Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who served as chair of the Democrat National Committee during the final 16 months of the Clinton administration, leaps to the defense of the Commonwealth’s legally- and ethically-troubled attorney general this week. In the process, he reprises a common Republican criticism about former Senator Barack Obama.
The gratuitous slap at Obama in the pages of the New York Times is hard to see as anything but a shot in the arm for Hillary 2016.
First a bit of background: The Rendell-Clinton ties are deep and wide and long. Then-Gov. Rendell endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 24, 2008, and became an enthusiastic campaigner for her, until she flamed out. Years earlier, President Bill Clinton appointed Rendell’s wife, Marjorie (“Midge”), first to the U.S. District Court (1994), then as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit (1997).
Fast forward: Attorney General Kathleen Kane was a political Helios whose chariot reached its zenith in the heavens in 2013. That was before a grand jury showered her with accusations in its presentment this January.
“Last year, a special prosecutor charged that Ms. Kane, a Democrat, had violated secrecy rules by leaking information to a newspaper concerning an investigation by her Republican predecessor into the finances of a Philadelphia civil rights leader. Late last month, a grand jury recommended that Ms. Kane be charged with perjury, false swearing, official oppression and obstruction concerning that case.” (NY Times, 2/4/15, A13)
Deep in the New York Times piece that chronicles Kane’s “fall in fortunes,” Rendell attempts to shield her with a version of the Sandy “Sloppy” Berger defense, not only suggesting that a bit more OTJ experience would have stood Kane in good stead, but that her lack of preparation for the AG office was akin to Barack Obama’s for the Oval Office.
“Would it probably have been better if she’d had some administrative experience before this job? Yes. But so could have President Obama.” — Ed Rendell
This may be merely damning Kane with faint praise, but more likely Rendell introduces Obama into this legal and ethical morass to remind Democrats of the cost of hiring the incompetent, and the un-trained.
Of course, the pitch for Hillary in 2008 was her readiness for the Oval Office, in stark contrast to Obama’s rookie-ness. Advocates now claim we’re “Ready for Hillary,” but she was ready for us years ago.
In his 2012 book, A Nation of Wusses, Rendell implies that his own campaign savvy delivered Pennsylvania to Hillary in the 2008 primary, and he backhands Obama, noting that Hillary actually won the nationwide popular vote. Then he adds…
“Since Obama went on to win the national election handily, many people may forget that this game [the primaries] went into extra innings and that Hillary lost by only a run. But this was as close as any election gets, and I won’t forget that. Perhaps when President Hillary Clinton is sworn in in 2017, everyone will be talking about it again.
I said that I fell in love with Hillary during those seven weeks [the Pa. campaign], and I did…Hillary is a great person…I have told her that I would be her  campaign manager and not even take a salary, that’s how important it is for her to run….Run, Hillary, run. This country is so screwed up it needs a brilliant, charismatic, non-wuss lawyer to turn it around.” (Excerpted from pages 147-149, A Nation of Wusses)
Non-wuss lawyer, indeed. Such a contrast, eh?
He ends the book with another affirmation of his zeal to see Hillary Clinton elected as the first woman president.
By contrast, Rendell hardly mentions Obama’s 2008 campaign, except to note that the Illinois senator barely showed up in Pennsylvania, while Hillary and Bill Clinton exhaustively canvassed the state. (Slap!)
And while he periodically defends Obama against Republican attacks, Rendell also confirms the verdict of pundits who put the blame for the 2010 Democratic Party mid-term election massacre “mainly at the doorstep of the Obama administration.” Rendell critiques the tactics Obama used to pass the stimulus and Obamacare, the flaws of the bills, and the administration’s communication failures. (Pow!)
“The first rule of political messaging is that if you have the ‘bully pulpit’ and you are introducing a new program, take the initiative and explain it first to your constituents as directly and clearly as you can. Define the plan and the issues it presents before anyone else does. The Obama administration never did that with either bill, and as a result the Republicans defined them for the American people.” (pages 152,153, A Nation of Wusses)
Rendell then devotes several pages to chronicling the Obama administration’s mistakes, and laying out what he — a seasoned, experience politician — would have done instead.
So, here’s the upshot: Self-promoting Democratic shills like Ed Rendell don’t insert the Democratic president into seamy stories by accident. He did it to remind Democrats of the awful price of electing incompetence, and to prepare the battle-space for Hillary for 2016.