A Puffington Host teaser headline this morning reads: “Bill Clinton Gives President Obama Another Headache.” (Politico‘s headline is: “Clinton Ditches Obama Message–Again.”) This time he says the Bush tax cuts should be extended: Says the PuffHo: “Clinton’s insistence that he would have “no problem” extending all of the tax cuts for some amount of time puts the Obama campaign in an awkward position.” Last week he said Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital was “sterling,” and then said, “Who, me? Undermining Obama? Never!” It couldn’t have been less convincing if he’d said “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘sterling’ is,” or, “I. Did. Not. Have. Financial. Relations. With. Wall. Street.”
It’s less likely he can wiggle out of this latest tergiversation, however. Unlike Cory Booker, Harold Ford, and other lesser Democrats, you can’t leash the Big Dog.
Even though he hasn’t been on the hustings for several years and arguably flopped in South Carolina in 2008 on behalf of Hillary, Big Dog Clinton doesn’t make many political mistakes. Even his B-game is impressive. So what’s with his “off message” comments of the last week? Here are three theories.
First, perhaps this is merely payback for besting Hillary in 2008, and now that Obama is vulnerable he’s going in for the kill by subtly undermining him. Chances for Hillary in 2016 are better against a potentially weak Romney than as a successor to a second-term Obama. Voters will likely be fed up with Democrats by 2016 if Obama manages to win this year.
Second, a variation of the first theory is that the Big Dog wants to kill off any chance of Hillary replacing Biden on the ticket, thinking this would also tarnish her chances in 2016 if she agreed to this desperation measure. A series of regular “mistakes” from the Big Dog will help foreclose this gambit.
Third, and my favorite theory, is that Clinton knows that Obama’s class warfare strategy is a loser, and is making his comments deliberately to force Obama to change course while he still has time. Clinton understands that successful presidential campaigns are about the broadest possible vision of the future—one might almost say “hope and change” (heh)—and not retribution and division. Clinton skillfully overcame his weaknesses and mistakes of Republicans (Blob Dough) in 1996 by grasping the “bridge to the 21st century” theme. Remember the well sourced view of Clinton’s that Obama is still “an amateur” at politics.
By the way, is Clinton looking a little bit thin and drawn these days—almost Gollum-like? Hey where’d The Ring go?