Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Two Bill Clintons

Soon after he moved into the White House, Bill Clinton was tagged by Maureen Dowd as the first president who was still social-climbing.

After more than two decades of Republican rule, interrupted only by an ineffectual Jimmy Carter, Democrats were exhilarated in 1993 at the prospect of restoring the momentum toward a Great Society that had come to a dead stop after LBJ was undone by Vietnam. Even the early fiasco over health care reform was a sign that the new man cared.

But there was always another Bill Clinton, a Gennifer Flowers-chasing, low-rent undercurrent to his character that emerged to give Newt Gingrich and his merry men an opening for impeachment that hobbled the last years of the second Clinton term.

Then, for almost seven years of his post-presidency, we saw only the good Bill Clinton again, going all over the world to raise awareness and money to help the wretched of the world.

Now, in his wife's campaign for the nomination, here comes the other guy, trash-talking about Barack Obama and squabbling with reporters like a precinct pol rather than a former President of the United States.

Armchair psychology suggests he may be trying to over-compensate Hillary Clinton for the Lewinsky humiliation, but his behavior is not helping her campaign, only highlighting the difference between what he is doing and the dignified reticence of George H. W. Bush during his son's run in 2000.

What's even worse is that all this may giving voters pause at the prospect of having the two Bill Clintons back in the White House.

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