Friday, November 02, 2007

Krauthammer Gets it Right

Charles Krauthammer writes on the danger of Bill to Hillary's candidacy:

Any ex-president is a presence in his own right. His stature, unlike, say, Hillary's during Bill's presidency, is independent of his spouse. From day one of Hillary's inauguration, Bill will have had more experience than her at everything she touches. His influence on her presidency would necessarily be immeasurably greater than that of any father on any son.

Americans did not like the idea of a co-presidency when, at the 1980 Republican convention, Ronald Reagan briefly considered sharing the office with former President Gerald Ford. (Ford would have been vice president with independent powers.) And they won't like this co-presidency, particularly because the Clinton partnership involves two characters caught in the dynamic of a strained, strange marriage.

The cloud hovering over a Hillary presidency is not Bill padding around the White House in robe and slippers flipping thongs. It's President Clinton, in suit and tie, simply present in the White House when any decision is made. The degree of his involvement in that decision will inevitably become an issue. Do Americans really want a historically unique two-headed presidency constantly buffeted by the dynamics of a highly dysfunctional marriage?
As Hillary's candidacy unfolds, her rivals are certain to turn to this question. How would a Hillary presidency differ from that of Bill on policy? How much influence will he have? We've already seen a return of many of the same advisers who shaped the first Clinton presidency. Is Hillary going to get the band back together? If so, it will allow Republicans to delve into all the failings of Bill's presidency -- most notably on the war on terror. Hillary is not well-served by a close examination of how Bill failed to recognize the threat posed by Al Qaeda, and to take action against Osama bin Laden.

The media are also likely to examine the personal relationship and the personal behavior of Bill again. But Hillary will have to revisit some issues as well -- the health care task force, the firing of the White House travel office staff. And then there's fundraising -- which is a whole different topic.

I have a hard time imagining that Hillary's candidacy can survive if it is a referendum on a third Bill Clinton term. That's why Democrats will try to frame the election as a choice between a third Clinton term or a third Bush term. That's a choice Republicans seem likely to lose. But given their druthers, the American people would prefer a break from both former presidents. The challenge for the Republican candidate will be to present an attractive alternative.

By the way, it's a big problem for the Democrats that their candidates are apparently forbidden from airing this criticism during the primaries. Seeing how the American people respond to such attacks is clearly in the party's interest.

Also writing on this topic: Bits Blog, Dr. Sanity, Ann Althouse.

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