The Finger of Bill Clinton: Carville in Israel : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

What follows is a bit scary to me: Bill Clinton sends James Carville into other nations to curry political favor among candidates vying for office. Carville helps them and voila - guess who owes Bill their political good fortune. For those who think Bill isn't jockeying for a One World government, consider this article.


ELECTION FEATURE: U.S. CONSULTANTS 'TRIVIALIZE' CAMPAIGN - Verbal warfare, an obsession with polls and statistics, single issue repetition, sound bites, symbols, slogans, sleaze ... these and other elements of "American-style" 1990s electioneering have increasingly become features of the Israeli campaign, now in its final days.

Israeli political analysts say the involvement of U.S. campaign consultants and pollsters have trivialized the debate in Israel, and warn against voter apathy and cynicism setting in a country where more than 80 per cent of voters traditionally turn out to elect their leaders. Although American advisors have been involved in Israeli campaigns since the early 1980s - even Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin used them - the introduction in 1996 of a system of directly electing the prime minister has increased their impact.

The involvement in the current campaign of James Carville and Arthur Finkelstein has particularly attracted interest. Carville and Finkelstein are in many ways polar opposites. Democrat and Republican, Catholic and Jew, brash and reserved, headline-grabbing and reclusive, the two Americans have in recent months been thrown into direct competition as advisors to Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu respectively. Their net contribution to the Israeli election campaign, analysts said this week, has been to ensure a shallow, negative race, focusing less on the crucial issues than on the personalities involved.

Ephraim Inbar, political scientist at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, said this week the U.S. advisors were "trying to sell the candidates like soap," adding that this was "inevitable in an era of TV." "The problems is even when selling candidates in this way, you need to have some connection to the political culture. I'm not sure Americans - or anyone else who doesn't live here - are sensitive to [the Israeli realities]." Inbar attributed recent reports of friction between Netanyahu and Finkelstein to differences arising over their reading of the Israeli situation. Dr. Aharon Fein, head of the Tatzpit public survey institute in Jerusalem, also wondered whether the Americans were sensitive enough to the issues. "We Israelis have a difficult enough time understanding the thinking of [other] Israelis, how can someone from outside?" he asked. On the other hand, Fein conceded, "perhaps someone from outside can point out something we can't see, [something] we are too close to."

Carville's appointment, along with that of pollster and colleague Stanley Greenberg, was the more controversial of the two. Dubbed Bill Clinton's "political rottweiler" by critics, the Louisianan is seen as very close to the president, whom he helped sweep to victory in 1992 despite George Bush's 25-point lead. Carville made headlines in Israel last December when it was announced he would visit in January to share tips with Barak - even before the campaign began. Once Netanyahu's government fell and an election date was set, it was reported that Netanyahu's office was unhappy with what it saw as Clinton's willingness to interfere by sending Carville. "James Carville and his two colleagues would not have dared rent out their services to Barak without the prior approval of their chief client," YEDIOT AHRONOT quoted a senior advisor to Netanyahu as saying in January. "Clinton wants Netanyahu to lose the elections. Carville was sent to do the job." By contrast, Finkelstein, who helped Netanyahu squeeze to victory against Shimon Peres in 1996 and has advised him during crises since, has not been as closely linked to an administration in Washington.

Carville is part of a team that has been pushing liberal "Third Way" candidates elsewhere too. Together with Greenberg and media specialist Robert Shrum, he contributed to the successful campaigns of British "New Labor" Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Israeli Labor party figures late last year met their counterparts in Britain and Germany to discuss campaign strategies. Blair even sent his spin doctor, Peter Mandelson, to advise the Barak camp. Mandelson's subsequent fall from grace over a dubious housing loan soon put him out of the picture, but not before British advisors had suggested Barak rebrand the Labor party as "One Israel".

The influence of Carville and Finkelstein has been especially evident in political advertisements on television, which began recently and will run at prime time every day until May 16. While ads run by the smaller parties have enjoyed their share of controversy, the Netanyahu and Barak campaign slots - like their parties' slogans on bumper stickers - have been often negative and personal. Attacking opponents has been in; explaining one's own policies relegated to a series of sound bites. Analysts said the contenders had been turned into little more than marketable commodities.

Barak, looking suave in a business suit, or in military uniform emphasizing his medals for bravery, accused Netanyahu of pandering to "extremist settlers." One ad featured the premier giving his Justice Minister, Tzahi Hanegbi, a sly, slow-motion wink in the Knesset. Hanegbi is under investigation for suspected influence-peddling. Labor slogans include such messages as: "Only an idiot would vote twice for Netanyahu." Carville, who was credited with coining the Clinton phrase "It's the economy, stupid!" has also prompted Barak to stress economic issues. Labor ads have shown pictures of Netanyahu with a voice-over: "If 100,000 Israelis have lost their jobs, why should he keep his?"

Back in January, Netanyahu told TIME magazine he opposed "the tactic of the lowest personal attack," adding that voters would ultimately reject what he called an American import. But the Netanyahu camp is also being advised by a strategist known for negative campaigning, in which opponents have been given such labels as "hopelessly liberal." Late each night since arriving back in Israel recently, Finkelstein and Netanyahu have personally drafted the text for the next day's campaign ads. Whereas Netanyahu under his guidance told voters in 1996 that "Peres will divide Jerusalem," this year it has been "Barak runs away from responsibility," an indirect reference to an incident in which as army chief he faced accusations - later cleared - of abandoning commandos badly wounded during a training exercise in 1992. Netanyahu also suggested that Labor under Barak would allow "terrorists at the country's front door."

Likud campaign stickers and ads reminded voters repeatedly of such contentious Barak statements as "I don't express dovish positions because I want to win the elections" and "If I were born a Palestinian, I would have joined a terror group." With Netanyahu slipping in the polls, along came a windfall last week when an actress speaking at a Labor function called Likud voters "rabble." Barak, who was present, did not specifically condemn the statement, and the Likud jumped at the opportunity to portray Labor as patronizing and elitist. Finkelstein, who operates out of a suite at Jerusalem's King David Hotel, will remain in Israel until the election, at which time he hopes his client, once again, will stymie the polls and squeeze to victory. Inbar said that, in terms of results, "it seems Barak has succeeded in getting his message across better, and has made inroads in an important sector, the Russian-speakers."

Another academic decrying the "Americanization" of the campaign is Gabi Weinman, professor of politics at the University of Haifa. While U.S. consultants had been part of the scene for more than a decade, he said, "this time they are more active, more dominant, their influence more easily traced. It's reaching a peak, although maybe not the final peak." "Israel can't afford the luxury of single issue campaigns," Weinman added. "There are too many important issues at stake." He thought the media and pundits were more aware of and preoccupied by the influence of American pollsters than were the average Israeli voters.

Weinman said the TV-age style of politics left U.S. voters "cynical, alienated and skeptical." "More than 50 per cent of voters in the world's leading democracy don't vote. That's not an example we want to follow," he said, adding that some cynicism was already setting in among Israelis. "Everything is becoming superficial," Labor Knesset member Yossi Beilin was quoted in THE JERUSALEM POST recently as saying. "You can see it in the sound bites and in the type of people who are becoming leaders. "I can imagine a situation where people would get sick and tired of all these sound bites and superficial leaders and say we need the real thing."

-- Brett (, May 14, 1999


Yeah I hear the orthodox Jews are just crazy about that Ragin' Cajun...

-- a (a@a.a), May 14, 1999.


Greatly saddened to hear this. While never tuned to his mentor's politics I always thought of Carville in terms of his effectiveness in a campaign. Also, Carville brought to DC politics that rarest political commodity---loyalty. To the wrong guy of course but admirable nonetheless. This goes too far. Wonder what Mary thinks?

-- Carlos Mueller (, May 14, 1999.

Notice he (Carville) is using the same mechanism there as here - exaggerations and accusations of "extremism" "of being far right" and "personal destruction" - same old, same old.

By the way, Clinton (or somebody else who pays Carville's salary and expenses) sent Carville to Panama to work for reelecting the government party that is welcoming Chinese naval bases at both ends of the Panama Canal ..... so who is his (Clinton's) candidate going to sell out this time?

Who is Carville actually working "for"?

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, May 17, 1999.


who is Carville working "for"?

I think you know, deep down. Hint. It's not the USA.

Listen to David Ickes's views on the guy on archives, check out his latest book for background on the Clintons and Carville...

-- Andy (, May 17, 1999.

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