I never thought I would be writing this, but 12 years after he left the White House, Bill Clinton is surely missed. Not just by the typical Democratic political operative who yearned to work for such a talented and gifted politician as Clinton was — and continues to be — but by Republicans alike, who even after their bitter fights with the former president from 1992 until 2000 miss his charm, his conservative-leaning tendencies and his street-smart political savvy.
This is why it came as no surprise to me that the Democratic National Committee and its organizers announced recently that Bill Clinton will deliver the keynote address at the party’s national convention this month in Charlotte, N.C., and will reintroduce Barack Obama to the nation on the convention’s last evening. Smart politics on Team Obama’s part, and even better politics for party faithful watchers who wish and openly yearn for a Clinton to be back in the White House.
Let me explain why: First, there is no more articulate spokesperson on the national stage today on the topic of the economy than Bill Clinton. Clinton, although Ivy League-educated and brilliant on most topics, does not come across as professorial or snobbish, words often used to describe President Obama’s way of speaking on the economy. In other words, Clinton connects with the American people by weaving in homespun stories and connecting the story — and the solution — to the average American. He has been able to fine-tune his economic message by having been in public life for more than 35 years as opposed to Obama’s 10.
Second, Team Obama needs Clinton As much as team Obama will deny it, ignore it, and simply try not to talk about it; Clinton is a much better politician than he is, and with the steady economic bad news that trickles from Wall Street, the White House needs someone who can put a positive spin on it to the average person on Main Street.
It’s funny how four years seems like an eternity in politics. In 2008 Bill Clinton and Barack Obama couldn’t care less for each other. Each man distrusted the other, and each thought that the other was not ready for prime time. Obama’s campaign aides were gleeful over Clinton’s remarks four years ago when he upset African Americans during the primary by saying that electing Obama to the White House is, “rolling the dice,” thus suggesting that he was not ready to be president. Clinton also went on to say during the primaries that he thought Obama’s campaign rhetoric “was one big fairytale.” At the time, it was believed that Clinton had lost his Midas touch, having run his last campaign in 1996 and was seemingly not in his prime. The Obama team seized on the gaffes and exploited them with relish.
Clinton is believed have told many friends that he at least thought Obama was not ready for prime time and was making rookie mistakes on not only handling the bad economy, but on the messages about turning the economy around. Today, the misgivings between the two camps have been conveniently forgotten, as Clinton will not only give the keynote address later this month, but will campaign aggressively for the reelection effort this fall.
My, oh my, times have changed, and this is yet another reminder that politics not only makes strange bedfellows, but that’s it not personal; just permanent interests.