Vladimir Putin and Bill Clinton have something in common. They both desperately want another term in office. Term limits have put them in a box, but these are talented and inventive men. Putin of course is advantaged by a system that is more democratic in name than in reality. So he’s devised a work around that will allow him both to step aside and to remain in place at the same time. Clinton, forced to step aside in 2000, has his own path to resurrection – it’s the marriage card. But the wedding “I do” doesn’t automatically translate into the office oath taking “ I do”. That’s the rub and it accounts for why the former President, perhaps even more than his spouse, is sounding desperate these days. Warning us that we’re rolling the dice, he insinuates that Barack should hold back much as he did in the election cycle that preceded his 1992 race. He points to Northern Ireland that turned to old (literally) hands, people of experience and of the past to guide them into the future. Does that suggest Hillary is a former terrorist? Certainly not, but it’s a silly convenient argument. It also has that “wait your turn” approach that we normally associate with Republicans. It served Clinton well in running against Bob Dole. Would it serve it serve the GOP as well if Democrats bought into that notion?
I like Bill Clinton. He has every reason to be proud of his Presidency and has used his time well (not to mention lucratively) during these past seven years. His political and communicative skills remain unmatched. That said, he has a voracious need to be in the spotlight, the center of attention. The prospect of having to share that center, which would be the case in a Hillary administration, is already a big compromise. Being sidelined by an upstart in his own party is an excruciating prospect. Clinton also carries negative baggage, and I don’t mean his zipper problem. He triangulates and is not above shading the truth when it fits his preferred narrative – he was against Iraq from the start. He also is not above rewriting history, something that we expect from Putin’s Russia but not here. That includes the reasons he didn’t run in ’88. He says he wasn’t ready, but virtually every commentator has pointed out his concern about…yes his gubernatorial zipper problem.
For a man who became governor of his state at age thirty-two, suggesting that Barack Obama is too young or too green – not ready – is a bit disingenuous. Who between them had the real audacity of ambition? So the Clinton campaign has gone nasty which perhaps is all right, but their efforts at deniability are both transparent and unseemly. Hillary didn’t know, Bill just says whatever comes to his mind and Penn, well his repeating cocaine over and over again on Chris Mathews absolutely wasn’t calculated. Give us a break.
There is a downside to Bill’s increased visibility and all the talk of his having taken a more active role in directing the campaign. It brings the idea of a co-President to the fore. Without question, many Americans have yearned for Clinton during the last disastrous years; have wished that term limits didn’t exist. At the same time, we now have a seasoned co-President in office and look where it has gotten us. No I’m not comparing Bill and Dick nor certainly Hillary and George, but there is something off-putting about the idea that our President needs a “co-“. Moreover, second acts aren’t always as satisfying as the first, sometimes they’re just plain awful. There is also something else. People with great talent and oversized egos think that the world can’t function without them at the helm. Looking at the Bush years, Clinton has some reason to buy into that idea. But the truth is it can and it does. None of us, no matter how talented and seemingly essential we are, is irreplaceable. I’m sure Jack Welch thought GE would never be the same without him. Not to worry it’s humming along just fine, thank you. So can America without a Clinton or a Bush at its helm. At least that’s the way I see it and for sure I may be proven wrong. If I am, be assured that on January 20th of 2009 I’ll be wondering when we can expect Jeb to start preparing to take his turn. Rest assured, he’s thinking about it at this very moment.