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Sunday 13 November 2011

Obama 'dirty tricks' hurt Cain's chances

Democrats playing hard ball make Bill Clinton look clean, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

In November 2008 President-Elect Barack Obama did a deal with the Clintons: Hillary could be his Secretary of State, if Bill agreed to severe restrictions on what he said and did in public. Since then, a brilliant, self-indulgent man who adores the limelight has been exercising heroic self-sacrifice by staying out of controversy, not least considering he thinks Obama is a poor president, that Hillary would have been much better and that he, Bill, was the best ever.

Now touring the country with his book, Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government For A Strong Economy, Clinton is superficially attacking Tea Partiers and other proponents of small government, but the sub-text is undoubtedly critical of Obama for failing to sell Democratic policies to the American people and for proving useless at doing deals with political enemies. Clinton's not thinking small: "If we want a future of shared prosperity, where the United States remains the leading force for peace and prosperity in a highly competitive world, we need to get moving." Sure, the country's in a mess, but while "downsizing budgets may be necessary... downsizing dreams is a decision to be disappointed".

Clinton's not alone in looking back nostalgically at his many positive contributions to making the US prosperous during his term of office. It's no surprise he won't admit there were dire economic consequences from his inability to contain the explosion in sub-prime mortgages and in his ending of the separation of commercial and investment banks. And many of his nostrums about job creation and energy independence are glib and ill-thought-out. Still, all the old charm is being deployed to persuade the American people that he understands their plight and is on their side. For a naturally optimistic people who voted in Obama because of the persuasive message Sarah Palin mocked as 'hopey-changey', but who are now disillusioned, this is attractive rhetoric that might boost the Democrats.

The only Republican contender still in the game who has the same cheering effect on audiences is Herman Cain, about whom Clinton was questioned last week. Should the harassment charges against him rule him out of contention? "No," said Clinton, "I think the people have to make that decision." With his record on the sexual front, he could hardly have said anything else, but it's still helpful to a Republican feared by the White House.

Judging by the polls, the people agree, yet the controversy rages on. Cain's supporters are alleging a liberal plot and there are, in truth, some interesting facts and coincidences emerging, dug up by supportive journalists like Ann Coulter.

Obama's power-base is Chicago, a Democratic stronghold notorious for political corruption where in 1960 Mayor Richard J Daley stole the Illinois election for John F Kennedy, and where David Axelrod, a political consultant, is based. Now Axelrod was a key aide to Obama in his successful 2004 run for the US Senate and his chief strategist in his presidential campaign. After serving in the White House as a senior adviser, Axelrod went back to Chicago in 2011; he's expected to play an important role in Obama's re-election campaign.

Axelrod plays dirty. A month before the Democratic primary in 2004, Obama seemed set to lose to Blair Hull when Axelrod's old paper began publishing allegations that Hull's second ex-wife had sought a protection order from him during their divorce proceedings. In the subsequent storm of media speculation, Hall's lead collapsed. (It was later reported that the relevant Chicago Tribune journalist acknowledged the Obama camp had pushed the story "aggressively"). At the next stage of the senatorial race, sealed court records of a child-custody dispute involving the popular Republican nominee, Jack Ryan, mysteriously appeared, and revealed his ex-wife had accused him of having once taken her to swingers' clubs in Paris and New York. So sensational was media coverage that the Republican Party panicked, Ryan dropped out and Obama had no difficulty in beating his last-minute replacement.

Now to Cain. As Coulter points out, Cain has worked in many parts of the US, yet all the sexual harassment allegations are related to his three years at the National Restaurant Association and have a link to Chicago, where he's never lived. Sheila O'Grady, President of the Illinois Restaurant Association, is strongly suspected of having dug up his contentious personnel records. She is a close friend of Axelrod and an ex-chief-of-staff of Richard M Daley, Richard J's son, who was this year succeeded as Mayor of Chicago by Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief-of-staff until he was succeeded at the White House by Daley's brother William. Sharon Bialek, who on TV has accused Cain in graphic detail of a sexual assault, lived in Alexrod's apartment building, admits to knowing him and is accused by acquaintances of being a 'gold-digger'.

Really, sometimes Bill Clinton seems clean by comparison.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards