From the Agitator:
A couple of weeks ago at a bar in Alexandria, I by chance met a visiting Democratic activist from New York. This was an older guy, who also was the vice-mayor of a decent-sized town in the Hudson Valley. We started chatting politics and, of course, the election. He said he was a long time supporter of Hillary Clinton, but had abruptly jumped ship to the Obama campaign shortly after the South Carolina primary. His explanation was interesting. It was all about Bill.
I thought at the time that Bill Clinton’s comments comparing Obama to Jesse Jackson were tacky and self-defeating, but I hadn’t really given them much more thought than that. But this guy made some interesting points. Bill Clinton has mastered southern politics all his life, the activist said. He knows all the buzz words, he knows all the code words, he knows where you do and don’t tread. Clinton, the activist said, has been on the right side of racial politics his entire political career. No one that savvy slips up the way Clinton did. It had to have been a calculated move. And because it was a calculated move, it was a deeply cynical, baldly race-driven move. Clinton, the activist said, was signaling to white voters that Obama isn’t his own man. Clinton was giving white voters the okay to marginalize Obama–to put him aside as just another stooge the party has to prop up to appease the black folk, but not someone they ought to take seriously. This, the activist told me, was unforgivable. It’s why not just black people, but a sizable number of Democratic activists have flocked to Obama.
It was an interesting conversation, and made a lot of sense. But I wonder now if Clinton’s comments may sprung from something even deeper. The thing is, Bill Clinton is incredibly savvy. He may be the most talented politician of my lifetime. The Jesse Jackson comments were uncharacteristically sloppy. What in the world made him utter them?
So here’s a crazy theory that occurred to me the other day, and that gets more plausible the more I think about it: Clinton’s comments were calculated, but they may have been more sinister than even the activist I met knows. Clinton–perhaps subconsciously–was sabotaging his wife’s campaign.
Crazy? Maybe. But bear with me, here. Clinton had to have known that marginalizing Obama wouldn’t work. He knows Obama is a talented politician, that he isn’t a demagogue like Jackson, and that he has already demonstrated that he can attract white voters in large swaths–Obama certainly didn’t win Iowa by dominating the black vote, did he?
So why would Clinton do it? Well, maybe he doesn’t want his wife to be president.
They don’t come much more alpha male than Bill Clinton. The guy’s a walking erection. I can’t imagine anything more emasculating to an alpha-alpha like Bill than to watch his wife arc over him–for her to become more powerful than he. Actually, it’s quite a bit worse than that. Hillary Clinton was on the verge of not only becoming more powerful than Bill, she was ready to become the most powerful person on the planet. Not only that, she was about to do so by assuming the very office Bill once held, but (probably) won’t ever hold again. Bill, on the other hand, would be relegated to first lady. I can’t see how that wouldn’t mess with the psychology of a guy like Clinton.
More to support my theory: It’s pretty clear that Hillary Clinton’s reputation and public image have never been of much concern to Bill Clinton. He has publicly humiliated his wife over and over and over again, then counted on her to stand by him in the interests of his career–at which point he inevitably turns around and humiliates her again. It isn’t all that hard to believe that a guy who’s alpha enough to risk his entire political career and presidential legacy for a few hummers from a pudgy intern might subconsciously sabotage his wife’s ascent to power, is it?