Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle report on Bill Clinton's "meltdown" at a private meeting with superdelegates during the California state convention last weekend. "Bill Clinton's tirade stunned some delegates":
"It was one of the worst political meetings I have ever attended," one superdelegate said.In happier times? The two Bills watch the Super Bowl together on February 3, 2008.
According to those at the meeting, Clinton - who flew in from Chicago with bags under his eyes - was classic old Bill at first, charming and making small talk with the 15 or so delegates who gathered in a room behind the convention stage.
But as the group moved together for the perfunctory photo, Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how "sorry" she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a "Judas" for backing Obama.
It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.
"Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that," a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.
The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media's unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.
"It was very, very intense," said one attendee. "Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns.
When delegate Binah - still stunned from her encounter with Clinton - got home to Little River (Mendocino County) later in the day - there was a phone message waiting for her from State Party Chairman Art Torres, telling her the former president wanted him to apologize to her on his behalf for what happened.
Still, word of Clinton's blast shot all the way back to the New Mexico state Capitol, where Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley reiterated Tuesday that his boss had never "promised or guaranteed" Bill and Hillary his endorsement.
Yesterday, just two days after Clinton's tirade, Bill Richardson published an Op-Ed in the Washington Post, entitled "Loyalty to My Country":
My recent endorsement of Barack Obama for president has been the subject of much discussion and consternation -- particularly among supporters of Hillary Clinton.
Led by political commentator James Carville, who makes a living by being confrontational and provocative, Clinton supporters have speculated about events surrounding this endorsement and engaged in personal attacks and insults.
While I certainly will not stoop to the low level of Mr. Carville, I feel compelled to defend myself against character assassination and baseless allegations.
Carville has made it very clear that this is a personal attack -- driven by his own sense of what constitutes loyalty. It is this kind of political venom that I anticipated from certain Clinton supporters and I campaigned against in my own run for president.
I repeatedly urged Democrats to stop attacking each other personally and even offered a DNC resolution calling for a positive campaign based on the issues. I was evenhanded in my efforts. In fact, my intervention in a debate during a particularly heated exchange was seen by numerous commentators as an attempt to defend Sen. Clinton against the barbs of Sens. Obama and John Edwards.
As I have pointed out many times, and most pointedly when I endorsed Sen. Obama, the campaign has been too negative, and we Democrats need to calm the rhetoric and personal attacks so we can come together as a party to defeat the Republicans.
More than anything, to repair the damage done at home and abroad, we must unite as a country. I endorsed Sen. Obama because I believe he has the judgment, temperament and background to bridge our divisions as a nation and make America strong at home and respected in the world again.
This was a difficult, even painful, decision. My affection and respect for the Clintons run deep. I do indeed owe President Clinton for the extraordinary opportunities he gave me to serve him and this country. And nobody worked harder for him or served him more loyally, during some very difficult times, than I did.
Carville and others say that I owe President Clinton's wife my endorsement because he gave me two jobs. Would someone who worked for Carville then owe his wife, Mary Matalin, similar loyalty in her professional pursuits? Do the people now attacking me recall that I ran for president, albeit unsuccessfully, against Sen. Clinton? Was that also an act of disloyalty?
And while I was truly torn for weeks about this decision, and seriously contemplated endorsing Sen. Clinton, I never told anyone, including President Clinton, that I would do so. Those who say I did are misinformed or worse.
As for Mr. Carville's assertions that I did not return President Clinton's calls: I was on vacation in Antigua with my wife for a week and did not receive notice of any calls from the president. I, of course, called Sen. Clinton prior to my endorsement of Sen. Obama. It was a difficult and heated discussion, the details of which I will not share here.
I do not believe that the truth will keep Carville and others from attacking me. I can only say that we need to move on from the politics of personal insult and attacks. That era, personified by Carville and his ilk, has passed and I believe we must end the rancor and partisanship that has mired Washington in gridlock. In my view, Sen. Obama represents our best hope of replacing division with unity. That is why, out of loyalty to my country, I endorse him for president.