Bill Clinton and the Obama-Vetting Argument

Are the Clintons really in any position to lecture Democratic voters about how irresponsible of them it would be to nominate Barack Obama?

For months, that’s the game they’ve been playing — warning, in ways subtle and overt, that Obama is a novice candidate who will be mercilessly chewed up by the big, bad Republicans.

Publicly, Hillary stresses how “tested” and “vetted” she is. Privately, Clinton backers don’t mince words in painting apocalyptic scenarios in which the G.O.P. turns Obama, as the Democratic nominee, into a hybrid of George McGovern, Michael Dukakis, and Al Sharpton. Sometimes, they even slip up and say it publicly — like when Clinton’s campaign co-chairman spouted off about Obama’s youthful drug use.

Now comes a report in the New York Times that Bill Clinton, who has privately fumed at the media’s treatment of Obama for months (and who publicly did so on Friday), “believes reporters will be complicit if Mr. Obama becomes the nominee and loses to a Republican.”

But if the Clintons are so adamant about nominating a candidate with as few vulnerabilities as possible, then why did Bill Clinton himself ever run for President?

Sure, he ended up winning in 1992, but Bill Clinton willingly exposed his party to grave electoral risk with the skeletons in his closet, some of which (Gennifer Flowers, draft-dodging) bubbled to the surface during the campaign. Others stayed under wraps until later. Clinton’s liabilities were so numerous and potentially devastating that Nebraska’s Bob Kerrey, then a Democratic presidential candidate and now a Hillary backer, warned in 1992 that the Republicans would open up Bill Clinton “like a soft peanut” in the fall.

Bill Clinton, of course, went on to win in 1992. But during the primaries, there were all sorts of Democrats warning that it would be political suicide to nominate him. Does it reall make sense for him to now treat Barack Obama the same way — especially since he proved his doubters wrong?

Bill Clinton and the Obama-Vetting Argument