Who is really running for the presidency – Hillary or Bill? If one watched the recent Charlie Rose television interview with Bill Clinton, one might have concluded that it is the former president who covets the White House more. Rose, a former correspondent for CBS’ “Sixty Minutes,” who now hosts his own interview show on PBS, sat feebly as the former president took over the show for its entirety. In fact, the audio engineer might as well have turned Rose’s microphone off for the remainder of the program.

It is axiomatic that anyone seeks to be the leader of the most powerful nation on earth has to have a giant overdose of self-esteem. In essence, that person professes that he or she has the intellect, talent, political prowess, and stamina to ably handle that herculean task. While both the Clintons have more than their share of vanity, it is clearly Bill Clinton who ranks first in this category.

During a speech in Iowa supporting Hillary’s candidacy, Bill Clinton referred to himself 94 times. Hillary was referenced by name seven times. Peggy Noonan, writing in The Wall Street Journal, notes that when Bill Clinton speaks, it’s always about himself. “It’s always me-me-me in his gigantic bullying neediness.” Noonan says that people miss Bill and the ‘90s and the pre 9/11 world. They would love to see Bill occupying the White House again. “So they’ll vote for Hillary, because she’ll bring him along. Two for the price of one.”

The hour allotted on the Charlie Rose talk show was not nearly enough for Bill Clinton to analyze and dissect why Hillary’s campaign has encountered various rocks and shoals. He had instantly at his fingertips, without notes or prompting, the latest evolutions in Iowa. Hillary’s smear campaign against Barack Obama and his admitted use of drugs in his younger years was glossed over, blaming Hillary’s staff for the gaffe. Although she apologized profusely, the apology itself served to keep the story alive.

The former president sidestepped a question about the accuracy of his claim that he opposed the Iraq war from the very beginning. Rose was not given the chance to bore in on such statements by Clinton as an interview with TIME magazine in which he said “I have repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq.” He said basically the same thing before students at the University of Florida. “Is it possible,” asked the New York Post, “that Clinton has never heard of Google? First he lies, then swears to it. It’s getting tiresome.”

What is most astounding about Bill Clinton’s resurgence is how the public, especially women, has allowed the albatross of the Monica Lewinsky affair, the Paula Jones debacle, Whitewater, and other disasters to drop from around his neck. During his final term in office he was, in the words of Reason Magazine, “an utter disgrace, a problem that needed to be purged from American political life.” That was the political establishment speaking. But the general public had, and still has, a different take on Clinton’s deceptions and sexual escapades.

The cry for Bill Clinton’s punishment and resignation came not so much from the general public as from his political enemies on Capitol Hill. Hillary herself “stuck by her man” during the Lewinsky travail, calling the attempt to besmirch his name “a right-wing conspiracy.” Indeed, the media itself seemed to give Bill Clinton a pass of sorts. Former TIME magazine White House correspondent Nina Burleigh etched herself a place in history’s footnotes by proclaiming she would gladly take Monica Lewinsky’s place “just to thank him for keeping abortion legal.”

So it should come as no surprise that Bill Clinton is currently somewhere near apoplectic over the fact that his wife could lose to Barack Obama in Iowa and elsewhere in early 2008. Hillary’s loss would mean that Bill would not be able to recapture those final seven or so months of his presidency that were eclipsed by his impeachment and the Lewinsky debacle. The government of the United States virtually came to a standstill while left-handed Bill focused on a defense of himself that he knew to be untrue. An upset for Hillary on January 3 means no second chance for Bill in the White House. And the tension is palpable. Witness Hillary’s recent attempt to discredit and destroy Obama, even dredging up a kindergarten essay he wrote, in which he aspired to the presidency even in his infancy.

Bill Clinton loves to portray himself as “the comeback kid,” but he knows there will be no comeback if his wife fails to win the White House. The current setback in Iowa and now New Hampshire may well prove to be more than a hiccup in the Clintons’ political fortunes. While Bill Clinton may have the adoration and support of many female voters, Hillary’s personality remains a compelling hindrance to her endorsement by some 40 percent of American voters, male and female.

Whatever positives Hillary retains are largely because she is the beneficiary of Bill Clinton’s popularity among the baby boomers and much of the liberal press. She is Bill Clinton’s wife. It worked for her when she ran for senator in New York state. It may yet get her through the morass of the primaries. And the presidential election? In the end she just may pull it off. But keep an eye on left handed Bill’s right hand when the oath of office is administered.


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