The Bill Clinton Factor

At this point the 2016 Republican presidential conjecture is about the horse race. On the Democrat side the biggest question is how Bill fits into the plan. How can Hillary and the “labor Democrat” machine harness the “good old days” without the baggage? How can she tap into the best political skills in the party without giving up center stage?  This week President Clinton made a series of presentations and attended a number of fundraisers in the Bay Area, offering some clues along the way.

The setting of the event which I attended:

Perhaps the most humorous aspect of President Clinton’s presentation was the audience. Of the 2000 older middle-aged attendees at the  Marin County Veterans’ Auditorium in the epicenter of liberal affluence I counted one Asian, no African Americans, and no obvious Hispanics. In a way that is representative of the Democratic conundrum – their minority leaders consist of the likes of Al Sharpton and some tokens in the House while the “racist” Republican firmament includes the likes of [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] and [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ], Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal, Susana Martinez and Doctor Ben Carson as well as the Chinese-American wife of [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] and the Mexican-American wife of Jeb Bush. But I digress.

President Clinton speaks in the context of his Clinton Foundation which he founded in 2001 and which now provides a Manhattan home-base for Hillary and Chelsea.  The foundation does good work, bringing together business and financial leaders, celebrities, and government leaders with programs and conferences to address global issues of poverty, political instability, health, and climate. Critics, including the New York Times, have complained about a lack of financial transparency and internal controls, and the relationship between donor companies and affiliated third world governments, but I digress. Good work does get done between the speeches and the parties.

The plusses for Hillary:

Bill Clinton controls an ecosystem. With 14 years of post-presidential active engagement with donors and celebrities he remains a major force in the party, and with this Marin demographic as well as with the similarly-aging African-American leadership.

He is a master of political positioning with an element of nostalgia. He frames his major concerns as:

– Income inequality. Our democracy is at risk if the system doesn’t work for lower income blue collar whites and African Americans who are on the margin of the economy and society. Unlike [mc_name name=’Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’W000817′ ] he doesn’t frame the issue as the 1% and the banks stealing everything, but rather a contrast between the past 14 years and the golden age of his presidency when everybody prospered.

– Stability. Global instability is caused by the growing gap between the have’s and the have-not’s, exacerbated by pervasive communications which highlight the disparities and offer bomb-making instructions on the Internet. His Global Initiative is working on Third World economics and governance.

– Climate change. He gives mandatory obeisance to the melting Arctic ice cap, but most of his discussion is about loss of arable land and deforestation. There is no need to discuss coal or any other inconvenient economic sacrifices.

– Cooperation. He laments Washington’s partisanship, a contrast to his presidency when he worked with Senator Trent Lott (no mention of Newt Gingrich and government shut downs) to balance budgets and foster unprecedented economic growth. He learned great lessons of reconciliation from his deep friendship with Nelson Mandela. Somewhat like Al Gore and the Internet, he budgeted $3 billion for decoding the human genome which is the base for immeasurable benefits for mankind, while showing us that all people are 99% the same.

As further advice to anyone who will listen (Hillary?), he offers that Obamacare is working (except for the disincentives that it provides for companies to hire); that comprehensive immigration reform will give the United States the advantage of a younger vibrant work force (without really affecting existing American workers); that it was an accident of history that Krushchev gave Crimea to Ukraine when it was all part of the Soviet Union (although Putin is overreaching now); and that Iran’s nuclear program would likely set off an unacceptable broad arms race in the Middle East. He offers no rhetoric about the “war on women”, bank bashing, Islamic terrorism, or anything that Hillary touched during her time at State.

And the minuses for Hillary:

It is about Bill. It is his foundation. His presidency was the high point of post-World War II America. If there is to be nostalgia, it is for Bill Clinton. As a proud grandfather, he has never seen Hillary and Chelsea so happy – not a strong endorsement for presidential candidate Hillary.

There is always the moral low ground. He talks with a wry smile about how we all have our flaws. His frequent visits to the island hideaway of pedophile Jeffrey Epstein will undoubtedly get some play.

The gap between Bill and Hillary in public speaking skills is painful. He has a flawless delivery; he floats between the strategic and the tactical; he connects with the audience and loves the adulation.  Hillary will not escape her two most famous recent appearances:

– Her May 2013, “What difference does it make” rant in Senate testimony about the Benghazi cover-up;

– Her October 2014, “Don’t let anybody tell you that it is corporations and businesses that create jobs” effort to appeal to the socialist left wing of the Democratic Party.

Net, net Bill was the real deal as a candidate – populist, thriving on interacting with people, compromising when pushed into a corner. To paraphrase Lloyd Bensten’s 1988 take-down of Vice Presidential candidate Dan Quayle, who compared himself to John F. Kennedy,  Hillary is no Bill Clinton.


Here are [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] and a marginally better Chris Cristie advocating for parental choice in getting their children vaccinated against public health risks where they might become carriers. Both found that the public is much more interested in practical solutions than in libertarian ideological positions.

www.RightinSanFrancisco.com – 2/6/15