Over at Talking Points Memo Josh deflects the kind of shrill anti-Clinton stuff we’ve been hearing from Andrew Sullivan et al, and gets the three points about the current Obama-Hillary contest.
First, it isn’t a question of the substance of what’s being said:
[T]here’s very little I’ve seen from the Clinton camp that would seem like anything but garden variety political hardball if it were coming from Hillary or other Clinton surrogates rather than Bill Clinton.
I hear from a lot of Obama supporters that […] Obama is about the ‘new politics’. But this is no different from what Bill Bradley was saying in 2000. And it was as bogus then as it is now. Beyond that there is an undeniable undercurrent in what you hear from Obama supporters that he is too precious a plant — a generational opportunity for a transformative presidency — to be submitted to this sort of knockabout political treatment. That strikes me as silly and arrogant, if for no other reason that the Republicans will not step aside for Obama’s transcendence either.
Second, Obama has to bear a lot of the blame for alienating the older members of the party. I’m not talking about his innocuous references to Reagan, but about…
…an air of arrogance in Obama’s talk of transcendence, reconciliation and unity. I think there are a lot of people who would say, I would have loved to have transcended back in 1995 or 1998 or 2002. But we were spending every ounce on the political battle lines trying to prevent the Republicans from destroying the country. It’s hard for folks like that to hear from someone new that they’re part of the problem, part of the ‘old politics’.
If Obama’s going to take that line, he must expect a backlash. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t do that: every candidate has to decide when to pander to base, and when to tack to the center and piss off the party faithful. ‘Twas ever thus. But let’s not pretend that Obama is “above this” kind of politics.
So if Hillary and Obama are engaging in a legitimate, hard-fought campaign, what’s the problem? It’s Bill. It really is. And the problem is that the person most likely to get hurt is Hillary. Josh again:
With the exception of a few days in early January I’ve gone on the assumption for many months that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. But I think Bill’s actions have greatly diminished her. He has put her back under his shadow where she hasn’t been for years.
For the moment, I doubt either of them is losing much sleep over that. Get through today and then worry about tomorrow. But I think she looks much smaller now. He’s dominating the race. And that makes her look like a weaker figure — something that will not wear well in the general election. And this campaign really suggests this is going to be some sort of co-presidency. When Hillary’s getting knocked around by the folks on the Hill is Bill going to go Larry King to knock her enemies around? Will he be going off to foreign countries on his own little diplomatic missions?
I had assumed he’d remain a step in the background as he has through through most of this decade. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. If the constitution allowed it, I’d happily have Clinton back. I’d happily have Hillary in his place. But I don’t want them both.
The presidency is a singular job. It should stay that way.
I think Hillary realizes this now. Does her husband? Michael Tomansky wonders if they can “do humble”.