This column was coauthored by Bob Morrision.
You must ask yourself this: Why would Bill Clinton want Barack Obama to be re-elected? In 2008, candidate Obama consigned the Clinton Presidency to oblivion when he said it was not like the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Reagan, said Obama then, was a transformational president. Even more insulting to the Clinton legacy, Obama compared his two-terms in the White House to the truncated two terms of Richard Nixon. Can there be any graver offense against a McGovern Democrat than that?
President Obama won a convincing 53% victory in 2008. He is now running for his political life, but it cannot be said that he ducked the tough issues. He fought for and pushed through Congress his takeover of the nation’s health care. That’s why it’s called Obamacare and not Hillarycare.
Obama paid for this victory with what he called a “shellacking” in the 2010 mid-term elections, but he got his bill through. More than that, he got it approved by the Supreme Court—a Supreme Court had had personally tongue-lashed during a State of the Union address. That’s something that a transformational president does.
Recall that Bill Clinton reacted to his own mid-term shellacking by pronouncing “the era of Big Government is over.” Those words must have been hot coals on his tongue. And they were grating on the ears of every liberal in the country. Big Government is their faith. In government, they move and breathe and have their being.
Clinton won a comfortable second term victory over the hapless Bob Dole. He was never behind one day in the 1996 campaign once Americans realized his opponent would be the aged Kansan.
Still, in order to achieve that less-than-impressive 49% win—even with peace and prosperity on his side—Clinton had had to sign the Welfare Reform Bill and the Defense of Marriage Act. He was viewed by almost all of his party’s idealists as an unprincipled trimmer. Christopher Hitchens spoke for the left when he penned a scathing book on Bubba titled No One Left to Lie To.
President Obama has steered sharply to the left. He has gutted welfare reform. This was the greatest bi-partisan achievement since the great Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act of the sixties. Millions of Americans have found a ladder of opportunity as a result of welfare reform. Millions of children have seen their lives improve. But all of this is at risk now.
To the delight of left-wing activists, President Obama has refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. Bill Clinton hated signing that bill, but thought he had to. Typically, he boasted in election ads on Christian radio that he had signed this measure. Christian voters weren’t the first ones to find Bill Clinton’s marriage promises empty.
Now, the pundits are wondering if Bill Clinton will sink or save Barack Obama. They seem genuinely perplexed. New York Times blogger Matt Bai thinks Clinton’s campaign advice to the Obama re-elect team may have proved harmful. Clinton urged them to portray his opponent not as an unprincipled flip-flopper, but as a right-wing zealot. People don’t like zealots, he argued.
But when the opponent who appeared next to the president on stage looked nothing like a zealot, Clinton’s campaign strategy may have blown up in his friends’ faces. He wants two terms of high octane liberalism in the White House, doesn't he? That would surely help Hillary should she try one last time for the presidency in 2016. Wouldn't it?
Bill Clinton is our friend, right, they may be asking themselves. He wants the president re-elected to eclipse his own presidency.
Barack Obama does not quite bestride the narrow world like a colossus these days. But he may realize the wisdom of keeping his friends close and his enemies even closer. And he may have occasion to ask how valuable Bill Clinton’s help really was: Et tu, Bubba?