Political Animal


August 16, 2012 11:56 AM The Price of Puffing the Clintons

By Ed Kilgore

I’ve been alternately amused and infuriated by the GOP tendency during the Obama administration and particularly the current campaign to set up Bill Clinton’s presidency as the fine “centrist” model against which the godless socialist from Chicago or Kenya or wherever is rebelling. It’s amusing to the extent that the usage depends on mass amnesia about the bellowing rage most conservatives directed at Bill and especially Hillary when they were actually in the White House. But in some cases, as where the Romney campaign used President Clinton’s image in a mendacious campaign ad suggesting that Obama has unraveled Clinton’s handiwork on welfare reform, it’s infuriating, and has actually gotten the Big Dog off the above-it-all-former-presidential sidelines to cry foul.

As Steve Kornacki points out at Salon today, the real blowback from the Right’s convenient Clinton-puffing of late has yet to be experienced:

Just consider the effect that GOP’s decision to treat the Clintons as friends has had on their political standing. A recent poll gave Bill his highest personal popularity since his presidential honeymoon in early 1993. It’s the same story for Hillary who, but for a brief period during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, has never enjoyed favorable scores like she’s had for the last three years. Look closely at Hillary’s popularity trendlines, in fact, and you can see that the favorable and unfavorable lines begin their dramatic divergence in the middle of ’08 - almost exactly when the right’s revisionism began.
This could come back to bite Republicans in a few weeks, when Bill delivers a primetime speech at the Democratic convention. Republicans have helped to make him one of the country’s most well-liked public figures, which will give his endorsement of Obama and any accompanying criticisms of Romney more weight.

Steve goes on to suggest that the problem could become a whole lot larger down the road if Hillary Clinton considers a 2016 presidential run (which he seems to consider more likely than I do), but I think the potential backfire effect in the current cycle should have been enough to keep Clinton images out of Romney ads. They’re really playing with fire here, and deserved to get burned.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Hedda Peraz on August 16, 2012 12:10 PM:

    In law school they teach you to never ask a witness a question that don't know the answer to.
    That holds double when using the opposition as a talking point.
    Stick to praising Reagan- it's safer,because, I believe, he is dead.

  • martin on August 16, 2012 12:12 PM:

    As if the Repubs will care in 2016 what they said in 2012? If Hilary runs for prez in 2016 they will go right back calling her a fat ankled lesbian bitch within seconds of her announcement.

  • c u n d gulag on August 16, 2012 12:21 PM:

    Something tells me "The Big Dawg," our 'First Black President,' will know how to handle this.

    If Bill could handle Newt, the Ol' Professor, who has considerably better political skills than Herr Romney, I suspect he'll make the Republicans look like the fools they are.

    They'll rue the day they ever tried to embrace their earlier Anti-Christ!

  • BillFromPA on August 16, 2012 12:23 PM:

    The repugs have done a ton of things over the years on the basis of expediency and a number of them are just now biting them in the ass. I agree with this article, but in the realm of Things the GOP Have Done Just Because They Worked, Clinton Praise takes a back seat to the trashing the TeaBaggers and Fundies are giving the Grey Old Party. Dear Ole' Kay in Texas is the latest to whine about her rough treatment at the hands of True Conservatives, we stand a good shot at the House based on the Purity Purge and McCaskill's chances are looking real good. They're now paying for taking the easy road.

  • Leopold Von Ranke on August 16, 2012 12:23 PM:

    So. I'm standing in the courthouse today waiting to go in and do something pro forma, when two of the local conservative lawyers ask my opinion on Obama's plot to remove the work requirement from welfare eligibility. Being ever so crafty, I say something like, "Well, can you get to the internet?" They say that they can (a foregone conclusion among lawyers in this day and age --can't live without Westlaw and/or Lexis). I say something like, "Well, why don't you do a google search for the executive order and see what it says. You're lawyers, you know how to read law. Maybe Fox News has it wrong."


    People believe what they want, even if the facts don't correspond to belief. Poo-tee-weet.

  • Mimikatz on August 16, 2012 12:27 PM:

    This just reinforces the idea that Romney is all short-term tactics and has no sense of long-term strategy. He has the short-term time horizon of someone in the financial industry who never thinks about long-term consequences, just goes for the quick buck and short-term goosing of stock prices.

    I am so really tired of this guy, and there are 82 days left before it is over. I predict most people will take advantage of early voting so they can just turn the whole thing off as soon as possible.

  • Diane Rodriguez on August 16, 2012 12:29 PM:

    The average guy remembers only the buzz of the moment unless it's a significant bomb. Can we dare hope that President Clinton, in his good ol' boy Southern drawl would say something like " In all the time I have been in public life, I have never seen a Presidential candidate who is more mendacious. I am personally affronted by his lies about my actions and itentions".

    Guarantee Mitt would never use him in an ad again and he'd further polish his legacy as a bold and straight talking ex-President.

  • john sherman on August 16, 2012 12:55 PM:

    This has happened before, but now the time table is shorter. During the convention nominating Reagan for his second term, there were speeches praising the grand tradition of FDR and Harry Truman.

    Harry Truman said, "Anyone who votes Republican can go to Hell." Had he still been alive after that convention he would have said it even louder.

  • RT on August 16, 2012 1:14 PM:

    "Steve goes on to suggest that the problem could become a whole lot larger down the road if Hillary Clinton considers a 2016 presidential run..."

    They'll turn on Hillary in a nanosecond if that happens. Republicans have always been at war with Eastasia -- uh, Eurasia.

  • DL on August 16, 2012 7:04 PM:

    Aren't Dems (like Obama) doing the same thing with Reagan?

  • Doug on August 16, 2012 7:18 PM:

    I haven't watched a political convention for years, but am planning to do so this year. I'm eagerly awaiting Mr. Clinton's responses to the Republicans' appallingly mendacious efforts to use him in their attacks on the Obama administration. Does beer go well with popcorn?
    Also, if, I say IF, Mrs. Clinton should decide to re-enter politics, it would be, in my opinion, solely because VP Biden removes himself from the race, for whatever reason, and no other single candidate appears likely to be able to get the nomination without a vicious primary that would jeopardize their ability to run a winning campaign.
    Mrs. Clinton knows EXACTLY what to expect should she ever run for ANY political office again, let alone the Presidency, and I really can't see her looking forward to going through THAT again. It's why I find musings about her 2016 candidacy to be so irritating.