Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Obama-Bill Clinton Thing

All along, below the radar of contesting Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama has been matched up with her husband in a battle of both substance and style that reflects generational differences.

Now, at the end of Jeremiah Wright Week, as Obama is out there doing TV interviews to stop his slide in the polls, the contrasts with Bill Clinton are coming into sharper focus.

In his speech on race in Philadelphia, Obama tried to put the Wright YouTube clips into context--an admirable trait in a president but treacherous for a candidate, as it soon proved to be.

Contrast this with Bill Clinton's Sister Souljah moment in 1992. Granted, Clinton had no previous connection with her, but, after her inflammatory rhetoric about white people after the Los Angeles riots, he didn't hesitate to make political points by condemning her for black racism at a meeting of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition.

That's what politicians do. But Obama, by trying to address the issue of race seriously before Wright's antics forced his hand, has been politically wounded by not throwing his pastor to the media wolves as soon as the issue surfaced.

It's this serious deliberation that seems to rankle Bill Clinton most. In New Hampshire, he branded Obama's opposition to the Iraq war as a "fairy tale." After South Carolina, the former president pooh-poohed Obama's victory by pairing him with Jesse Jackson and, when he was criticized for it, claimed that Obama was playing the "race card" on him.

Now on a shorter leash after embarrassing Hillary's campaign, Bill Clinton is out there less visibly using his old-politics style in North Carolina and Indiana. It's as if Obama's surge toward the nomination with a new kind of appeal to younger voters is a personal affront.

Bill Clinton is telling his generation that "once you've reached a certain age, you won't sit there and listen to somebody tell you there's really no difference between what happened in the Bush years and the Clinton years."

But what seems to bother him most is the potential difference between both those eras and what might become the Obama years.


Larry Jones said...

Do you know that Bill Clinton is taking Obama's tactics as a "personal affront"? Because I don't see that in anything he's done. He's a surrogate for Hillary, as are many others, and he's doing his job to win the nomination for her. Has he told you it's a personal matter? Or are you making that part up as a way of explaining some of the below-the-belt punches he's thrown in this campaign?

And one more question for you: Obama has a chance to get elected President without resorting to Rovian bloodsport political tactics. Do you think we should support him in this effort, or just encourage him to do "...what politicians do"?

Anonymous said...

If I may speculate, I think after eight years of Bush-Cheney the Clintons expected Democrats and the rest of the nation to run back into their arms. In a mere eight years, the demographics and priorities have significantly changed.

The Clintons missed an opportunity to complete the New Deal such as passing universal health care and a secure retirement for all.
Income inequality grew during the Clinton years, and they did damn little to prepare for the post-oil world. They wasted inestimable time and energy litigating their scandals.

They probably think if they can just get back to the White House, they'll get it right next time. That a young upstart bright enough and authentic enough to write his own books would challenge their "intitlement" is what bugs them.

Barack Obama's winning by playing his game, not theirs, taking them to school. That's why Bill's so red and irritable.