Posts Tagged Bill Clinton

Foreshadowing 2016 with 1966

Many people are looking at who’s visiting Iowa and New Hampshire. Who’s campaigning for Senate and gubernatorial candidates is more interesting.

Obviously, for the most part, not Barack Obama, although Michelle seems to be in some demand. Gotta keep those policies off the ballot, after all.

Who is stumping for candidates? Mitt Romney. And Bill Clinton – not Hillary Clinton.

Why does this matter? One of the lessons I took away from Teddy White’s “The Making of the President 1968” was that Nixon solidified his support in the party and his standing as a national figure by aggressively campaigning in the 1966 mid-terms for Congressional candidates. Almost all of them won.

Romney may or may not have enough left to make a serious run.

What’s more telling is that Bill is either the more popular or more influential Clinton, or both. Apparently, not even most Democrats are really Ready for Hillary, they’re just Nostalgic for Bill.

Don’t underestimate nostalgia.  Nostalgia for Bush I was largely responsible for putting his son in the White House in 2000, when people were tired of the Clinton Drama, on the ballot in the form of his Vice President.  But George W. didn’t have Hillary’s resume or long, long, long history in the national spotlight.  He may have found it useful to ride Clinton fatigue with his own relative novelty and memories of what it was like when adults were in charge.

The fact that Hillary, who has had decades – literally uninterrupted decades – to make her case to the American people, is having to do the same thing, should be a yellow flag to those who think she’s a done deal.

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The Slickest Three Minutes In Politics

Wednesday night, former President Bill Clinton made a campaign appearance on behalf of his wife the Clinton Global Initiative on the Jimmy Kimmel show.  It was vintage Clinton, folksy charm on display even as he says the worst about his past, present, and future political opponents.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cAxh2_l4LI

Kimmel: Do you think that this current climate, where the parties are so divided, and really have a difficult time working together on almost anything, is a temporary situation?

Clinton: I don’t know. But I think – here’s what I do believe. <pause> You know, I had a Republican Congress for six of the eight years I was president. And I had some of the same problems the president has.

One of the problems with young people, and with lower-income working people that have kids and trouble voting, is that they’ll show up in a president election, and if their candidate wins, they think that’s all they need to do. So then they don’t show up in midterms, when the Congress is elected – a third of the Senate in off-year elections, and all of the House of Representatives, and most of the governors, and state legislatures. So then they wonder why nothing happens.

So we have – the president and I – have talked about this a lot, about how the number one thing we gotta do is try to get voting up in the non-presidential years.

But I think it was easier for me to get cooperation in my second term, and remember, they were trying to run me out of town. And I just kept showing up every day like nothing had changed, and I just kept knocking on the door, and just kept trying to work with them, because that’s what people hire you to do, to get something done.

But it is – when you have economic adversity – and people are pessimistic and frustrated with their own circumstances, it is easier to polarize the voter. And I think you see that in other parts of the world too, that…

Like when the Arab Spring started in Tahrir Square in Cairo. All the young people that were in Tahrir Square were among the most impressive young people I’ve ever seen in my life. But the vast majority of people who live in Egypt live in rural areas, and were having a hard time keeping body and soul together, and the only organized political force there was the Muslim Brotherhood. So they won the election, and the young people never gave any thought to how they should form a political party, go out and campaign, have a program.

And that’s what happens in a lot of places. The young people Ukraine, in the square in Kiev, were immensely impressive, and they want a modern country that is not – despite what President Putin says – against Russia, but gets along with both Russia and Europe, and is a bridge between the two, which is what they want. But, the power brokers say no, you gotta be on our side or theirs.

That’s not what people want. But all these people, who have these feelings, who want to build modern, cooperative, prosperous societies have got to understand that no matter how distasteful they find politics, if you don’t play it, somebody will, and you will lose if you sit it out. And it always happens. You gotta suit up and play the game.

This is Clinton at his best/worst.  He appears to blame situations rather than people, even as he then turns around and blames his opponents for creating the situations.  And don’t be fooled by the dramatic pause and sigh at the beginning of his remarks.  He knows exactly what he plans to say before he starts to say it, before he even walked out on stage.

The Republicans are the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or both corrupt sides in Ukraine, manipulating the rubes who don’t know anything other than their own desperation.  It’s a supremely patronizing view of the American people.  And this, from a president of the party that has practiced unceasing class warfare and ethnic balkanization for well over a generation.

Remember, this is the president who blamed talk radio for the Oklahoma City bombing. Clinton also hosted the gala retirement party for Julian Bond, who later famously referred to the Tea Party as the “Taliban wing of American politics,” so it’s fair to say he knows something about polarization and demonization.

He’s picked a couple of the most incendiary examples in recent world politics, which makes the comparison absurd.  American political categories almost map onto British or Canadian ones, match up poorly with traditional European ones; they’re like fitting round pegs into watermelons for almost anything else.  If he really wanted to make a political point, there are plenty of examples from American political history he could have drawn from.

Of course, it’s part of a pitch to get young people to vote this year, presumably pro-Obama, although recent polls have shown the bloom off that rose, especially among his youthful former supporters.  Being forced to buy products they don’t want at prices they can’t afford will do that to people.  Clinton will eventually say that it’s the mission of young people to vote, to rescue us from the curse of polarization.

Clinton has never been one to let the facts get in the way of a good story, and here he’s true to form.  Young people and working class families with children “have a hard time voting,” when in fact, voting has never been easier.  His timing here was off, although I suppose it’s not his fault that his appearance was scheduled for the day that North Carolina revealed that tens of thousands of its citizens had found it so easy to vote, they did so more than once.  Egypt is not overwhelmingly rural; about 56% of its population lives in rural areas, although it’s true that that’s where the Muslim Brotherhood had been organizing for decades.

Perhaps the biggest whopper was one we’re going to hear a lot of, that Democrats lose mid-terms because young people don’t turn out.  Moments before, he had been reminiscing about the Republican impeachment attempt of 1998.  That was an off-year election, and Democrats picked up seats, in the 6th year of his presidency, and election that usually poisonous to the party in power.  I guess his memory last night wasn’t any better than it was under oath.

While routine appearances by sitting presidents on late-night talk shows cheapen the office, appearances by former presidents serve to emphasize the Cincinnatus-like qualities of the office, since they appear as private citizens.  They also show us, I think, that the presidency doesn’t usually change people, it just brings out their core personalities.  And it’s often helpful to be reminded exactly what those personalities are.

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