The author of a new book on the Obama White House claims that Bill Clinton made a deal with Barack Obama that the president would endorse Hillary in 2016 in exchange for the former president’s enthusiastic support for Obama’s re-election.
Bill Clinton’s animosity toward Obama is legendary. A year before the last election, he was urging Hillary to challenge the sitting president for the nomination — a move she rejected.
According to two people who attended that meeting in Chappaqua, Bill Clinton then went on a rant against 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!”
For his part, Obama wasn’t interested in Bill Clinton upstaging him during the presidential campaign. He resisted giving him any role at the convention.
But as last summer wore on, and Democrat enthusiasm waned, chief political strategist David Axelrod convinced the president that he needed Bill Clinton’s mojo.
A deal was struck: Clinton would give the key nominating speech at the convention, and a full-throated endorsement of Obama. In exchange, Obama would endorse Hillary Clinton as his successor.
Clinton’s speech was as promised; columnists pointed out the surprising enthusiasm in which he described the president. It also lived up to Obama’s fears, as more people talked about Clinton’s speech in the weeks following than his own.
But after his re-election, Obama began to have second thoughts. He would prefer to stay neutral in the next election, as is traditional of outgoing presidents.
Bill Clinton went ballistic and threatened retaliation. Obama backed down. He called his favorite journalist, Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes,” and offered an unprecedented “farewell interview” with departing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The result was a slobbering televised love-in — and an embarrassment to all concerned.
Bill Clinton has never forgiven Obama for what he believes was an Obama-backed campaign to tar him as a racist in the lead-up to the South Carolina Democratic primary in 2008. After all, he was America’s first black president — a piece of flattery he embraced.
But it seems a little incredible that Clinton, a seasoned politician, would allow himself a rant against Obama in that fashion in front of anyone except his closest and most trusted aides. Also, both Clintons are political animals, and it is doubtful either of them ever seriously entertained challenging Obama for the nomination. Sitting presidents don’t lose — even Carter beat back a challenge by Kennedy. And that was with an economy worse than what Obama was running on. Hillary would have had to repudiate her own support for Obama and try to tear the Democratic Party apart to get the nomination — a very long shot at best. Do the Clintons strike you as people who would enter a political campaign that had little chance of success?
What I’m saying is that Klein’s tale is possible, but not likely. I would only note that he is playing directly into the conservative narrative about Obama, Hillary, and Bill Clinton — convenient to sell books but impossible to prove.
It’s fun to read, though, isn’t it?