Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bill Clinton: Ultimate Comeback Kid.

A cat has nine lives but Bill Clinton's political lives outnumber that. I've a sentimental attachment to Clinton. He was President when I came to USA. Things were roaring back then. Cold War was conclusively over. Economy was on a joy ride. "How high is high" was the question back then. The government had a surplus. Ah those were halcyon days. Then we had 8 years of a different roller coaster ride followed by a candidate who sailed into the White House on just speeches and fatuous phrases.

Not too long back Bill Clinton was relegated to the dog house. The Clinton era in Democratic politics is over wrote pundits who were busy worshipping at the altar of "The One". The "man from Hope" was seen as bygone era. Reams of newsprint was devoted to praising how Obama "took down the Clinton dynasty without raising his voice".

Ted Kennedy exulted in endorsing a new Kennedy-esque magic. That endorsement was the most rich with irony. Ted Kennedy who raised a banner of revolt against a sitting President, Carter, from his own party and remains the ultimate dynasty was decrying the Clintons. What is worse it was Bill Clinton who helped Teddy win a re-election when his prospects grew rcky. Ah! well even Massachusetts wanted to say "enough".

The lowest point for Bill Clinton during the heated 2008 primaries was the South Carolina primary. South Carolina democratic primary had 51% Afro-Americans who came to see a historic choice in Barack Obama after his Iowa Caucus win. Hillary was advised to concede South Carolina. She pushed ahead. Bill Clinton who had jumped into the fray after Iowa to rescue New Hampshire had started losing his temper. Given who he was his statements and events attracted attention. A wannabe reporter from CNN (Jessica Yellin) riled him up at a SC event with meaningless question about his reaction to what some democratic operative had said. Bill Clinton, with his face going red fell for the trap and ripped into the question. CNN milked it for what it was worth. The press was agog that the big dog was losing his legendary touch for politics. Afro-Americans who thought Bill Clinton was their own deserted him by the droves accusing him very unfairly of being racist. Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison who once famously called Clinton "America's first black president" kind of took back the accolade by framing it within a context that was ludicrous. This was Bill Clinton's nadir.

As Hillary's candidacy floundered the press salivated at the downfall, more of Bill than Hillary. From the word go it was assumed that will Bill Clinton to mentor her Hillary could not go wrong. Bill Clinton was the only two term Democratic president after FDR compared to many two-term presidents from GOP. He was considered the ultimate political animal. The Democratic machinery was thought to be in his pocket. Al Gore had slid into oblivion, John Kerry was a bad dream. When Barack, with all due respect, rode to the cusp of a historical candidacy vowing to be an "apolitical" politician, the I-am-Not-Clinton rhetoric, "change" candidate Bill Clinton was thought of as a ghost from the past. America was ready to move on with its new archangel.

More humiliation followed Barack's nomination. When Hillary was considered for VP the constant chatter was how Bill Clinton would be a distraction. Bill was thought to be a complete misfit within the 'no-drama' obama team. Hillary haters snickered about Bill Clinton's business deals, rumors floated about donors to his Presidential library. Bill and Hillary were portrayed as sore-losers. When Hillary was picked for Secretary of State again the snickering and snide remarks about Bill Clinton started.

What a difference a year makes. Barack Obama had scolded the Clinton's for the health care debacle in 1992. In particular Obama decried their "secretive process" that, in his view, unleashed rumor mongering and finally caused the failure. When he watched his attempt being derailed with, ahem negotiations with union leaders in white house and back door deals with reluctant senators he finally turned to Bill Clinton. Clinton went to the congress to speak what he alone could do with unmatched finesse, plain common sense. Then came the North Korea rescue. Again it was Clinton.

Welcome to 2010. We are a week away from the mid-terms. Barack Obama's approval rating is hovering at 44%, same as what Bill Clinton's or Reagan's was at this point in their presidencies. Democrats are facing a voter backlash. Lo Behold who comes to their rescue. Its good old Bill Clinton. Democrats are not just flocking to him, they flock to Bubba pointedly avoiding the preening Professor Obama. Obama who filled stadiums in 2008 with his words is now seen as out-of-touch elitist. Voters dont have patience for pointless lecturing. In comes Bubba, the man who presided over the longest economic expansion in recent memory. The man who could remind his audience that it was a democrat who balanced the budget last. Bill Clinton is front and center in this election jetting from coast to coast. He is again written about like he is the maestro of campaigning. He sure is the maestro. Watch his campaigns. This is a man who is born to campaign.

Above all what is sweet vindication for Bill Clinton is that everyone including Obama is now talking about how Obama should try to become a Clinton who rebounded from a mid term loss to win his second term. Without exception every democrat is hoping Obama will take a leaf from Clinton's playbook of moving  to the center and repeating in 2012 what Clinton did in 1996.

Ah but then can Obama become a Clinton and is 2012 the same as 1996. My bet is neither will happen. Bill Clinton was a center-right common sense candidate. Unemployment was at 4% in 1996. Economy was roaring. Budget had surplus. No wars. Barack Obama is a center left ideologue who has no record of making any compromises. If unemployment climbs down to 7% thats a miracle. Budget deficit is exploding. The cost of many bills, especially health care is yet to hit our pocketbooks. I'd safely predict Bill Clinton will remain the only two-term democratic president after FDR. And that may be good for America. Oh wait Barack has one last hope. Sarah Palin and her tea party.

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