Molly Ivins from December 5, 1999:
Don’t know how many of you heard President Clinton’s speech at the World Trade Organization. Except for C-SPAN junkies, I doubt anyone was watching. But it is high time somebody said the obvious out loud: The son of a gun is good.
How long has it been since you heard Clinton make a whole speech? I’ve been catching him on the tube in snippets for so long that I’d forgotten just how effortlessly persuasive he actually is. There he stood, the No. 1 Free-Trader in the Whole World, facing all the opposition. By the time he finished, he was on their side and they were on his side. He is a superb politician.
Anyone volunteering a kind word for Clinton nowadays has to issue the obligatory disclaimer. In my case, it’s easy, since I barely agree with him 50 percent of the time.
He’s not my kind of Democrat and never has been. But at least I have the sense to recognize the man’s merits, whatever his failings.
He is an amazingly skilled pol at the top of his game. I know — everybody hates politicians so much that to say someone is a great one is a form of cussin’ him out. Nevertheless, I do admire real political skill, and Clinton has it in spades.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone better. Maybe Lyndon Johnson on a roll, or Bob Bullock in good health. Too bad that Clinton had to spend most of his presidency on defense. I would have liked to see him quarterback a Democratic Congress for the sheer interest of the exercise.
Don’t ask me to explain what went wrong between Clinton and the Washington press corps. I’ve never understood it. I don’t want to drag anyone through the Late Unpleasantness again, but as near as I can tell, about half the D.C. press corps is totally wiggy on the subject of Clinton. Otherwise rational people — like Chris Matthews, Chris Hitchens, George Will, there’s an army of them — are so obsessed by Clinton’s moral failings that they cannot see his performance, what he actually does with the job.
I’m sorry that Clinton is so flawed. That’s truly a shame. As Mr. Shakespeare said, “… and the elements, So mixed in him.” But I still don’t see why that prevents people who presume to have some grasp of objectivity from seeing what’s right in front of them.
Clinton is such a master that he has played a Republican Congress to a dead standstill for six years now — and often with no cards at all in his hand (mostly due to his own stupidity during the Late Unpleasantness).
And what a set of Republicans. It’s not as though he’s had to deal with constructive citizens who happen to differ with him on the issues — your Robert Tafts, your Bob Doles, your Margaret Smiths or such as that. Newt Gingrich and the Republican Revolution — God save us.
Lord knows, the Republicans have saved Bill Clinton. Time after time after time, they are so blinded by their hatred of Clinton that they do themselves in. I’m sure it’s a mercy, but it’s also a peculiar phenomenon.
The best description of Clinton I ever heard was from an Arkansas state senator who said: “He’s like one of those broad-bottomed children’s toys. You tump him over, and he pops back up. You tump him over again, and he pops back up again.”
Given the amount of personal abuse the man has taken, his resilience is just extraordinary. Apparently, he really does get up every day and start over.
Molly wrote that almost 13 years ago. She’s gone now, so we don’t know what she would have to say about the past four years. But I don’t think she would have agreed with the effort to purge the Clintons from the Democratic party. The Democrats should have tried to build on Bill’s success, not attacked it.
So how did that work out for them? This is from today’s White House Insider:
Bill’s speech was double the time they gave him. Had Obama waiting. Kept the current POTUS waiting for almost an hour. Handlers not happy. Jarrett pissed. They do that little shake at the end when Obama walks out. Backstage, Bill says something like, “He wanted to break my hand.” He’s laughing it off. Knows what he wanted to do was done. Obama storms off. The two were all smiles onstage. Backstage, they parted. Bill’s getting congratulated and Obama is gone. Told somebody, was a woman so assume Jarrett but didn’t ask for clarification, took Bill aside and was shaking her finger in his face for a moment. Bill leaned down and whispered something to her and she walks off. He goes back to smiling and the handshakes. Classic Clinton. The smiling assassin. And what is the feedback today? That Obama’s speech was not as good as Clintons. That he isn’t Clinton. Look up the Bentsen reference. That’s what we saw Clinton pull off this week.
The Democratic establishment literally tried to destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama was their tool. For a brief time it looked like they had succeeded.
Now four years later the Democratic establishment is discredited, Obama is going to be a one-term failure and the Clintons are more popular than ever.
Filed under: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton | Tagged: Bill Clinton | 71 Comments »