Bill Clinton is back in the limelight as an attack dog for the Obama campaign. Is he looking ahead to 2016?by Diane Roberts / November 2, 2012 / Leave a comment
The Big Dog is out of his kennel. Bill Clinton is running free in the swing states, pressing the flesh, speechifying till he’s hoarse, firing up the Democratic faithful and lauding Barack Obama. At a rally in Florida, he reminded young people that Obama made student loans more affordable. In Ohio, he told pensioners that Obama is the only candidate who can save Medicare. In Iowa, he whipped up the crowd: “Obama’s economic plan is better, his budget plan is better, his education plan is better, his health care plan is better.” Unlike Al Gore in 2000, the Obama campaign has not made the mistake of muzzling Clinton. Back then, Democrats feared that scandal-weary voters would link the puritanical Gore with Clinton’s bimbo eruptions, the impeachment, the legalese and the lies. Clinton hardly stumped for his vice president, and the result was that Gore lost in states Clinton could have helped him win: Tennessee, Arkansas, and, of course, Florida. Obama, in contrast, decided that Clinton may have been a bit scandalous, but since he also presided over eight years of peace and prosperity, he was also an asset. Obama shows Clinton some love, asks advice, and hugs him every time the two meet up in front of cameras. It was not always thus. Four years ago, when Hillary Clinton was also running for president, Obama sniped that while he laboured in the slums of Chicago, she was “a corporate lawyer, sitting on the board of Walmart.” Bill Clinton attacked, calling Obama’s supposed record on the Iraq war a “fairy tale.” People were shocked: was the man Toni Morrison famously called “America’s first black president” dissing the man who might really become America’s first black president? But after Obama won in 2008, he mended personal and political fences with the Clintons, giving Hillary the highest profile post in his cabinet, secretary of state. Whatever Bill really thinks of Obama, he’s now his most ardent, most articulate and most amusing advocate, criss-crossing the country, slamming the GOP and firing up the base. His speech at the Democratic National Convention was a Big Dog special mix of the dapper, the down-home and the downright brilliant, exposing the Romney-Ryan economic plan as a crazy salad of libertarian tosh, lousy math and wishful thinking. The Obama campaign proclaimed him “secretary of explaining stuff.” Clinton adores the attention. He’s handsomer than ever, white-haired, bright-eyed and lean as a greyhound. In his White House years, he followed the traditional Deep South fat diet: barbecue, burgers, doughnuts, fried chicken. Now, after a quadruple bypass in 2004 and a heart operation in 2010 to install two stents, he’s become a vegan, singing the praises of legumes. He enjoys an approval rating of around 70 per cent, higher than any living American politician. Even Republicans praise him. Newt Gingrich seems to have forgotten that he described the Clintons as “enemies of normal Americans,” and goes around boasting about how he and Bill worked together in a bipartisan manner (they didn’t really, but hey, this is an election year). While Obama handles the terrible destruction of Hurricane Sandy, trying to stand a little above the hurly-burly of the presidential campaign, Bill Clinton jets from rally to rally, reminding voters that Mitt Romney wants to cut the Federal Emergency Management Agency, ridiculing his denial of climate change and his evident cluelessness about the lives of ordinary Americans. A Democrat down to his cell structure, he passionately wants Obama to win. But it’s clear he’s thinking past 2012 to the next campaign, laying a nice little foundation for Hillary’s 2016 White House run. No matter who wins on 6th November, she’s the Democrats’ heiress presumptive. And Bill Clinton would just love to get back in the White House.