- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If Bill Clinton wants Barack Obama to win re-election, he is doing a good job of hiding it. Just when the Obama campaign was trying to convince the country that Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital disqualifies him from the presidency, former President Clinton chimed in last week saying Mr. Romney did “good work” at Bain. He added, “a man who’s been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.” All he left out was, “especially compared to a community organizer.”

On Tuesday, the former president feigned surprise at the response to his remarks, saying he “didn’t have any idea” that he was “wading into some controversy in the campaign.” On the same day, he said he supported at least temporarily extending George W. Bush’s tax cuts, which spurred another cycle of “Clinton vs. Obama” headlines. The notion that one of the most gifted politicians of his generation doesn’t know the impact of his words is as credible as his not inhaling.

Theories abound as to why Mr. Clinton is making life so difficult for the White House. Some see it as a Hillary-centric ploy, helping ensure a Democratic loss in 2012 so she could run in 2016. This scheme makes little sense since even if Mr. Obama won, she could run in 2016, and from a better position not trying to unseat an incumbent.

The answer has more to do with the reality that in Mr. Clinton’s world, everything is about him. This is also true of Mr. Obama, but with important differences. While Mr. Obama covets power, Mr. Clinton craved approval - which explains differences in their presidencies. Both men started out pushing ambitious left-wing agendas that caused popular backlashes and led to their party losing control of the House in midterm elections. Mr. Obama’s response to the 2010 “shellacking” was to push his liberal agenda harder and blame Republicans for refusing to see things his way. The result has been a dismal economy, middling public approval ratings and a stumbling campaign effort.

By contrast, Mr. Clinton learned from the 1994 election and went into full triangulation mode. He sought to co-opt the most popular aspects of the Republican uprising and took credit for welfare reform and the balanced-budget initiatives he previously opposed.

The results are clear. In mid-June of 1996, Mr. Clinton’s Gallup approval rating was 58 percent, while Mr. Obama tracks around 10 points lower. But given this, why would Mr. Clinton seek to sabotage Mr. Obama? Because he needs to win. Mr. Clinton always wanted to go down in history as one of the great presidents. He rarely makes the list of the top 10, and he has been thoroughly eclipsed by Mr. Obama, whose ethnicity made his election historic from Day One. The current president achieved the health care reform Mr. Clinton could not and ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden when Mr. Clinton would not. Most galling of all is Mr. Obama being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, the recognition Mr. Clinton most sought in his presidency but which eluded him. He then had to witness his former vice president Al Gore be given the prize for his crazy ranting about global warming.

Helping make Mr. Obama a one-termer will harm Barack’s standing in history, perhaps dropping him below Mr. Clinton on the list of presidential greats. That’s right where Willy wants him.

The Washington Times

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