Will Bill Clinton Torpedo Obama at the Convention?
September 2, 2012 - 11:59 am
Edward Klein, author of The Amateur , has a column in the New York Post which suggests that Bill Clinton, who will be introducing Barack Obama on Thursday night, may be more interested in promoting “the Clinton brand” than getting the president re-elected.
The extent of the feud between Obama and Clinton may be overstated by Klein, but it makes wonderful reading.
The Clinton-Obama feud is the worst-kept secret in the Democratic Party. It traces back to the bruising 2008 primary campaign, when Obama’s surrogates lambasted Bill and Hillary for being “racists” and a Clinton aide said of Obama that he “embraces the politics of trash.” The animosity still stirs such deep emotions that a year ago Clinton held a secret meeting of friends and political advisers at his home in Chappaqua and urged his wife to challenge Obama for the party’s presidential nomination in 2012.
According to two people who attended the meeting, Hillary rejected her husband’s advice that she run against a sitting president of her own party. But that didn’t stop Bill Clinton from going on a rant about Obama.
“I’ve heard more from Bush, asking for my advice, than I’ve heard from Obama,” my sources quoted Clinton as saying. “I have no relationship with the president — none whatsoever. Obama doesn’t know how to be president. He doesn’t know how the world works. He’s incompetent. He’s an amateur!”
Why, then, is Clinton making a speech on behalf of a man for whom he has such little respect? And why is Obama putting his nomination in the hands of man he doesn’t trust?
My sources inside the Obama campaign tell me that the last thing Obama wanted to see was Clinton, one of the country’s greatest orators, standing at the podium of the Democratic convention and sucking all the air out of the place.
The president, First Lady Michelle Obama and their senior political adviser, Valerie Jarrett, all argued strenuously against offering Clinton a plum assignment at the convention. They wanted to relegate him to a minor, non-prime-time speaking role. However, Clinton, who is viewed as an iconic figure by the party faithful, refused to accept anything less than the all-important nominating speech and threatened to boycott the convention unless his demands were met.
Secret meetings…a threatened boycott…a reluctant president hoping some of the Clinton magic rubs off on him.
Some of this sounds plausible. Some of it fantastic. I have no doubt that the Clintons entertained making a run in 2012 — and quickly dismissed it. I can also believe that the Obama team thought long and hard about whether to use the former president in such a high profile capacity at the convention. I doubt, however, that they were presented with an ultimatum from the former president. There was never any doubt that Clinton would speak in prime time. The nets are primed to cover him and the only real decision was to slot him where he would do the most good. Speaking at the stadium in front of 75,000 people should be enough to assuage the egos of both men.
Is Obama worried the Clinton will upstage him? Considering the president’s supreme confidence in his own speaking abilities, that isn’t likely. There is the danger that Clinton will talk more about himself and his accomplishments than about Obama, but considering the president’s record, that may be a good strategy. In the end, Clinton wants as many Democrats beholden to him and Hillary for her almost certain presidential run in 2016.