A Love-Hate Relationship With Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton's other troubled marriage: his relationship with liberal bloggers.

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Bill Clinton's keynote address to thousands of liberal bloggers in Pittsburgh represented an an awkward embrace between two wings of the Democratic Party. For years these bloggers have tried to take the party further left than Clinton preferred as president, and they bemoaned his centrist domestic policies at the speech. Here's how the two sides have come together, and where they stay apart.

  • Clinton's Moved to the Left  "As president, he refused to end discrimination against gays in the military, signed a federal law in time for his 1996 re-election that was aimed at barring gay marriage, and failed to get a single vote in the Senate for the Kyoto climate accords," Politics Daily's Carl Cannon writes. However, Clinton has been "reincarnated as a gay rights-supporting, climate change-touting, netroots-loving apostle of liberal bloggers and progressive politics."
  • Bloggers Have Become the Establishment  "In 2007, it was nearly a scandal that five Democratic candidates for president appeared at this conference," The Economist's Democracy in America writes. But Clinton's appearance is now a "signal of how much the once-fringe liberal blogs have gone legit."
  • Ideology Is Not the Big Issue Anyway  But it wasn't ideology that separated Clinton and the left-wing blogosphere, Jake McIntyre of Daily Kos pointed out. "The overarching principle of the netroots has always been a relentless drive for transparency and openness, for a government that isn't just populist on paper -- or even in its legislation -- but in its responsiveness to its citizens," he said. "Bill Clinton, with his big-money friends and advisers like Terry McAuliffe and Bob Rubin dominating his administration, doesn't really fit in." This rough spot between the sides seems to have smoothed out now that Barack Obama is in the White House, not Clinton.
  • Not Entirely Over the Past  Lane Hudson interrupted Clinton and asked him "Mr. President, will you call for a repeal of DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Right now?" Clinton didn't answer the question, only defended his decisions in a long diatribe, and ended with: "America has rapidly moved to a different place on a lot of these issues, and so what we have to decide is what we are going to do about it."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.