I ♥ the 90s
by Jack Landsman, Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 02:53:20 PM EDT
Until three weeks ago my biggest regret was an epic failure to hop aboard that Barack Obama bandwagon back in February 2007 or even January ’08. Whether you supported him, or whether you’re creepily infatuated with him, is irrelevant. Undeniably there’s a lot to like about our 44th president—namely his charmed past smokin’ ganja in the island paradise of Hawaii and his awesome off-the-rack Burberry suits. In the interest of fairness, however, he’s also a egomaniacal naïf with a long and unfortunate history imbibing the insane doctrine of black liberation theology. Not that I care about any of that. While I have learned to shroud my contempt for the president in serious policy talk, the cynical truth is that I was simply convinced the man couldn’t win.
But that’s all been eclipsed by my inexcusable failure to purchase Newsweek for all of $1 (and the assumption of some small liabilities) this past Aug. 2. Fuck! My first order of business would have been to saunter into my newly-acquired Manhattan headquarters of our Washington bureau—like my idol Charlie Kane—and immediately cashier Howard Fineman. My goodness, imagine the shivers down the spines of that entire clique of lazy, capricious but very serious establishment reporters it would have triggered.
Alas, I struck out. Consequently, Howard Fineman is still safely ensconced in his Newsweek sinecure and free to trot out sycophantic nonsense like his most recent piece: “The Resurgence of Bill Clinton.”
If you’re President Obama, here is a galling fact: most Democrats would rather have Bill Clinton campaign for them this fall than, um, you.
“Part of it is that Bill Clinton is, at this point, a sympathetic story and has always been a likeable guy,” says Eric Schultz of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. “But his appeal right now has to do with the fact that voters associate him with a time of prosperity. You can’t say that about either George W. Bush or, unfortunately, Barack Obama.”
… As a Democratic campaign operative who spoke on background says, “Somebody’s got to get out and make the case nationally for a Democratic Congress. And who is that going to be? Not Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. If you’ve got Clinton, you’ve got to use him.”
Grassroots folk need to very clear about what’s happening here. Recently, we spoke repeatedly about the budding rehabilitation of Mr. Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, and that’s basically the story here. In the lame, cyclical brains of reporters like Howard Fineman, Obama’s breathtaking failure necessarily vindicates his two immediate predecessors.
As Obama’s fate (one-term miserable failure) becomes unavoidably clear, we can surely anticipate the begrudging talk of how Shrub possessed a certain certitude and ruthlessness tragically absent in Mr. Obama. Likewise, Bill Clinton will be canonized as the last great Democratic president. Black people—the president’s biggest boosters—are pretty fickle, too. Once he reaches those Nixonian levels of unpopularity, we might even see the first black president and Carrier of the Dream morph back into that awkward, blackish fellow that once got his ass and his pride handed to him by Bobby Rush on the South Side.
And when Clinton is “out” there, don’t expect him to fill his speeches with personal praise of Barack Obama. As a lawyer and salesman, Clinton knows that touting Obama as The One is a nonstarter given the president’s plummeting job-approval numbers. But permit me a moment of Machiavellian thinking to suggest that Clinton loves to be in a situation in which he has to make the Democrats’ case by damning with faint praise a man whose campaign he once dismissed as a “fairy tale.”
I always love listening to Bill Clinton. If you listen carefully, you can see all the gears in motion: he makes himself clear to people who bother to take him seriously. So what is he saying? That this president has “done a better job than he has gotten credit for so far.” (Which is not the same thing as saying that Obama has done a good job.) And: “All elections are about the future, so what is the alternative?” (Pay no attention to Obama, look at those scary Republicans!) And: “Give us two more years—two more years until another election. If we fail, you can throw us all out.” (Hillary will then be free to pick up the pieces!)
I can’t imagine the mischievous former president having an appreciable effect on the outcome of these hot contests, but Fineman’s analysis concerning the Clintons’ ulterior motives is admittedly expert.
It wasn’t long ago that some consigned Hillary Rodham Clinton to a toothless existence on the periphery of the Obama administration. I never bought it. It’s understandable why Hillary’s decision to join Obama looked unwise, but context is critical. Had she remained in the Senate, Hillary would have certainly been a yea on every unpopular legislative item that will sweep Republicans back into both houses of Congress this November. ObamaCare? The linchpin of ObamaCare is the individual mandate that Hillary insisted upon during the campaign while Obama made significant gestures against it. Porkulus? What justification would Hillary have had to vote no and antagonize the president as soon as February ’09? The list goes on.
Instead Hillary took a much-needed reprieve from the acrid arena of domestic politics that has defined her political life. As Clintons occasionally do for strategic purposes, Hillary put her head down, focused on small bore initiatives and surrendered all the, well, serious stuff such as the Middle East peace process, Iran, AfPak, etc., to Clinton stalwarts like Dick Holbrooke and others. And she’s only vaguely associated with this rudderless administration as a result.
The problem with Mr. Fineman is that he will never understand why we mustn’t allow the Clintons to get by with this. Progressives who are committed to a primary challenge of some kind to President Obama must know why the possibility of Hillary taking her case to the voters is treated with intrigue while speculation around Howard Dean, for example, is often met with dismissive howls.
It is because the Clintons are more of the same. They’re soulless practitioners of politics. I once wanted to forget this all the time but Hillary cynically (!) voted for Bush’s Iraq adventure, and true to form, she’s been on the hawkish side of the Afghanistan deliberation in this White House.
And since President Obama is so concerned about Republican designs for Social Security, if Hillary runs, his supporters would be wise to pick up Steve Gillon’s The Pact. It details one of the most unappreciated stories of our time: So obsessed was Bill Clinton with cementing his New Democrat bullshit in the annals of mythological greatness, he formed a devilish alliance with Newt Gingrich over Social Security “reform.” (At least ObamaCare was a compromise within the sellout Democratic caucus; Clinton wanted to include Gingrich Republicans!) Thankfully, FDR’s legacy survived because of Monica Lewinsky’s busty pulchritude.
President Clinton is, and always will be, an addictive political thoroughbred. And I suppose if he wants to waste this awesome upcoming fall (politics notwithstanding) in places like Missouri and have the hell kicked out of him by Roy Blunt’s eyebrows, that’s his business.
Lord knows I love both of them but I’m done being lured into the eternal psychodrama of the Clintons. It’s sooo 90s.