Bill Clinton had a serious campaign blunder, calling the legacy of the last eight years “awful.” His time selection could not have been worse. The media pounced and said he was attacking the Obama administration’s track record. The Clinton campaign has been in clean-up mode ever since.
Few politicians mobilize black voters better than the Clintons, but Barack Obama is definitely one of them. How would Bill Clinton attacking the current President’s legacy affect his wife’s presidential campaign in this critical group of voters? Probably not too positively. But before passing judgement, here’s what the former President said, according to the Huffington Post.
“But if you believe we can all rise together, if you believe we’ve finally come to the point where we can put the awful legacy of the last eight years behind us and the seven years before that — when we were practicing trickle-down economics and no regulation in Washington which is what caused the crash — then you should vote for her because she’s the only person who basically has good ideas, will tell you how she’s going to pay for them, can be Commander-in-Chief and is a proven change-maker with Republicans and Democrats and independents alike.”
Putting the “awful legacy of the last eight years behind us” sounds like a pretty thinly veiled attack on Obama, but aides to Bill Clinton say he was referring to Republican obstructionism. According to CNN, Clinton has repeatedly praised the current president, and Clinton has said Obama “doesn’t get the credit he deserves.”
Still, it holds negative implications for President Obama. First, there is the implication that, while Obama has blundered along being blocked by Republicans left and right, Hillary Clinton would be able to break through those barriers like no one else could. She is, after all, supposedly the only one in the race with “good ideas.”
But if Clinton was referring to Republican obstructionism, wouldn’t it make more sense to say “put the last 24 years behind us?” Bill Clinton also faced Republican obstructionism. In 1995, House Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, shut down the federal government over budget conflicts, similar to what has Obama faced. Likewise, the former president put forward a healthcare package in 1993 aimed at providing universal healthcare.
It was called HillaryCare by its opponents (Hillary Clinton chaired the task force that created the plan).
But unlike ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act), Clinton’s plan didn’t gain traction and died in Congress.
Then there’s the idea that the last eight years were awful. The White House would have likely preferred better phrasing, whether or not this “awfulness” was President Obama’s fault. This tweet encompasses what the President is saying about the past eight years.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 4, 2016
Bernie Sanders also pointed out how tone-deaf the former president’s comment was on Twitter.
Don’t know that I’d call President Obama’s 72 straight months of job growth an “awful legacy.” https://t.co/GUzlY6Wp4h
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 22, 2016
In addition to pushing through healthcare reform and presiding over an economic recovery, President Obama can include progress in gay rights, significant action on climate change, and the Iran nuclear treaty in his legacy. Obstructionism has been a part of the political landscape for some time, but belittling the last eight years as “awful” is a bit much.
It’s a long campaign trail. Bill Clinton is probably tired and didn’t think too much about the line. Certainly not enough to remember that Hillary was part of the legacy of the past eight years, with her service as Secretary of State. But there’s one thing Bill Clinton couldn’t deny — that he believes it should be Hillary in the White House right now. After losing a heated campaign against Obama in 2008, it can be hard to imagine it’s completely water under the bridge.
When the former president calls the past eight years “awful,” it sounds like a final petty swipe from the ugly 2008 Clinton-Obama fight — and that is not helping anyone except Bernie Sanders in 2016. The speech is featured below.
[Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images]