Several Democratic leaders this week appealed to Bill Clinton to end his war of words with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton’s rival for the party’s presidential nomination. Some Democrats fear the exchange of attacks between the campaigns will erode the party’s unity no matter who wins the nomination. (The Washington Post, free registration) Clinton said Obama’s campaign was running a political smear campaign against him through the media. (CNN)
What the commentators said
Bill Clinton is giving party leaders—and even some of Hillary’s aides—“political heartburn,” said Lisa Anderson in the Chicago Tribune, but “many voters seem to think the former president is just doing his duty” to help Hillary. And they like the idea that, if she wins, “Bill is the bonus.”
Well, yes, the Clintons have always been a package deal, said Rosa Brooks in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). But they’re “playing a dangerous game. The more they remind us of what we liked about Act I of the Bill and Hillary Show, the more they also remind us of what we hated.”
Bill’s destroying Hillary’s main selling point, said Gail Collins in The New York Times (free registration). Her experience during Clinton I is supposed to help her “hit the ground running,” but “Bill’s role as Chief Attack Dog undermines that. If he’s all over her campaign, he’ll be all over her administration.”
The former president may be getting the message, said Christopher Beam in a Slate blog. Speaking to a crowd in South Carolina, he said that, despite the “mean things” Obama’s campaign was saying about him, he would do everything in his power to get Obama elected if he wins the nomination.
Cooling down the rhetoric will certainly appeal to African American voters, said Matt Stearns in the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer. Obama—who could become the first black president—has a huge lead in South Carolina polls ahead of the state’s Saturday primary—in which half the voters will be black. Some black voters say “the dust-up—which has touched on race, Obama's alleged admiration of Ronald Reagan and the consistency of Obama's opposition to the Iraq war—soured them on Clinton.” No wonder Rep. James Clyburn, an influential South Carolina Democrat, warned Bill to "chill."