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Bill Clinton not exactly a McCarthyist, but he is being an offensive lout.

bill clinton We all know mud when we see it, and with the garbage-slinging over Bill Clinton and General Merrill McPeak’s comments intensifying, let’s recognize what was said. First, Bill Clinton said that “It would be great if we could have two [candidates] who loved this country,” because then we could focus on issues, “instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.”

In an impromptu reflection on the former President’s comments, Obama advisor General Merrill McPeak, noted that, having lived through McCarthyism, he had “had enough of it.” McPeak also questioned how Clinton could impugn a Democratic candidate’s patriotism after he faced the same smears in 1992 over his alleged hippie draft-dodging (my words, not at all his). Military man McPeak is playing hyperbole-hardball with Bill on this one, and may have crossed the line.

But what of Bill? With all due respect, his initial comments were political trash of the stinkiest order.

The Times story has this nubbin:

Mr. Clinton told voters on Friday in Charlotte, N.C.: “I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.”

Speaking on Friday to reporters, General McPeak compared the former president to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, who aggressively pursued those he believed to be communists in the 1950s. “I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traitors,” General McPeak said, “so I’ve had enough of it.”

No doubt Obama will distance himself from the McCarthy reference a bit. That said, Bill’s comment on its face seems pretty reprehensible in its implications, namely that Obama doesn’t love his country. So, ya know, if the shoe fits.

The Clintons response to the response: McPeak’s was a “deliberately pathetic misreading of what the president said.” Read the second sentence, they say. Read the whole quote. Abhoring “Gotcha Politics” as I do, I read the second sentence. It is as messed up as the first. But rather than hint that Obama is somehow unpatriotic, it smacks of coded racism.

Remember, these comments were made in North Carolina, where Clinton’s only hope of keeping it close is a completely polarized race where white voters abandon Obama en masse. I personally think that that in 2008 there are probably plenty of white NC Dem voters who would be turned off by invoking racial divisions, but then Bill has been working the racial dogwhistle for months now.

Anyway, with HRC’s campaign still not denying that they are pushing the Jeremiah Wright crap, Bill’s comment about The Issues versus All This Other Stuff that always seems to Intrude Itself on Our Politics seems suspect. What other stuff Mr. President?

And I know, too, that the GOP will push Wright and race-bait, though McCain would probably stand up more than Hillary has if any of his political spouses, say a Lieberman, God forbid, was pulling this crap. But sowing racial division in a Democratic primary seems vain and suicidal.

And you better believe that’s what it’s doing. if you have the time, check out this diary from Kos on a conversation overheard on a bus in Chicago’s South Side. A snippet:

The conversation, or at least the part that was loud enough that I had no choice but to listen to, started with what Bill Clinton said the other day, about how if Hillary and McCain ran, then it would be a race with two people who loved their country without the distraction of any of “that stuff”. “That stuff” was universally interpreted to mean “race”. And Bill Clinton was not looked upon kindly by these folks for what he said.

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