. Obama really did vote "present" on anti-abortion bills. The Clinton campaign is free to claim this was a bad thing, even if Obama supporters have defenses of what he did. I'm inclined to side with the Clintons. The official explanation for Obama's votes was "present" votes would be harder to use against a candidate on re-election. That is a cowardly strategy. Even if Obama wasn't at risk and was merely trying to set an example for politicians at a bigger risk of being removed from office, he is still guilty of encouraging cowardice. Understand this is a pettier form of the sort of cowardice that prevents the major Democratic presidential candidates from endorsing marriage rights for gays and lesbians--non candidates like Al Gore have no problem here, nor do candidates who don't havea real chance. Yes, I'm indicting Hillary here too, and it would be nice if she'd clean up her act on that point, but it doesn't make her campaign's criticism of Obama on another point a lie.
Other instances on this list are trivial slip-ups: Obama saying the Republicans had all the ideas (with a generally positive tone) vs. Obama saying the Republicans had all the good ideas. More precision in the criticism would have been nice, but this was hardly a major lie.
Andrew Sullivan, among the countless posts venting his Clinton-hate, had one of the more baffling pieces of spin I've seen in my life:
In the war of words, both men were hurt, but a majority sided with Obama:If a majority thinks Obama's attacks were unfair, then a majority wasn't siding with him. The two satistics allow for a majority of general disgust, or what is perhaps more likely, a nice split between Clinton-supporters, Obama-supporters, and the generally disgusted. Hillary did worse by 14 points, but this is surprisingly low given the treatment she's gotten from the media.In the exit polls, we asked voters in this primary if the candidates were attacking each other unfairly. Fifty-six percent of those voting so far think Obama attacked Clinton unfairly, and while that is a high number, more people thought Clinton unfairly attacked Obama -- 70%.
I find the whole thing rather distressing. Even the normally cynical Michael Reynolds declares he's putting away his cynicism for Obama's sake.
That said, I've found plenty of more encouraging stuff. John Derbyshire calls Obama's material "vaporous flapdoodle." Vastleft (at one time my co-blogger at God is for Suckers!) has had good stuff here. As has John Cole. And Jason Rosenhouse. I recommend them all.
I want to be clear that I have seen a couple people given decent attempts at arguing Obama is actually strong for policy reasons. On the whole, though, his campaign strikes me as a troubling representation of style over substance, and the current spin on his confrontations with Clinton is no exception.