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January 22, 2008
Hillary Clinton is having her husband, former president Bill Clinton, campaign in South Carolina on her behalf, increasing his already large public presence in the Democratic presidential race. Bill Clinton has already made several pointed remarks about Barack Obama, and Obama has responded by questioning Clinton's accomplishments as president. (The New York Times, free registration)
Between the two Clintons, “I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes,” Obama said in the Democrats’ South Carolina debate Monday night. (The Washington Post, free registration)
What the commentators said
Obama sure hit a sore spot, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. Bill Clinton has abandoned his role as “silver-maned former president” to “co-star” in Hillary’s campaign “as a cold-blooded political hit man.” If Bill’s involvement “seems awfully personal,” it probably is. Obama isn’t only attacking Hillary, but has committed the “unforgivable insult” of downplaying Bill’s political legacy.
Bill has just decided on a different way to defend his legacy, said Ben Smith in the Politico blog. “Getting his wife elected president.” His attacks against Obama may "wear thin" over time, but they seem to be working so far: Hillary has won two close-fought primaries since she decided to “turn Bill loose.”
Bill’s doing little more than running around throwing tantrums, said Rich Lowry in National Review Online. But his “desperate, accusatory, self-pitying, and misleading” attacks on Obama are really just a tactical embodiment of his “do-whatever’s-necessary ethic.” The Clinton campaign may not have much more it can use “to sell Hillary, but it certainly can tear Obama down.”
Despite the “disapproval of American opinion makers,” said Matthew Continetti in a New York Times blog, Bill’s “recent feistiness” has “done little to stop the Clinton Restoration from progressing.” Why? It’s playing well with Democrats—the “opinion elite” may have “Clinton fatigue,” but Democratic primary voters don’t. By attacking the “media-supported” Obama, Bill Clinton makes his wife look like an “insurgent” and creates the “illusion” that he, not Hillary, is “actually the candidate.”
The Democratic race has “indeed become all about Bill Clinton,” said Marc Cooper in The Huffington Post. But that was bound to happen. What else does Hillary have to run on but her husband’s “legacy and record”?
of The Week magazine.