Two hard-core liberals at swords' points

Politics can be a drag to watch, except for those rare occasions when a real competitive battle breaks out.

Anyone remember Ronald Reagan's attempt to wrest the Republican presidential nomination from incumbent GOP President Gerald Ford in 1976. There was a down-to-the-wire fight at the convention, with Ford barely nosing out Reagan.

Although Reagan came back to win the nomination and the presidency four years later, that 1976 family squabble left scars on the party that hurt it in the general election campaign against Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter.

Now it's the Democrats' turn for a family fight, and it's getting ugly. Really ugly.

So ugly, in fact, that two of The New York Times most unyielding liberal columnists are starting to throw punches.

Paul Krugman backs Hillary Clinton, and he's enraged by how nasty he says the Barack Obama campaign is.

Frank Rich backs Obama, and he's enraged by how nasty he says the Clinton campaign is.

It's illuminating to read their completely conflicting views of the Democrats' battle for the presidential nomination. Naturally, they blame the Republicans for the problem.

Krugman goes all the way back to former President Richard Nixon, dead for 15 years and out of the White House for more than 30 years, to find a scapegoat. Rich is more up to date, blaming President George W. Bush for what he describes as Hillary's sleazy tactics.

But the bottom line is that such personal invective the columnists hurl at their opponents does not bode well for Democratic Party harmony at their convention and beyond.

These are hardly the first shots fired in this extraordinary battle between the past, the Clintons, and the future, Obama. But it's instructive of how nasty it will become.

Krugman

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/11/opinion/11krugman.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Rich

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/opinion/10rich.html Rich "Next Up for the Democrats: Civil War"

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