Bill.


I probably quote Josh Marshall entirely too often here, but posts such as this one, which bears the same heading as does this entry, often say what I want to say and do it much better.

This overview of the Bill Clinton of 2008, from that post, is pretty much dead on, IMO:

Bill Clinton was on so many levels the master of the politics of the 1980s and 1990s, the magic with words and connection with people, intuitively sizing up the tempo and undercurrents of the political moment. Hate him or love him, I think anybody with a feel for politics knew this. And I loved him.

I don’t mean to write his epitaph. He’s obviously got the same shrewdness and political canniness on many levels. But again and again through this cycle, in little ways and big, he’s shown he’s not quite in sync with this political era, doesn’t quite grasp the new mechanics — both the ideological texture and the nuts and bolts of the networked news cycle. Attacks have backfired. And while Clinton’s emotions and impulsiveness have always been key to his character and political sensibility, whereas in the past it was him riding the tiger of his outsized personality and passions, now it’s the tiger riding him.

If you step back from the carnage and electricity of this nomination battle, you see a vast drama that compares in its own way with any other in modern American history. And part of that shows you that it’s on the Democrats’ side of the aisle today that the questions roiling the country are being hashed out and decided. But if I were a novelist, it’s not Obama or Hillary but Bill, in the current moment, who would fire my imagination. Perhaps some hybrid of Arthur Miller and William Faulkner, fresh from the cloning laboratories, could put it all together on paper. The incandescent rage, the political master just out of touch with the moment. The level of his investment in Hillary’s campaign (on any number of novel-bearing levels) is palpable and not fully explained by anything as mundane as the hunger for power or as simple as guilt. And yet the circumstances of the race have forced him to stand just off-stage, where he’s close enough to interfere but not to control or direct. It must be a unique kind of hell for him.

I feel a deep sorrow for Hillary Clinton, and for the millions of women who saw in her a (even if somewhat flawed) champion who could end the second class status that has plagued their gender from the nation’s founding. But the cross-currents of history collided in 2008 and in the Democratic Party and the nation’s racial stain is as least as profound as its misogynic one. In a time when change is riding the whirlwind, Barack Obama offered a new face to her familiar one and in the end, that made all the difference.

HIllary will survive and, I suspect, prosper in the Senate. Her time may yet come around again. Even if not, she, and we, will come to see her campaign as a great historic moment. Like so many before her, she did not quite achieve the mountain top, but she was the first viable candidate to show it is attainable and, were it not for those winds of change, would have almost sure been the first woman president.

History can be cruel, but in the end it both verifies and acknowledges.

As for Bill? Man, I think Marshall is dead on that he is incredible fodder for a novel. Would that I were a younger, more adventuresome man…

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3 Replies to “Bill.”

  1. I think Hillary, if she controls herself and Bill, has the potential to become a female version of Lyndon Johnson in the Senate–a majority leader who truly understands and controls the workings of the upper house. As such she could remain a force in the party and the nation for decades, contributing far more to the political life and future than she would with eight years in the White House.

  2. Agreed. I think she will take on the mantle of Ted Kennedy as his present health issues show he’s probably not long for this stage. She could well end up, as Kennedy did, doing more good in the Senate than she ever could in the White House. Though some are touting her for the Supreme Court, I don’t know if that’s such a good fit for her…

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