The Byzantine relations between President Obama and former President Bill Clinton could fill several psychology textbooks, providing juicy examples of passive aggression, older man/younger man competition, complex alliances (Hillary as secretary of state is the perfect embodiment of the maxim to "keep your friends close but your enemies closer"), and mutual interests.
That the president needs Bill Clinton now to make his case to the country must be richly satisfying to the only American whose ego can compete with Barack H. Obama's.
Let's recall that one of Obama's supposed triumphs in 2008 was defeating the vaunted Clinton machine. The Democratic Party's delirium for Obama supposedly obliterated the Clinton magic. After winning the South Carolina primary in January, Obama exulted that "we're up against the conventional thinking that says your ability to lead as president comes from longevity in Washington. ... But we know that real leadership is about candor and judgment and the ability to rally Americans ... around a higher purpose ... " Though he never tired (and still doesn't) of insulting George W. Bush, that barb wasn't aimed at him. It was for the Clintons.
Bill Clinton, for his part, nurses grudges. Obama eclipsed Clinton as the most charismatic Democrat. The former president and his wife also got a crash course in media bias. Obama spoiled the Clintons' carefully nurtured plan of returning to the White House and achieving vindication. And, as someone who preened himself on his high standing among blacks (Toni Morrison called him America's "first black president"), Clinton was justly outraged when Obama supporters Donna Brazile and Rep. Jim Clyburn accused him of racism in 2008 because he referred to Obama as a "kid" and dismissed his Iraq war stance as a "fairy tale." Good thing he didn't use the word "Chicago" or mention "golf" -- as those are now "dog whistles" we're told.
Now His Royal Majesty needs old Bill. He needs him to mount the stage in Charlotte, N.C., and persuade waverers to re-elect The One. Why? Because Clinton, for all his squalid ways and for all that he was a practitioner par excellence of what Obama disdained as the "old politics," has something Obama lacks -- a successful economic legacy to brag about.
The wizardry that will permit Clinton to obscure Obama's record -- or to throw the mantle of Clinton economic success over Obama economic failure -- isn't entirely clear. In fact, this could easily backfire.