Michelle vs. Bill: In the Democratic Race, the Spouses Go at It

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Can Michelle Obama take down Bill Clinton?

Well, can she at least exploit the spouse of her spouse’s chief rival to raise money for her own spouse?

On Thursday afternoon, the Obama campaign sent out a fundraising appeal signed by Barack Obama’s wife that uses Bill Clinton’s recent swipes at Senator Obama as its main get-out-your-checkbooks motivator. She writes:

We knew getting into this race that Barack would be competing with Senator Clinton and President Clinton at the same time.

We expected that Bill Clinton would tout his record from the nineties and talk about Hillary’s role in his past success. That’s a fair approach and a challenge we are prepared to face.

What we didn’t expect, at least not from our fellow Democrats, are the win-at-all-costs tactics we’ve seen recently. We didn’t expect misleading accusations that willfully distort Barack’s record.

Barack Obama isn’t relying on a former President of the United States to campaign for him.

He’s relying on us — you, me, and hundreds of thousands of people like us who are giving whatever they can afford to support this movement.

The Obama vs. Clinton and Clinton spat has been getting ugly, so much so that some Democratic leaders have been complaining that Bill Clinton has gone too far in assailing Obama, the most inspiring figure the Democratic Party has seen in years.

But, as I’ve already written, a mud-fight between the Clintons and Obama benefits Hillary Clinton. All this sniping sucks up oxygen (time and media attention) that Obama could otherwise be using to make his case that he’s a transformative, unconventional candidate committed to change and a new brand of politics. If in the days before Supersaturated Tuesday, the race comes across to television viewers (read: would-be voters) as a fury of accusation and counter-accusation, the more conventional candidate with the more conventional message will have the upper hand. You know who that is.

By keeping Obama (and his wife) in the gutter, Bill Clinton renders it tougher for Obama to inspire and to soar. And it’s hard to imagine that Mr. Clinton does not realize that.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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