My colleague Jonathan Cohn has the goods in explaining why Mitt Romney’s new attempt to drive a wedge between Barack Obama and the more centrist Democrats nostalgic for Bill Clinton fails as a matter of policy reality. But it’s also worth noting, with only a smidgen of facetiousness, why it actually makes some sense for Romney to praise Bill Clinton, apart from the blatant political gamesmanship at work. First, consider that when Bill Clinton was president, Mitt Romney was...kinda liberal! Heck, he even voted for Clinton’s rival Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Massachusetts Democratic primary!
Richard, I don't think we need to delve for any psychological explanation of a deep change in Bill Clinton's character, because I don't think there's been one. After all, the tension (if it is a tension) between Clinton the smart and charismatic progressive and Clinton the brutal bare-knuckles campaigner was such a common trope coming out of the 1992 campaign that it could get put at the center of Joe Klein's Primary Colors.
It would seem, on the face of it, that the only thing standing between George W. Bush and the presidency is a persistent reservation about his intellect. The doubts have crystallized around a reporter's now-famous pop quiz, in which the Texas governor could not identify various difficult-to-pronounce heads of state. Bush, according to many in the press, needs to wonk himself up, and fast. He needs to cocoon himself with all those Stanford Ph.D.s and reemerge with a deep, studied interest in the stability of Central Asia and the efficacy of scattered-site housing.
"I can't believe we've lost it all," said a bleary-eyed Bill Clinton in the early morning hours before the polls opened for the New Hampshire primary. He had gathered around him in the Days Hotel in Manchester his political directorate for the unveiling of the last tracking poll numbers. Before the story in the Star broke about Gennifer Flowers, his numbers had climbed steadily to a 10-point margin over his nearest rival, Paul Tsongas, a native son from neighboring Massachusetts.
The Road From Here: Liberalism and Realities in the 1980s by Paul Tsongas (Knopf, 280 pp., $12.95) In June of 1980, Senator Paul Tsongas delivered his now-famous speech before the Americans for Democratic Action, warning that the liberal movement was in danger of being "reduced to an interesting topic for Ph.D.-writing historians," and calling for "a new liberalism." Four months later, when Tsongas’s prediction seemed to be coming true, he gave a long interview to then-Washington Post reporter Nicholas Lemann, who attempted to discover just what the "new liberalism" might entail.