Time columnist Joe Klein created a stir at the Council on Foreign Relations earlier today when he suggested that “an element of unwitting sabotage” may be behind Bill Clinton’s series of apparently off-message comments while campaigning on behalf of his wife.
Klein speculated: “He’s worrying, ‘Maybe she’s going to be a better president than I was’.”
He also suggested that Clinton was ambivalent about his wife’s candidacy because, alongside those fears, “Consciously, I think that he sees her [possible] election as president as the final validation of his presidency.”
Klein presaged these remarks with a heavily ironic comment that he would not “ever, ever want to speculate about what’s going on inside of Bill Clinton’s mind.”
(He was, of course, ultimately unmasked as the anonymous author of Primary Colors, a thinly fictionalized account of Mr. Clinton’s 1992 run for the presidency. In 2002, he followed this up with The Natural, a non-fiction assessment of the Clinton administration.)
Klein was speaking as the chair of an event entitled “Foreign Policy in Campaign 2008,” and was joined by a trio of pollsters: Kellyanne Conway of The Polling Company, Geoff Garin of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, and Doug Schoen of Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates.
Conway and Garin lean Republican and Democratic respectively, while Schoen is positioned to play a leading role if Mayor Michael Bloomberg mounts an independent bid for the presidency.
On the subject of former president Clinton’s campaign trail appearances, Garin said, “Bill Clinton should recede into the background of Hillary Clinton’s campaign…She ends up having to spend far too much time defending what he says when he is provocative.”
Schoen, the Bloomberg pollster, claimed to have divined a hunger for a new kind of candidate.
“There is enough restiveness in the American electorate that should someone like Mayor Bloomberg decide to get in the race…Many of the pundits now who are saying that he will not be a serious contender would find that very quickly he would be competitive with the candidates from the two major parties,” he said.
Schoen added: “Mayor Bloomberg obviously has a resume and has considerably more sanity than Ross Perot possessed—as well as a considerably bigger bankbook.”
At an earlier point in the discussion, Schoen asserted that America is in “a profoundly unsettled time” and noted that there were more registered independents than either Republicans or Democrats.