Obama v. The Clintons

by on January 25th, 2008

Beyond the requisite political qualifications, an obvious precondition for someone seeking the presidency in America is a burning desire to win, what pundits call the “fire in the belly.” However, for nearly every president in history, that lust for power and prestige is checked by an abiding respect for the office.

If there were an award for the poster-adolescent exception to this rule it would have to be Bill Clinton, whose scurrilous besmirching of the office is as legendary as it is apparently forgiven by his brethren on the left. In a predictable, but nonetheless disturbing reprisal of that role, Mr. Clinton has demonstrated that ill will is a genetic, not a learned behavior, and what’s striking about this post-presidential chapter is that his fellow Democrats are expressing their displeasure at his antics.

For the only sitting president to have been impeached, stripped of his law license and fined, his temerity must certainly be measured in Napoleonic metrics. But beneath his obvious disregard for the office he once inhabited and one day hopes to have peripheral access to through his wife, lies a dark, acerbic personality on a par with Richard III. That Shakespearean character was the prototypical study of man of consummate duplicity sans even a trace of a conscience.

In Clinton’s cross-hairs is the affable, charismatic, Senator Barack Obama, who has had the political audacity of upstaging Hillary Clinton, whose grasping, visceral desire for the White House approaches the level of a birthright. Voters not only forgive human frailties, if candidly expressed, they can become touchstones of identification between the common man and presidential aspirants who, modern pretensions to the contrary notwithstanding, we still view as well above us poor mortals. However, hubris, arrogance, or the monarchical stain of electoral presumption is something they will not countenance.

With the able assistance of Bill, that is precisely what Hillary has created in the past few weeks and it has spread like a plague throughout the Democratic Party. Indeed, stalwart Clinton loyalists in the media and in Washington have expressed their discomfort with Bill’s unpresidential, finger-wagging, red-faced confrontations, suggesting that party unity–read, the election–is at stake. But since the Clintons’ ambitions have always trumped everything from politics to common sense, the storm is showing no sign of abating.

Although the goal of keeping Obama off balance has been achieved, the likability factor has clearly redounded to the senator from Illinois, not New York. And, despite the fact that both are photo-finish liberals, juxtaposing the image of eight years of him versus her makes many, perhaps most Democrats giddy at the thought of the first African-American president.

Philip Mella