Aides to former President Clinton say the old boy is off his game
Former President Bill Clinton has been a real thorn in Barack Obama’s side lately. The two seemed to get along so well, once upon a time. Why, Obama handed over the Presidency to Clinton when he had to dash off to a Christmas party. It really looked as if Bill had completely gotten over Team Obama insinuating he was a racist during the 2008 campaign.
But over the last few days, Bill Clinton has gone energetically “off message.” His efforts to “help” are taking on the character of helpfully whacking a bee on Obama’s head with a shovel. Clinton declared Obama’s economy had slipped into a recession, so the Bush tax cuts should be left in place, at least for the time being.
Clinton also praised Obama’s 2012 opponent, Mitt Romney, for having a “sterling business career,” which Team Obama should stop attacking. That rules out roughly 80 percent of the Obama re-election campaign, and most of the remaining 20 percent has something to do with dogs and horses.
Stunned observers wondered what Clinton’s game might be. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer called him “a bull in a china shop” and suggested he might be a Republican “double agent.” Before you object that those things are mutually exclusive, think about James Bond. His secret agent missions aren’t exactly subtle. Super-villains can count themselves lucky if all Bond does is wreck their china shop.
Was Clinton trying to clear the way for Hillary to run against incumbent President Romney in 2016? Is he still bitter about the way his wife was treated by Obama’s campaign in 2008? Does he want Obama to lose so he can retain the title of Only Re-Elected Democrat President Since FDR? Is he really, sincerely trying to help Obama, by steering him away from a campaign narrative Clinton believes is counter-productive, but Obama is hell-bent on pursuing? Is his ego making it difficult for him to smoothly perform as a “surrogate” for someone else?
It could be all of those things. Or, as Clinton staffers are suddenly beginning to mutter, the old boy might just be senile.
A report at Politico portrays Clinton’s own staff as astonished by his remarks, reading them repeatedly as they fumbled to produce an answer that could be delivered to curious reporters and hopping-mad Obama campaign staff. Here’s what the Clinton people said about their own boss:
The genuine explanation, say people close to Clinton, is the same one that usually is the case: He was simply saying what he really thought, but in fuzzy, free-associating language almost guaranteed to produce controversy.
This was a habit that Clinton usually learned to control as president. But the circumstances now are much different.
Clinton, say associates, while mentally sharp, is older and a step off his political game, less attuned to the need for clarity and message-discipline during interviews.
“He’s 65 years old,” said one adviser, explaining how Clinton in a CNBC interview managed to say that the economy was in recession when it is not.
(Emphasis mine.) Team Obama seems willing to accept that explanation:
“Because he rambles, his remarks can be interpreted many ways, however someone wants,” said one Obama adviser privy to discussions between the two camps. “But they wouldn’t be putting out clarifications” if Clinton agreed with how Republicans were using his words.
Say, you know who else is 65 years old, and therefore probably ready to be led off to the glue factory? Mitt Romney. Team Obama might not be above making this connection as they grow more desperate. They made some rather lightly veiled insinuations about John McCain’s age, back in 2008.
Unfortunately for Obama, it’s not just doddering old Bill Clinton talking this way. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, an early member of the Cory Booker Insurrection against Obama’s anti-capitalist campaign tactics, told CBS News he thinks Pennsylvania is now “in play,” President Obama “is not going to do very well in the West,” and Hillary Clinton would have made a better President because of her superior “executive experience.” (What was Hillary Clinton the “executive” of?)