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Midday: Everybody Hates Bill Clinton

How quickly the favorite ex-president became a mangy and uxorious attack animal, berating journalists, slandering Barack Obama, and patronizing blacks. In the first of a new daily Midday news roundup, Michael Weiss charts the pandemic disillusionment with Bill Clinton -- especially on the liberal-left.

by
Michael Weiss

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January 24, 2008 - 11:33 am

It seemed not long ago that Bill Clinton was the elder statesman with six-figure speaking fees and fawning press profiles devoted to his charity work on AIDS in Africa. Did it really matter who ran against the incumbent in 2004 when we still weren’t sure what his predecessor’s next career move would be? (Secretary-General of the U.N. seemed the most mutually beneficial arrangement.)

Now one cannot open a newspaper or click on the television without seeing 1992 played out in farcical sequel. When Bill isn’t chivvying journalists for the “aggressive” tone with which they ask him necessary questions about his wife’s sleazy campaign, or falling asleep during a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial sermon in Harlem, he’s sounding as if he were the one locked in a David Mamet script with Barack Obama, easily his equal as a national politician.

Clinton likes to blame the media, but how can the media help itself? The aged and flabby Mr. Slick thunders and grumbles about the youthful and lean Mr. Smooth – copy like this doesn’t just hand itself to you every four years.

The Associated Press reports today of Bill’s latest tirade in South Carolina, a state he admits Hillary has all but already lost to Obama due to the black vote:

“I never heard a word of public complaint when Mr. Obama said Hillary was not truthful, no character, was poll-driven,” he told startled reporters.

“When he put out a hit job on me at the same time he called her the senator from Punjab, I never said a word,” he said, referring to an Obama campaign memo last year that attacked the Clintons’ links to the Indian-American community.

“Shame on you!” the former president exclaimed, berating the reporters for picking up on Obama’s attacks instead of focusing on the issues that he said mattered, such as the faltering US economy.

And yet the former First Family have been trading on inflated prices as the hounded victims of Ken Starr and the “politics of personal assassination.” At times they seemed blessed simply for having been the last occupants of the White House before the disastrous current ones.

This market, too, has its ceiling. Lefty radio host Ed Schultz called the male Clinton a liar and an embarrassment to the Democratic Party. William Greider, a journalist not unsympathetic to the pre-audacious liberalism of the 1990′s, has struck a common chord of disgust with the Clintons. Here he is in The Nation:

We are sure to see more of Mr. Bill’s intrusions because the former president is pathological about preserving his own place in the spotlight. He can’t stand it when he is not the story and, one way or another, he will make himself the story. I used to be sympathetic toward Mrs. Clinton on this point. No longer.

Other in cyberspace have begun to feel the same way.

Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor-turned-blogger Robert Reich, among them:

I write this more out of sadness than anger. Bill Clinton’s ill-tempered and ill-founded attacks on Barack Obama are doing no credit to the former President, his legacy, or his wife’s campaign. Nor are they helping the Democratic party. While it may be that all is fair in love, war, and politics, it’s not fair – indeed, it’s demeaning – for a former President to say things that are patently untrue (such as Obama’s anti-war position is a “fairy tale”) or to insinuate that Obama is injecting race into the race when the former President is himself doing it….Now, sadly, we’re witnessing a smear campaign against Obama that employs some of the worst aspects of the old politics.

Pundit Review is close to tears:

The most frustrating aspect of all of this is that Bill and Hillary Clinton should have been relegated to the ash heap of history a long time ago. Their behavior while in the White House was nothing short of disgraceful. Forget Monica for a minute. How about the White House coffee fundraisers, pimping out the Lincoln bedroom, savagely attacking women who credibly accused the president of harassment, all the while complaining about the politics of personal destruction. I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. When nobody, and I mean nobody, in the Democratic Party stood up to these two, before, during and after his impeachment, I knew I could never again support a Democrat.

Sharon Cobb, a former Southern correspondent for MSNBC Online, says:

President Clinton is being short sighted and needs to look at the bigger picture of a Democrat winning the White House, whether it’s his wife or not, because a lying Bill Clinton front and center (again) is not a good thing for the Democratic party.

Catherine Morgan at Informed Voters wonders if Bill needs a “time-out”:

Don’t get me wrong…I like Bill Clinton, in fact I’m somewhat concerned about him. I realize he is very passionate about supporting his wife for president, but I would suggest that he may be overworked. Even for a healthy person (and lets not forget that it was just 3 years ago that Bill Clinton had heart bypass surgery), the pace of his schedule must be physically and emotionally exhausting. Please, give this man a time-out or something. Even if I’m wrong, and Bill isn’t totally exhausted, he still needs to take a break. It seems to me, that his recent behavior will ultimately hurt Hillary and the democratic party – by giving any Republican nominee an open door for this same type of attack.

The Richmond Democrat, a pro-Obama blogger, thinks it’s extraordinary that Clinton would damn an entire state electorate and still self-pityingly portray his own side as wounded:

“There is so much wrong with Clinton’s response that it’s hard to know where to begin. Is he implying that Blacks are racists who can’t look beyond Barack Obama’s race? Is he implying that Obama, a Black, is somehow unworthy of the presidency? What about women? Are they incapable of voting for anyone other than another woman? Are they incapable of making an informed choice based on their examination of the facts?”

“Millions of voters do not love Bill Clinton but want Hillary to succeed,” notes Kate Stone. “If she can’t do this without him grabbing the spotlight then she has no voice and nothing has changed.”

However, the satirical weekly The Onion probably said it best:

CHARLESTON, SC-After spending two months accompanying his wife, Hillary, on the campaign trail, former president Bill Clinton announced Monday that he is joining the 2008 presidential race, saying he “could no longer resist the urge.”

“My fellow Americans, I am sick and tired of not being president,” said Clinton, introducing his wife at a “Hillary ’08″ rally. “For seven agonizing years, I have sat idly by as others experienced the joys of campaigning, debating, and interacting with the people of this great nation, and I simply cannot take it anymore. I have to be president again. I have to.”

Michael Weiss is a senior editor of Tablet Magazine and a culture blogger for The New Criterion. He also writes occasionally for Slate, The Weekly Standard, City Journal, The New York Daily News and Standpoint.
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