Is Bill Clinton really a campaign asset? Posted by: McQ
on Monday, December 17, 2007
While many believe he is, there are, I believe, a growing number who are tiring of him. Alex Beam of the Boston Globe is one of them:
In 1999, after almost seven years of Bill Clinton's rule, the commentariat christened a new buzzterm: Clinton fatigue. The peccadilloes, the double-dealing, the outright lying had overwhelmed the American public. "The Clintons have finally worn out their welcome," wrote columnist Linda Bowles. "There is a prevailing sentiment that it's time for them to go, and to take their baggage with them." more stories like this
Clinton fatigue. With the presidential election less than 11 months away, I am feeling it already.
I'm not talking about Mrs. Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Senator Clinton, Hillary Rodham, or whatever she is choosing to call herself for this news cycle. She's no different from every intelligent, overachieving, soulless corporate lawyer I've ever known. She's far from boring, and as unprincipled as she needs to be. Trotting out Bill Shaheen to slime Obama with the drug smear - slick work, Hill! You're more than ready to knife-fight with the big boys.
My Clinton fatigue is about Bill. I am getting sick of him.
I wondered aloud about this last night on our podcast. When Bill Clinton ran in 1992, we weren't aware of what we were getting and so the campaign had a pretty free run. 4 years later, while mostly aware of the Clinton machine and, as Beam says, the "peccadilloes, the double-dealing, the outright lying", the choice was a known incumbent in a relatively decent era or Bob Dole. So the voters kept Clinton in the White House but were treated to even more in the way of "peccadilloes, the double-dealing, the outright lying."
Bill's return to the campaign trail reminds us again of that era, which, for most, in personal terms, wasn't that bad, but, politically, left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
Now Hillary, using the same campaign machine, is trying to run a third campaign, and since Bill has joined it in earnest, that bad taste has returned. I think Clinton fatigue is indeed beginning to set in. And while Bill Clinton is doing his level best to characterize Hillary as an "agent of change", it's not selling. Bill's addition to the campaign is reminding voters that the Clintons come as a package and what they're getting is not change, but the return of the old guard. The mantle of "change agent" has gone to Obama and I think, if the polls are any indication, the "Bill factor" may not be the asset everyone thinks he is. It is fostering the question: do we really want to do this again? And polls seem to be telling us the answer may be 'no'.
Of course all of this is also a function of the perceived electoral viability of the other Democratic candidates - but, per the polls, it seems Obama is beginning to be considered a very viable candidate (and IA and NH could cement that assessment). If there isn't a viable candidate in the field, then, of course, you would expect Dems to hold their nose and vote for Hill (you know, one of those "embarrassment of riches" candidates Ellen Goodman wrote about this past week). Falling poll numbers for her seem to indicate perceptions are changing.
Hillary's campaign clearly views husband Bill as an asset. Others, including the Globe's Joan Vennochi, aren't so sure. But here is a more intriguing angle, suggested by Herald columnist Margery Eagan: Is Bill "The Underminer," as defined by the hilarious book of the same name by Mike Albo and Virginia Heffernan? The underminer is your "friend" who waxes enthusiastic about your fabulous trip to New Zealand, and then lets slip that he was hang-gliding there in the early 1980s, you know, before all the American tourists arrived.
That brings us to an email by a listener to our podcast - Tim in VA. He wonders, given Clinton's seeming obsession with his legacy:
Why do we assume that Bill Clinton wants Hillary to win the White House?
It seems to me that there is more down side for him than up.
Consider the possible outcomes:
1. Hillary is a good to great President; Bill’s legacy is diminished as folks wonder if the good of the early presidency was her doing.
2. Hillary is a mediocre to lousy President; every mistake and scandal of the early presidency is resurrected.
3. The two of them craft some kind of co-Presidency and exist in between mediocre and good; his earlier presidency still comes out looking “less than”.
Bill Clinton has shown himself to be a pathological narcissist, who cannot bear to see the spotlight diverted from him. I don’t see how he can let her take the office and risk losing that spotlight.
Tim's suggestion seems to line up with Margery Eagan's "the underminer" theory. Is Bill Clinton really on Hillary's side in all of this or is Bill concerned, even unconsciously, that given the international situation and the possibilities outlined by Tim above, that he could risk becoming the overshadowed and lesser Clinton if Hillary wins?
What a loopy character Bob Kerrey is. Honest to God.
As far as whether Bill Clinton helps Hillary, he’s good at injecting live fear into any Iowa or New Hampshire Democrat opposing her, or any campaign manager or staffer who appears not to have his thumb on the scale while selling her.
But if the Clintons really fear Obama is going to take their return tickets away from them, Obama’s old biography, where he did a modified limited hangout on his drug use, that’s likely to get fleshed out with the truth, or maybe there’s an illegitimate child out there in the bushes. All the kinds of things that might have come out, you know, about Bill Clinton, had the press not refused to look.
When the knockout punch comes, it will be unmistakeable, and Obama will go to the canvas really fast.
If his is a narcissist, I suspect he is thinking more short term than his legacy. He’s scheming about what happens when Hill wins. What position he will take, what kind of grandstanding he will do, how many interns he can secure (no fat ugly ones this time!)