Monday, January 21, 2008
The Former Ex-President
I took the weekend off to rest my eyes and spend some quality time with my son. Which means I just spent quite a bit of time catching up on my regular blog reading. (Apparently one of the consequences of paid bloggers is that there's no such thing as a weekend anymore.)
And the first thing that occurred to me upon seeing that Bill Clinton is running for president again is that I'd experienced a Newhart ending. But while starting over in 1996 would be the equivalent of hitting the trifecta (no Monica, no W., and no 9/11), the fact is that it's still 2008. And in 2008, Bill Clinton's campaigning looks like a triple loser: bad for Hillary, bad for Obama, and bad for the Democratic Party.
I say looks like, because it really isn't. The only person Bill Clinton's campaigning is bad for is Bill Clinton. Unlike a lot of people criticizing him these days, I was never a very big fan of his while he was president. But I, like most people, make an enormous allowance for former presidents. (Hell, I had to fight off a round of revisionist emotion that welled up when Richard Nixon died.) But Clinton's attack dog campaigning for Hillary, while perfectly understandable in political terms, are incompatible with his stature as a statesman. Which means that he has, in effect, forfeited his former president status.
But this is about Bill, not Hillary. Whatever impact his negative campaigning has on her candidacy (the advantages will be short term, the disadvantages long term), it doesn't diminish her strengths as a candidate. People who are criticizing her because she's allowing him to do it are forgetting that a large part of her sales pitch is that she gets the job done. If it wins, it stays in the game. That's how she's promised to beat the Republicans. And that's how she's promised to govern.
Obama, on the other hand, has promised that his emphasis on unity can successfully defeat this kind of campaigning. That's how he's promised to beat the Republicans. And that's how he's promised to govern. The rest of the primary campaign will be a proving ground for each candidate's promise. And the winner will have been borne out by the result.
Meanwhile, the rest of us need to keep our cool, because the Deomcratic Party isn't going to fracture. There will be some bandages to be applied and some very sore ribs come the summer, but nothing a few promised cabinet positions won't heal.