The Clintons And Loyalty

My Atlantic colleague Joshua Green has written often about Hillary Clinton's inner circle, and one of his broader conclusions is that its members value loyalty to Clinton more than they value other, more politically valuable traits, like competence and creativity. A decade of scandals, real and fake, hostile media coverage, and "traitors" like George Stephanopoulos have left a core of stalwarts who would never and will never desert, abandon, or to second guess the ambitions of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

James Carville cannot even explain why Gov. Bill Richardson owes something as prestigious as his presidential endorsement to Hillary Clinton. It is self-evident to him that Richardson has betrayed Clinton. The Clintons gave him so much, it seems, that anything but complete fealty is traitorous.

There is an internal logic to Carville's argument, but given that a large part of the Democratic Party has demonstrated conclusively that their loyalty to the Clintons and their appreciation for a decade well done does not extend to an automatic stamp of approval for Hillary Clinton's candidacy.

When the books are written about this campaign, you can bet that Gov. Richardson's conversation a month ago with Madeleine Albright will be explored in some depth. The former Sec. of State made the same argument: Richardson somehow owed his endorsement to the Clintons. That rubbed Richardson precisely the wrong way, according to people he has spoken to since. It was as if the Clintons discounted Richardson's own political talents and were telling him that absent Bill Clinton's benevolence, Richardson would still be a backbencher.

Anyway, here's Carville on CNN yesterday:

CARVILLE: I have to say that he quoted me accurately and in context. It was -- yes, that's exactly what I said. And by the way, I think the quote had the desired intent.

BLITZER: What was that?

CARVILLE: That people saw Richardson and saw somebody who was disloyal.

On the Judas metaphor

BLITZER: What were the 30 pieces of silver he got in exchange?

CARVILLE: Well, again, that was a biblical thing. History will -- we'll see.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting there was a deal or something?

CARVILLE: I was using a biblical metaphor and it had -- it had the desired intent. People called me left and right and said, "Whenever I see that guy, I'll can't help but think of that quote."

On how Gov. Richardson “betrayed” Sen. Clinton

BLITZER: But why was it such a betrayal? Because he makes the point, look, I ran against Hillary Clinton.

CARVILLE: Again, I think the world of Senator Kennedy, have never said one thing, or Senator Kerry, or...


BLITZER: So why is Richardson different?

CARVILLE: Because I think that there was -- that he served in the cabinet in two different positions. I think that he invited President Clinton to come to his Super Bowl party.