Some in Party Bristle At Clintons' Attacks
Anti-Obama Ad Heightens Unity Fears
...Responding to the negative ad, Dick Harpootlian, a former chairman of the Democratic Party in South Carolina, accused the Clintons of using the "politics of deception," and he compared the former president to the late Lee Atwater, a
Republican operative from South Carolina who was known for his tough tactics.
In response, Bill Clinton said Harpootlian's comments were a distraction, and he accused the Obama campaign of funneling smears through the media.
"They are feeding you this because they know this is what you want to cover. This is what you live for," he told CNN reporter Jessica Yellin, who asked him for a response to Harpootlian at an appearance in South Carolina. "They just spin you up on this and you happily go along," Clinton said. As aides steered him away, he scolded: "Shame on you."
In Washington, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who endorsed Obama last week, castigated the former president for what he called his "glib cheap shots" at Obama, saying both sides should settle down but placing the blame predominantly on Clinton.
"That's beneath the dignity of a former president," Leahy told reporters, adding: "He is not helping anyone, and certainly not helping the Democratic Party."
That concern was also voiced by some neutral Democrats, who said that the former president's aggressive role, along with the couple's harsh approach recently, threatens to divide the party in the general election.
A few prominent Democrats, including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), have spoken to the former president about the force of his Obama critiques. There is some fear within the party that if Obama becomes the nominee, he could emerge personally battered and politically compromised. And there is concern that a Clinton victory could come at a cost -- particularly a loss of black voters, who could blame her for Obama's defeat and stay home in November.
"I'm not underestimating that this could be divisive, but I think both camps know how important this is, that it doesn't go beyond repair," said Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), the most vulnerable Democrat up for reelection next year, who is unaligned. ...