Not since the feud between Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter tore the Democratic Party apart more than 30 years ago have two panjandrums of the party loathed each other quite as much as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
And yet this week, television viewers will be treated to a remarkable spectacle at the Democratic National Convention: Clinton will stand before a cheering throng of delegates on Thursday night and deliver a primetime speech nominating Obama, a man he once dismissed as incompetent, as president of the United States.
My sources inside the Obama campaign tell me that the last thing Obama wanted to see was Clinton, one of the country’s greatest orators, standing at the podium of the Democratic convention and sucking all the air out of the place.
Enter Bill Clinton, who presided over boom times and balanced budgets in the 1990s and whose 66% favorability rating outstrips Obama’s job approval rating by 20 points. As the most admired Democrat in the country, Clinton appeals to the very constituency — white working-class voters — that gives Obama the most trouble.
And so Clinton was signed on to remind voters of the glory days of a Democratic president’s economy. Since then, Clinton has been furiously at work writing his speech in longhand, as is his custom. As he’s continued to revise the speech, he has received numerous suggestions from the Obama camp about what they want him to say. This, according to my sources, has made Clinton furious.
The Obama campaign has insisted on seeing the speech before Clinton delivers it, and Clinton has just as insistently refused to show it to them. As a result, no one — not even the president — knows what Clinton intends to say. This has led some Democratic insiders to speculate that Clinton will make not-so-flattering remarks about the last four years of Democratic rule in the White House.
“If I were the president,” one of these insiders told me, “I’d wake up at night in a cold sweat wondering what surprises Clinton is going to come up with.”
It is about 99% certain that Edward Klein is full of shit. But he just guaranteed that I will be watching every minute of the Big Dawg’s speech.