Bill Clinton's Third Term?
It's About Hillary, Stupid (IS It???)
By Michael Goodwin
Something was bugging me, but I couldn't figure out what it was. Then it hit me. While I was reading about the campaign, the realization came like a thunderbolt: I'm tired of Bill Clinton.
Tired of his half-truths and full lies about where he stood on Iraq. Tired of his bull, as when he says he'd campaign for Hillary "if we weren't married" and calls her a "world-class genius." Tired of his whining, as when he says the media has been too tough on her and too soft on Barack Obama.
All of this is as real as the lovey-dovey, hug-and-smile photo ops of them in Iowa. It's theater, staged for maximum political impact. We're being played again on the two-for-the-price-of-one angle.
But, as always, the game for him is about him. A vote for her is a vote for him. Vanity is a big part of it, with her victory the succession legacy he was denied when Al Gore lost. All true, but I fear there is more to it now. He wants to be The Man, again. He wants it so much that it's not clear which President Clinton would be the President. The way he hogs the spotlight, the way he's trotted out to rescue her when she's in trouble and the way he sets the talking points mark him as the lead dog in the Clinton pack. Would he also make the decisions in the White House? All of them? Some of them?
One day he uses the phrase "roll of the dice" to warn against Obama, and soon she's using "roll of the dice" to warn about Obama. The echo chamber happens often enough that if she wins, Hillary could end up being No. 2 in her own administration. Maybe that's the plan. That makes me really tired. I suspect I'm not alone.
There's a good reason we have term limits on Presidents. That the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution came after FDR won four terms captures the spirit and the letter of the law: Enough!, it shouts. Good or bad, we want fresh blood. Bill Clinton had his chance. He got the honor that goes with the office, even if he disgraced it. He set the nation's agenda, for better and worse. We cared about everything he said and did, even if sometimes we would have been better off not knowing. But it's over. Now it's her turn, on her terms, to win or lose. Either way, she has to stop mixing the message about who really would be in charge of a new Clinton presidency.
The muddle is unique, even against the Bush father-son dynamic. Dick Cheney was going to be George Bush's adult supervisor, replacing Dubya's father, the former President. While there are lots of jokes and speculation about Cheney's influence, it is not seriously argued that Cheney is the real President. Not so with the Clintons. Even allowing for the historic nature of a first female commander in chief and a male First Spouse, there is much confusion about the nature of Bubba's role. It can't be a fifty-fifty deal. There can be only one President, for our friends and our enemies.
Yet the frequency of two campaign messages from them suggests that's not how they see it. Her "likability tour" features him more than her. He pops off, and news reports the next day are filled with anonymous quotes about how upset the campaign officials are that he's off message. Is he off message, or is the double message the message? What if he pops off about Russia or China? Would that be the policy, or would we have to wait for her to speak?
Of course, it's not fair to blame only him. She's the one on the ballot. But what if that's a Clinton trick? Just asking the question makes me exhausted.