Saturday, January 26, 2008

Gambling on the Clintons

Bill Clinton is back, scarlet-faced and shaking.

He’s everywhere on the campaign trail, browbeating reporters, unloading wild accusations of voter fraud and smearing his wife’s “fairy tale” opponent, that uppity Barack Obama.

Since leaving the Oval Office, Clinton’s gone the Jimmy Carter redemption route, embarking on admirable ventures to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, stop global warming and assist those suffering with AIDS.

Now he seems ready to chuck that all just to play Boss Tweed.

Clinton clearly is on a mission to preserve his legacy via Hillary and take back their rightful place running the country.

With all due respect, Mr. President, there are sick children in Africa who need you a hell of a lot more than we do.

Clinton’s conduct is unbecoming for a former commander-in-chief. He’s the junkyard dog of the most despicable presidential campaign this cycle that’s floated falsehoods like Obama is a Muslim drug dealer.

Not one, but two racial stereotypes. The Clintonites are setting us back 50 years and fracturing the country.

More importantly for them, they’re dividing the Democratic Party.

On paper, it looked like there was no way even the Dems could screw up losing the White House this year.

The economy’s tanking, the Iraq war remains unpopular and our Republican president largely is considered a colossal failure.

GOP presidential hopefuls are hacking each other apart. No one’s conservative, pro-life, anti-immigrant, pro-tax cut or religious enough, leaving them to squabble like, well, Democrats and split up the primaries.

Meanwhile, the Democratic field was an embarrassment of riches with charismatic, cerebral candidates and boatloads of cash to boot.

As always, we’ve underestimated them, thanks to the Clintons’ scorched earth tactics.

If they can’t have the presidency, no Democrat can.

Obama recently came under fire for telling the truth (just as John McCain did when he told Michiganders to say auf Wiedersehen to many auto jobs).

“I think it’s fair to say that the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10 to 15 years in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom,” Obama told a Nevada newspaper.

Absolutely. It was former Speaker Newt Gingrich who led the charge on the Contract with America. Republicans pushed to end welfare as we know it, privatize Social Security and christen the Department of Homeland Security.

Obama didn’t say these were brilliant ideas or remotely beneficial for this country. But there was vision.

What was Bill Clinton’s agenda? He never bothered crafting a New Deal or Great Society. His centrist Third Way was all about getting elected. There was no blueprint for governing, which is why his grandest initiative – Hillary’s health care plan – fell flat.

And that’s why, even in my Communist college days, I could never pull the lever for him.

In the end, the Clinton presidency was defined by the GOP – their Contract, their government shutdown, their impeachment of him. Even if you see him as the wronged hero, that still doesn’t make him a leader of great fortitude.

Obama further committed heresy by adding:

“I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.

“I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. … He just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was: We want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

Poor Sen. Obama. While these are undisputable historical facts, he found out there’s no room for that sort of thing in elections.

Not when you’re gambling against the Clinton machine, which painted him as a born-again reactionary. (He promptly lost the slot machine state).

But Reagan was the maestro of messaging: Government is the problem, not the solution. That’s the paradigm in which we still live. It defined Michigan’s budget battle last year – and it’s why some courageous lawmakers might lose their jobs.

Democrats need to learn from the past – the successes of Reagan and FDR – and grapple with new realities of terrorism, globalization and failing schools. They can’t afford to play the race or gender card.

They need, at long last, to develop a vision. They won in 2006 without one due to revulsion over the war and Republicans being dragged from the Capitol in handcuffs. But luck never lasts long.

Bill Clinton lectures that voting for Obama over Hillary’s experience is a “roll of the dice.”

Four or eight more years of nonstop politicking and reactive policy? If I were a Democrat, I’d bet on Obama.

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