Chill, Bill

Apparently, Bill Clinton was not amused at a superdelegates’ meeting in San Francisco:

The Bill Clinton who met privately with California’s superdelegates at last weekend’s state convention was a far cry from the congenial former president who afterward publicly urged fellow Democrats to “chill out” over the race between his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Barack Obama.

In fact, before his speech Clinton had one of his famous meltdowns Sunday, blasting away at former presidential contender Bill Richardson for having endorsed Obama, the media and the entire nomination process.

“It was one of the worst political meetings I have ever attended,” one superdelegate said.

Of course he’s angry. He sees history (and the attendant limelight) slipping through his fingers. When you are, like so many of our presidents, a man who, as Alice Roosevelt said of her father Theodore, wants to be the bride at every wedding, the baby at every baptism, and the corpse at every funeral, that’s the cruelest fate of all.

And, in answer to Joe Gandelman’s observation:

Almost all Presidents leave office and the aura of the Presidency encases them so their reputations in many ways improve out of office (President Harry Truman, President Richard Nixon and, for his work in building houses etc, President Jimmy Carter). Some become ex-Presidents who are respected although their reputations don’t grow substantially (President Gerald Ford and President Lyndon Johnson).

But seldom in American history has a President left office and seemingly shrunk in stature – going from someone who has the aura of the Oval Office to becomings seemingly just one more political operative.

I don’t think it’s possible for any former president in the modern era to remain in the thick of politics without demeaning both the presidency and him or herself. Most of our presidents have had the wisdom to realize that.

2 comments… add one
  • from swimming freestyle:

    “Barack Obama’s election to the presidency in November would put a serious crimp in Bill Clinton’s power, influence and resulting earnings. Obama and his Administration would, by virtue of their position, become the de facto leaders of the Democratic Party. Bill and Hillary Clinton will continue to be powerful forces in the Party, but the bulk of that power shifts from the Clinton’s to the new guys in town. They become a good deal less marketable.

    One can understand why the thought of losing all that might make Bill Clinton a little grumpy.”

  • An ex-President who wishes to retain or extend his political influence has to do so primarily behind the scenes. Or by indirection and example, using what the Romans termed “auctoritas”.

    Herbert Hoover, who left office in political disgrace, remained a deeply influential powerbroker for decades in GOP politics by virtue of his intelligence, administrative/organizational genius, substantial personal wealth and a network of diehard supporters within the party. He kept out of the limelight for the most part, realizing that his presence would be a lightning rod that could attract criticism to a GOP incumbent or candidate.

    Eventually, enough time passed where Hoover’s reputation recovered enough to head an important commission on governmental reform, one of his few overt postpresidential political roles.

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