They may both be right, too, although I’m pretty sure I’d rather spend an evening with Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton. I didn’t watch tonight’s Democratic debate in South Carolina, but the news accounts are entertaining. What started, many thought, as Obama’s effort to get on the ticket as Veep has escalated into seemingly genuine dislike. What struck me most forcibly was this exchange about Bill Clinton, who has been doing much of Hillary’s dirty work in the campaign:
As Obama tried to defend his recent comments about Republican ideas and Ronald Reagan, Clinton interrupted and said she has never criticized his remarks on Reagan.
“Your husband did,” said Obama, who has accused the former president of misrepresenting his record.
“I’m here. He’s not,” she snapped.
This is remarkable. Does Hillary really want us to believe that Bill is just a random supporter of the sort whose comments occasionally embarrass the nominee, so that he is dropped as county campaign chairman? One assumes not.
Beyond its inherent implausibility and unfairness–how is Obama supposed to take an attack by Bill, other than as an attack by Hillary?–Hillary’s effort to distance herself from her husband reveals the critical fault line in her campaign. The reality is that in the world of politics, Bill Clinton is a near-genius, albeit a deeply flawed one, while Hillary is passable on her best days and a clunker on most. Bill is now trying desperately to lug his wife across the finish line of the Democratic primaries, by, among other things, attacking Obama. Many Americans suspect that Bill is motivated mostly by his own desire to return to the White House, where he would wield unknown and unaccountable powers.
Hillary is in a tough spot. Her marriage to Bill is the only reason why she is in politics, let alone a serious candidate for the Presidency. Yet she can’t run for President on the platform of giving Bill a third term. Hence the absurdity of her effort tonight to distance herself from her husband’s attacks on Obama.
PAUL adds: Last year, it seemed quite plausible to imagine a Clinton-Obama ticket, and Obama has done nothing since then to undercut the notion that he’d be Hillary’s strongest running mate. However, he may have undercut any desire Hillary (and her real running mate, Bill) had to give the charismatic Illinois Senator a share of the power and the glory. Nor is it clear that Obama wants a share of the psycho-drama.
Politics has always made strange bed-fellows, but a Clinton-Obama threesome might be carrying that adage too far.
UPDATE by JOHN: With 70,000 votes cast, AOL News readers are taking the Clinton-Obama feud seriously. 63% say it’s not likely they can run on the same ticket. Frankly, I hope the majority view is right.