(Updated 10:00 p.m. EST Monday, January 28, 2008)
By Skeeter Sanders
Former President Bill Clinton, who for more than 16 years had enjoyed a bond with African Americans to a degree no other white politician on the national stage has before or since, may have severely damaged that relationship as a result of his increasingly ugly attacks on Senator Barack Obama of Illinois in Saturday's hotly-contested Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina.
In the process, Clinton brought disgrace upon himself by abandoning a former president's traditional role as an elder statesman by engaging in political hacksmanship -- and unwittingly exposing his personal desire to return to the White House eight years after he left office.
And what did it get him? A royal drubbing of his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, by a very ticked-off Democratic electorate in the Palmetto State. And I do mean ticked off.
Powered by a huge backlash against the former president's attacks -- and against Senator Clinton's performance in last Monday's bitter debate -- Obama routed the former first lady by a better than two-to-one margin.
And then after the results became clear, the former president poured more gasoline onto the fire by trying to belittle the significance of Obama's victory by comparing it to the Rev. Jesse Jackson's South Carolina wins in 1984 and 1988 -- a naked attempt to paint Obama into a corner as "the black candidate," unable to attract white voter support.
Never mind that Obama won the January 3 caucuses in Iowa -- a state that is over 90 percent white. Never mind that Obama finished a close second to Clinton in the January 8 primary in New Hampshire -- a state that is 88 percent white.
What you've done, Bill, was disgraceful. Totally disgraceful. And your gratuitous slap at Obama in his moment of victory could end up costing your wife the Democratic nomination. This blogger has four words for you, Bill: Shut the [expletive deleted] up!
Appalled by Clintons' Attacks, Kennedy Endorses Obama
Already, the backlash against the Clintons within the Democratic Party appears to be spreading.
Summoning memories of his brother, the assassinated President John F. Kennedy, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts led two generations of the first family of Democratic politics Monday in endorsing Obama at a boistrous rally on the campus of American University in Washington, declaring, "I feel change is in the air."
Obama was also endorsed Monday by the Bay State's other senator, the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee, John Kerry; and by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The 76-year-old Kennedy has in recent years rarely invoked the memories of his assassinated brothers, John and Robert, in his public remarks. But his endorsement of Obama was cast in terms that aides said were unusually personal.
"There was another time, when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a new frontier. He faced criticism from the preceding Democratic president, who was widely respected in the party," Kennedy said, referring to Harry S. Truman.