Monday, December 17, 2007

Bumblin' & Stumblin'

I really believe that for a certain brand of political geek, Bill Clinton's appearance on Charlie Rose the other night will represent Hillary's campaign jumping the shark.

Bill's always struck me as sharp, self-aware, and full of more crap than a circus elephant. Unfortunately, the latter quality was the only one on display as he sat across from Rose. Of course he was going to argue for Hillary's chances. It's something about which the candidate's husband should be up front -- of course he's stumping for her. Of course he's going to make arguments against the other hopefuls. As a former President, he may feel some awkwardness about having to check his diplomacy at the door, but so be it. Logic demands that he do it.

But -- surprise, surprise -- instead of just coming out and stating his opinions, Clinton talked in circles all night. He was mostly attacking Obama, implying that Hillary has far greater experience making real change in "other people's lives." That's about as specific as he got. Speaking of his own thoughts about running in '88, he said, "I knew in my bones that I shouldn't run; that I was a good enough politician to win, but I didn't think I was ready to be president."

Got that, Barack?

Give me a break. He spoke again and again about the dangers of someone deciding to run for president during their first term as senator. Well, as a reader of Andrew Sullivan's put it:
To that, I would answer: In 1860, when the country elected Abraham Lincoln, (he) had served just a single term in the House of Representatives. I'm not saying that Obama is Lincoln, but Lincoln's example shows that a president's good judgment and mental flexibility is more important than years logged in Congress. I for one am grateful that Stephen Douglas (the most "experienced" candidate in 1860) was not President of the United States during the Civil War.
What struck me most was how tentative Clinton was in trying to say the right thing for the campaign, but how clearly he likes Obama. I think that, deep down, he probably loves him. At one point, in a telling lead-up to a criticism, Clinton described him as "a compelling, incredibly attractive, highly intelligent symbol of transformation." Hmm. Sounds terrible. Where do I sign up for Hillary? At another point, he referred to Obama's "massive political skills," and we all know how highly Bill values those.

But mostly, he was forced to make attacks that were exceedingly vague and disingenuous. You can see an eight-minute clip below. Just imagine two or three times more than that, and you get the picture. It was painful. Shameful. Other kinds of -ful. If you hear a single clear reason to vote for Hillary over Obama in particular during this clip, let me know. And he's supposed to be a great communicator.


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