Classy Bill Clinton


I wonder how many people have noticed what this reader has:

I won't soon forget the sight of Bill Clinton - after all, still the titular head of the party - savagely attacking Obama's integrity at Dartmouth. Can anyone imagine, say, Harry Truman in 1960 traveling to West Virginia to deliver such a blast against John Kennedy? Or Lyndon Johnson in 1972 visiting New Hampshire to issue such a deeply personal, highly public condemnation of George McGovern? And yet virtually no one in the party suggested that he might have behaved inappropriately.

I'm a lifelong Democrat who has never voted Republican for any office in my life. But in a McCain-Clinton contest, I'd vote for McCain. Though I disagree with him on many issues, at least he has integrity.

Bill Clinton has never been a classy person. But I think his conduct over the last couple of weeks is tacky even for him. Think about it for a minute. Here is a former president going out on the campaign trail in the early primaries and trashing one of his own party's greatest new talents. Can you recall any other president doing such a thing in an election campaign? The abuse he has heaped on Obama both tarnishes his former office and cheapens his role as an elder statesman in the Democratic party. Donna Brazile has bravely pointed this out as well, noting that Clinton's abuse had some racial tinges to it:

"For him to go after Obama using 'fairy tale,' calling him a 'kid,' as he did last week, it's an insult. And I tell you, as an African-American, I find his words and his tone to be very depressing."

It could be argued that an exception should be made because his wife is running. But that seems to me to compound the offense. Supporting your spouse is one thing; trashing his or her opponent from the powerful position as leader of his party is another. President George H. W. Bush supported his son in his campaigns but never came near the attacks that Clinton has unleashed. And Bush Senior always insisted, as did his son, that he would not be involved in the politics of a second Bush administration. Clinton will be deeply involved in a possible future Clinton administration, just as his wife was in his. He is trashing fellow Democrats to extend his own power.

What we are witnessing is the corruption of nepotism and the abuse of a former office for the pursuit of dynastic power. Anyone who has ever followed the Clintons knows how unscrupulous they are. But even I didn't expect a former president to be as tacky as this. You want this kind of character back in the White House? You want another dynasty, defending itself and attacking others in the same party? You know what to do.

(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty.)

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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