Overturning The Clintons

by James Kirchick | January 27, 2008

The Clintons are in a rage, and a couple enraged against the world is usually taking cover from the rage they feel towards each other.

But, since this is a couple which doesn't even have the comfort of pillow talk, its internal aggressions are projected outwards to the people they have defined as enemies.

Still, imagine Hillary having to come to terms with the fact that her husband -- the one adored by the official liberals -- has now angered them by his racialist petulance towards their upstart opponents and by the sebaceous indulgence of his own righteous self. The fact that Barack Obama, the prime upstart, is both culturally and literally a person of many textured colors, actually prefiguring the American future, and all at once elegant and agile besides, is a rebuff to the grotesque sexual myth Bill had made of himself. Feh, my mother would have said. Andrew Young may relish these images of his president, especially those with unknown and apparently numberless black women.  But to younger people and to more cultured people it is pathos itself.  F.D.R. did not parade his liaisons.

Hillary is now inextricably saddled with Bill riding her rump. For all of her declared sense of self she very early in the primary season turned her campaign over to him, certainly thematically, and especially in South Carolina where the nasty business of trying to turn Obama into Jesse Jackson was routinized. This was completely fraudulent: Jackson ran in the South Carolina Democratic primaries twice (1984 and 1988), as Katherine Q. Seelye points out in today's Times.  But these campaigns were in a different America and a different American south, nearly a quarter century ago.  Moreover, not even so aggressive a hustler as Jackson thought he had a chance and no one else did either. What he was in 1988 was a spoiler for Al Gore when the party turned to Mike Dukakis, one of the most lapidary candidates ever to represent the Democrats in a presidential contest. But remember it was Clinton who elevated the Reverend J. and made him an ambassador plenipotentiary to the most tawdry of African countries where he might feed at the business of arms and diamonds, blood diamonds, strutting around with great portent everywhere.

The fact is that the campaign will now focus increasingly on Bill Clinton and it is he himself who has brought the lights to the stage. Frank Rich, an old friend of mine who has his fixations, has put his considerable talents to a new subject: the Clinton records left over but buried in the archives.  The health care proposal, for example, which turned out to be the first permanent disaster of the administration. Then there are the financial records of the Clinton charities and the presidential library.  As a matter of fact, The New Republic was perhaps the first to rivet on the unknowns of these enterprises.  Which governments were donors, which zillionaires, which corporations.  And what might they expect by way of favors from a term at the helm by the Clintons.

In today's Times Sunday Opinion page, Rich makes the point:

People don’t change. Bill Clinton, having always lived on the edge, is back on the precipice. When he repeatedly complains that the press has given Mr. Obama a free ride and over-investigated the Clintons, he seems to be tempting the fates, given all the reporting still to be done on his post-presidential business. When he says, as he did on Monday, that “whatever I do should be totally transparent,” it’s almost as if he’s setting himself up for a fall.


Rich filed his column before we knew that Obama had won, before we knew that Obama had won overwhelmingly. So Rich's words have a tentative tone.  Still...

Unlike Mrs. Clinton, he would unambiguously represent change in a race with any Republican. If he vanquishes Billary, he’ll have an even stronger argument to take into battle against a warrior like Mr. McCain.

If Mr. Obama doesn’t fight, no one else will. Few national Democratic leaders have the courage to stand up to the Clintons. Even in defeat, Mr. Obama may at least help wake up a party slipping into denial. Any Democrat who seriously thinks that Bill will fade away if Hillary wins the nomination — let alone that the Clintons will escape being fully vetted — is a Democrat who, as the man said, believes in fairy tales.

 

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