It's all about Bill
With a bunch of reporters at a bar on Sunday, Bill made the problem hers. "We can't be a new story, I'm sorry. I can't make her younger, taller, male.'' -Bloomberg.comIn an alternative universe President Bill Clinton might have used his retirement to survey the landscape of his journey through public life and made some fundamental changes in how he operates. After a political career that, whatever else you might say, was always more tacky than tactful, Clinton could have, knowing his wife and life partner aspired to the presidency, calibrated his public persona to fits those goals. Elder statesman, eminence grise, party arbiter and nurturer of new talent, supportive spouse..alas, it was never meant to be.
In an alternative universe, of course, Senator Clinton would have won Iowa.
She did not and what has followed now seems like it was inevitable. Bill Clinton is in the news. Bill Clinton has been in the news. And, for as long as Senator Clinton's run for the presidency continues, perhaps even back to the White House, we all know that Bill Clinton will be the news. He and the cameras and microphones seem to have a mutually insatiable appetite. And when the cameras are rolling Bill is proving to be, at the very least, a frequent liability.
Truth is, Bill Clinton is also the Clinton campaign's major asset on the campaign trail. He worked the Las Vegas strip over the last week like someone who has won the presidency twice before. He is someone who knows how and where to land a knock out blow; even if that blow is a sucker punch. While Bill Clinton is most famous for his rhetoric and communication skills, this go round those skills aren't always serving him so well. However, when it comes to the state-to-state politics of primary season, ex-president Clinton knows who to talk to and how to play the game. Bill Clinton knows how to win elections in the USA. No one can deny him that.
And, yes, he can't deny himself, even when he's "on" he can't hold back. And isn't that the point?
President Bill Clinton is aware of the 22nd Amendment. Of that you can be sure. President Clinton is familiar with the long tradition in American history, initiated by George Washington and followed by Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, of respecting the limited and finite nature of that American invention, the citizen executive. He is aware that the how and style of previous presidential retirements have implied a respect for the fundamental values of our Constitution.
But, yes, once again in American political life, suddenly, inevitably, it's all about Bill. One would think that if you were involved in the coincidence of the campaign to elect the first woman president with the campaign to elect the first First Lady president, that as a potential First Gentleman and former President oneself you would calibrate your rhetoric and your style and have some deference for your spouse. Not just for her sake, but for ours. To make it absolutely clear to everyone that we were electing Senator Clinton on her own terms and strengths, and they are many, and not sidestepping the 22nd Amendment.
That just wasn't meant to be.
Lost in the fake brouhaha about Senator Obama's comments about Ronald Reagan (as if an African-American former community-organizer from Chicago's South Side in the 1980s is unclear about the legacy of Ronald Reagan) was the utterly mystifying quote with which I led this piece:
We can't be a new story, I'm sorry. I can't make her younger, taller, male.That's a phrase that's 'a tell' for those who have ears to hear it. Sure, it's unfortunate, and patronizing...to her and us...and sexist. We can elect Senator Clinton to be President, or not, on her own terms, thank you very much. But that's not the point. What Bill Clinton really meant, on some level, is that he can't make her Bill.
At the end of the day, the message Bill and Hillary Clinton are sending to the American public is that the only way to pull the plug on the intersection of the Bill Clinton saga and the office of the president is for primary voters to decide to vote for someone else. He's not going to change.
Never has, never will.
There's no alternative universe when it comes to Bill.