One word makes all the difference.
Especially when it’s said by Bill Clinton.
At a campaign rally stumping for Barack Obama in Virginia, a hoarse, raspy-voiced Bill Clinton turned to the cheering crowd.
“As you can see, I have given my voice in the service of my president,” he said.
Not “the” president. But “my” president.
With that one little word, Bill Clinton showed why he is such a master at what he does.
Cynics say nothing Bill Clinton does comes for free. Pundits are already speculating about what Bill wants in return. There are three theories out there.
It’s about Hillary. Obama made her his secretary of state despite their bitter fight for the Democratic nomination in 2008. Bill is now paying him back in spades, almost 40 campaign appearances since the Democratic convention. If Hillary Clinton does make another run for the top job four years from now, it’s in Bill’s interest that Obama win this time around so that she won’t have to run against an incumbent Republican in 2016.
Bill always makes sure to drop in the Hillary reference on the stump.
“By the way,” he says in praising Mr Obama’s foreign policy record, “he’s got a heck of a secretary of state, too.”
And the crowd always goes wild.
It’s about Bill. Bill Clinton has more riding on this election than his wife’s ambitions. It’s also about Bill writes Stylebistro.
Many of the young people who Obama inspired to get involved in politics in 2008 were too young to have a clear memory of Clinton's administration. Plunging into the crowd with Obama on Saturday, Clinton was introducing himself, and more importantly his political legacy, to a whole new generation.
It’s a chance for Bill to create a Hollywoodsian version of his own legacy — drycleaning out all the embarrassing stains like Monicagate. The Democrats, basking in the newfound eternal sunshine of Bill’s spotless mind, don’t want to bring up all the things that rankled them about the Clinton presidency — “ending welfare as we know it”, the harsh anti-immigration bill he signed into law, his cozying up to big corporations.
It’s about America. Bill’s friends say the focus on the Obama-Clinton personal chemistry misses the big picture. This is about the future of America. As the Calgary Herald notes “there has been a real thaw in their relationship brought on in part by Clinton's genuine alarm over Romney's vision for the country.”
Whatever his motivation this is Bill’s win-win moment.
“Whoever captures the White House on Nov. 6., the election season produced one clear winner: William Jefferson Clinton,” writes Albert E. Hunt in Bloomberg News.
He has become the Ronald Reagan of the Democratic Party – served sunny side up. Everyone wants a piece of him. Even Mitt Romney. He is desperate to try and become the kebab mein haddi in the Obama-Clinton bromance. He wants to cast Obama as the old style socialist against Clinton’s business-friendly new Democrat. As Joan Walsh notes in Salon:
According to Romney, Clinton understood that “Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem. President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship. It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe it was a personal beef with the Clintons...”
But the personal beef is glaringly absent on the campaign trail. The most heart-warming aspect is it doesn’t seem staged for the cameras.
Bubba and Obama will never be part of the same old boys club despite all the statements about their “easy rapport” and “strong” relationship from the White House spokespersons. They are far too different as men and in the baggage of history they each carry. But their grand, and apparently genuine coming together, remains one of the most hopeful post-racial moments in the 2012 electoral campaign.
It was “unexpectedly moving” writes Walsh in Salon.com “because it really means something – and it shouldn’t – to hear an older white man call Barack Obama ‘my president.’”
Barely four years ago, according to The New Yorker, Clinton had infamously dissed candidate Barack Obama to Ted Kennedy, telling him “a few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags.”
That Clinton would full-throatedly embrace that man as “my president” and that Obama would whole-heartedly embrace Clinton as “the master, a great president and a great friend” and the “secretary for explaining stuff” shows that now that the hurly burly’s done, whether this battle is lost or won, the Obama presidency has made some real difference to America, beyond the horsetrading of Beltway politics.
A page in history, long overdue, has finally been turned. Hopefully there is no turning back.