'Where You Been, Boy? I Missed You!'

My interpretation of President Obama's first-debate setback has been different from Andrew Sullivan's. But we are absolutely as one in marveling at this "here's how you do it" lesson from Bill Clinton on dealing with Mitt Romney's new version of himself and his policies.

Thanks to Andrew for turning this up.

Bonus historical point: of the thousands of factors that contributed to George W. Bush becoming president in 2000, an important one was Al Gore's distaste for framing his campaign as a plea for a third Clinton term -- Clinton himself would have been re-elected if eligible -- and fully unleashing Clinton on the campaign trail. The result in Tennessee might have been different if Clinton had worked the circuit there. Or in Arkansas, or Florida, or New Hampshire, etc, any one of which would have kept the election from ever getting into the hands of Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and O'Connor. You can understand Gore's reluctance -- sort of. He was furious at Clinton for the gross indiscipline and deception of the Lewinsky episode; and of course he wanted to win not a Third Clinton but a First Gore term.

Obama might also prefer to run this campaign without sharing any of the limelight with Clinton. Several differences make it easier for him than it was for Gore to let the Big Dog back onto the stage, including the passage of time, and the fact that he was never directly in Bill Clinton's shadow. Still, it showed something good about both the Obama and the Clinton family temperaments that Barack Obama invited Hillary Clinton into his cabinet, after their bitter campaign. (And something very good about her that she has performed as she has.) And it's to the credit of all Obamas and Clintons that the sitting president is using the former president this way.

TL;DR version: It's a wonderful, funny clip.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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