Bill Clinton in 2010
Among all the bad tactics by Democrats leading up to their election disaster Nov. 2, one tactician stood out as the worst: former President Bill Clinton.
Acting more like a Godfather than a distinguished former President and statesman, Clinton became involved in two embarrassing efforts to convince a Democrat to quit his race so the party would presumably hold the seat.
To boot, he also counseled congressional Democrats either to pass Obamacare or to lose the 2010 midterms. They did pass it, and they did lose the midterms.
Clinton offered a White House job to Joe Sestak to drop his primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter. Sestak said no. All the publicity surely did not help in a narrow loss to Toomey. It also prompted a White House counsel investigation, which predictably cleared Clinton and the administration of wrongdoing. But now that Republicans run the House, a new probe is likely.
Clinton, as Godfather, then outdid himself. He pressured Rep. Kendrick Meeks, a black, to pull out to improve the chances of Republican turncoat Charlie Crist’s beating future GOP superstar Marco Rubio. Meeks batted down the 11th-hour desperation pass. Clinton and the Democrats garnered more bad publicity, and Rubio won the U.S. Senate seat handily.
But Clinton’s biggest goof came months before the election. Former Democratic Presidents have made it standard fare to reinvent their presidencies. Jimmy Carter, for example, this year blamed the deceased Teddy Kennedy for blocking his big health-care bill 30 years ago.
Clinton’s reinvention was this: if the Democratic-controlled Congress in 1993-’94 would have passed Hillary’s healthcare bill, the party would not have lost the Senate and House in the Gingrich revolution.
Clinton did not just say it years later. He lobbied reluctant Democrats to vote for Obamacare using precisely that argument. Approve the federal takeover of healthcare, and you’ll win the election—even as the bloated, confusing legislation was growing more unpopular every day.
Clinton’s advice to Senate Democrats one year ago went further. He told them not to worry about the details: Just pass a bill. It could always be amended in coming years.
Well, those “details” turn out to be vitally important. The federal mandate to buy health insurance or face fines proved widely unpopular and contributed to the Democrats’ Nov. 2 fall.
“His argument was that getting the best bill is not only good for the people, it’s the best politics,” said Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, after meeting with the former President.
Exit polls show nearly half of voters want the entire bill repealed. Meanwhile, insurance companies are raising rates on everyday Americans to comply with Obamacare’s many mandates. And the administration has been forced to issue waivers—in other words, saying that you don’t have to participate in Obamacare—to companies that cannot afford its requirements and that plan to cease covering employees.
Months later, as the election neared and polls showed the party would lose the House, Clinton dropped his Obamacare-equals-victory pitch. His new theory: Losing the House is good.
“Would it be good for [Obama], in a way, if he lost the House and the Republicans came to power and had to share some of the responsibility here?” served up CBS’s Bob Schieffer.
“Well, I think it would increase his chances of being re-elected,” Clinton said.
The ex-President’s erratic behavior is not new. Remember his campaigning for Hillary two years ago; his finger-pointing at journalists; his accusing Obama of playing the race card; his likening of Obama to Jesse Jackson.
Here is what the liberal Vanity Fair wrote about Bill as he campaigned for his wife that summer:
“Old friends and longtime aides are wringing their hands over Bill Clinton’s post-White House escapades, from the dubious (and secretive) business associations to the media blowups that have bruised his wife’s campaign, to the private-jetting around with a skirt-chasing, scandal-tinged posse. Some point to Clinton’s medical traumas; others blame sheer selfishness, and the absence of anyone who can say “no.” Exploring Clintonworld, the author asks if the former President will be consumed by his own worst self.”
Clinton had company in the 2010 midterms. A few gems:
• Vice President Joe Biden last winter assured voters that large job growth was just around the corner, compliments of the nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill.
“Even some in the White House said, ‘Hey, don’t get ahead of yourself,’” Biden said. “Well, I’m here to tell you, sometime in the next couple of months, we’re going to be creating between 250,000 jobs a month and 500,000 jobs a month.”
Months later, the nation’s unemployment rate stays well above a historically high 9 percent.
• Biden told ABC News, as late as July 19, when polls showed the party’s hope dwindling, that Democrats would score a great victory.
“I am absolutely confident that when people take a look at what is happening since we’ve taken office in November and comparing it to the alternative, we’re going to be in great shape,” he said.
He told Politico that month, “I think we can [beat] Rand Paul. Absolutely. I think we’re going to do a great deal better than anyone gives us credit for. I do not see this grand debacle. Because by the time people walk into the booth, they’re going to have to choose between two people.”
Paul won the Kentucky Senate race by double digits.
• Out-going House Speak Nancy Pelosi said the best way to stimulate the economy was for the government to put more Americans on food stamps and unemployment checks.
“It is the biggest bang for the buck when you do food stamps and unemployment insurance. The biggest bang for the buck,” she said.