Election 2008

Did Bill Clinton's Cranky Attack on Obama Backfire?

The consensus is that the former President did his wife no favors.
You can view Bill Clinton’s performance on the Charlie Rose Show, discussed below, in the window to your right.

Bill Clinton's new attack on Barack Obama is reverberating across the presidential trail this weekend, with politicos wondering whether Hillary's surrogate-in-chief is actually helping her. In a wide-ranging interview with Charlie Rose, Clinton suggested Obama was a risky and inexperienced choice. "When is the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?" Clinton asked, arguing that voters who back Obama are "rolling the dice." "In theory, we could find someone who is a gifted television commentator and let them run," he added. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reports that near the end of the interview, "Rose indicated that Clinton's staff was asking producers in his show's control room to get them to have Rose end the interview."

Obama defended himself on Saturday, saying the attacks reflected Hillary Clinton's drop in the polls, and emphasizing that Bill Clinton himself was fairly new to national politics when he became President. "I have the kind of experience the country needs right now," Obama added.

The former president also tried to pivot from inevitablity to managing expectations. "I never thought [Hillary] had a big lead in Iowa and never thought she could have one," he said, contending that it's a "miracle" that she has a chance of winning the Iowa Caucus. Edwards adviser Joe Trippi rebutted that point in a conference call with reporters on Saturday afternoon. "With all due respect to President Clinton, it doesn't matter what he thinks about the finish, it matters what the working people of Iowa think," he said. The predictions of politicians and reporters usually count for very little in Iowa, which has picked the Democratic nominee in every cycle but one since the caucus began in 1972. (Gephardt is the only Democrat to win the caucus and lose the nomination; and no one competed there in 1992, when when Iowa Senator Tom Harkin ran). The bottom line is that any candidate aiming for "inevitability" plans to win Iowa.

David Chalian, Political Director for ABC News, thinks Clinton's attack is both revealing and ineffective. "This interview was remarkable and perhaps quite telling about the mood within the Clinton world at the moment. I'm not sure that Bill Clinton did anything in this interview to advance his wife's cause. He appeared quite tense and almost pissed off that Barack Obama is running for president."

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UPDATE: Obama convened a rare press conference in Waterloo, Iowa on Saturday afternoon, taking several questions about the Clinton Campaign's attacks. RadioIowa has posted a partial transcript.
Ari Melber is a regular contributor to The Nation magazine and writer for The Nation's Campaign '08 blog, and a contributing editor at the Personal Democracy Forum. He served as a Legislative Aide in the U.S. Senate and was a national staff member of the 2004 John Kerry Presidential Campaign.
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