The Fred and Rudy show

Two flawed Republican front-runners are swinging wildly at Hillary Clinton, but they could wind up hurting themselves. Plus: I'm on MSNBC's "Countdown" tonight.

By Joan Walsh
Published September 15, 2007 2:35AM (UTC)
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The Weekly Standard's Matt Continetti thinks Rudy Giuliani hit a political "trifecta" Friday by associating Sen. Hillary Clinton with MoveOn's controversial "Petraeus-Betray Us" ad in the New York Times. (The third part of the "trifecta," according to Continetti, is Giuliani's attack on the supposedly liberal New York Times for selling the ad at a discount rate, which turned out not to be true. Never mind.) But I think Giuliani's move could backfire on him and help Clinton. He's not narrowcasting to the Republican base; he's using the New York Times, which means he's reaching Democrats, too. And one of Clinton's problems with the party base is her vote to authorize the war. Conflating Clinton and MoveOn could help her more than hurt her, but Giuliani can't stop himself once he's decided to pick a fight.

Giuliani might feel a little under the gun this week, since Fred Thompson officially launched his campaign and a resurgent Sen. John McCain got a lot of airtime thanks to the Petraeus hearings. But he may not have much to fear from Thompson, at least. What an awful product launch. Thompson is bashing Clinton, too, saying she's behind criticism of his statement in June that illegal immigrants from Cuba are dangerous because "I don't imagine they're coming here to bring greetings from Castro ... in the era of the suitcase bomb." Sure, Clinton criticized Thompson, but so did others -- and the real issue is Thompson's ignorance of the dynamics of Cuban immigration, in which the vast majority of people who leave are Castro opponents, not supporters. Blaming Clinton for the 3-month-old gaffe is an effort to rile the right-wing base, but it really serves to focus more attention on the gaffe.


Thompson's had a bad week all around. He botched an answer on the Terri Schiavo case, first saying he couldn't "remember the details of it" well enough to have an opinion about whether state and federal officials should have intervened to keep her alive in March 2005, then saying it was a "local" matter (which is, in fact, close to the right answer, but puts him in opposition to the Bush administration and leading right-wing Republicans, who rushed in to overrule local officials on the matter). Ruth Marcus had a great column in the Washington Post yesterday detailing Thompson's persistent refusal to give concrete answers to basic policy questions, citing Salon's Michael Scherer, who asked Thompson what he'd do differently from Bush, only to have Thompson answer: "You are getting a little more specific and detailed than I want to get." Thompson doesn't seem to have thought very hard about why he wants to be president. It's as if that old red truck he used to campaign for the Senate was left up on blocks for years, and nobody test-drove it before announcing his presidential candidacy, many months into the historic campaign. This is prime-time, Fred -- you need to know your lines.

I'll be talking about all of this tonight on MSNBC's "Countdown," 8 EDT.

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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