As the Democratic presidential race finally gets down to brass tacks, two issues are becoming paramount. But only one of them is clearly on the table.
That is the issue of illegal immigration. A very smart Democrat, a veteran of the Clinton administration, told me that he expects it to be a key part of any Republican campaign and that he is worried about his party's ability to respond.
It was the pummeling she received from Barack Obama and John Edwards during and after that debate (and from moderator Tim Russert) that brought her husband, former president Bill Clinton, into the campaign, with the charge, as he put it, that "those boys have been getting tough on her lately."
The former president's intervention -- volunteered during a campaign appearance on her behalf in South Carolina -- raised the second, and largely unspoken, issue identified by my friend from the Clinton administration: the two-headed campaign and the prospect of a dual presidency.
In his view, which I share, this is a prospect that will test the tolerance of the American people far more severely than the possibility of the first female president -- or, for that matter, the first black president.
As my friend says, "there is nothing in American constitutional or political theory to account for the role of a former president, still energetic and active and full of ideas, occupying the White House with the current president."
No precedent exists for such an arrangement, and no ground rules have been -- or probably can be -- written. When Bill Clinton was president, the large policy enterprise that was entrusted to the first lady -- health-care reform -- crashed in ruins.(emphasis added)
The reason immigration reform has failed is because the Republicans who continue to drive the agenda of this Democratically-controlled Congress wish no reform, but prefer to keep the issue open, thinking that Bashing Brown People is a sure fire winner (no doubt, the "Democratic operative" Broder talked to has drunk the same Kool Aid and believes this, too, despite the polls). Sen. Kennedy's attempt at a "compromise" died a quick death because it was not a compromise at all, but just the pasting together of disparate positions on immigration that was destined for failure.
As to the whole Bill & Hillary thing - please, help me. We have a sitting President whose father was both Vice-President and President, and is still alive, vigorous, and even appeared recently on FOXNews in an interview defending his son's tenure in office (probably one of the most challenging things H. W. Bush has ever done). No one even mentioned this in 2000, or 2004, when George W. Bush ran for office.
Here's Broder, however, carrying on as if having a former President sitting in the White House as First Gentleman is a threat to our republican form of government. Of course, there is a sexist background to this that Broder leaves unspoken; a wife is in need of protection and guidance from her husband, so there are all sorts of "dangers" inherent in this situation.
As for the health care reform proposal that crashed and burned, that can be laid at the doorstep of two groups - the Republican Party that mounted an all-out, fact-free attack upon the proposal (I am tired of hearing about socialized medicine as if it is the end of true medicine as we know it; I want socialized medicine, so I do not understand how it can be bad) and Washington-based insider journalists like Broder who carried on during the entire "debate" as if the positions of the two parties were of equal merit. The Democrats has a proposal on the table that was workable, comprehensive, hardly radical at all, and supported (at least early on) by the American people. The Republicans waged a PR offensive with a phony bill, TV spots that mischaracterized the Democratic plan, and the journalists pretended they were two equal but opposite serious policy choices rather than one serious policy choice and a chess piece in a power play by Republicans.
Be that as it may, Broder's "concern" over having Bill Clinton in the White House is meaningless. Anyone's "concern" over having Bill Clinton in the White House is meaningless. Broder is the guy, after all, who feels the Clinton's "trashed the place [Washington] and it's not their place", so anything he says about the Clinton's will be forever tainted by this kind of Village snobbery.
More to the point, like Bill Clinton's infidelity, this is only an issue because blowhards like Broder make it one. We do not elect the First Family; they are the unfortunate baggage that accompanies a President, and have only become celebrities in their own right with the rise of our ubiquitous tabloid culture and its desire for ever more famous people to stalk, photograph, and pretend are important. Bill Clinton is indeed healthy, vibrant, brilliant, and voluble. The issue is not so much that he is a former President, but that he is a man, and his wife, who could be, possibly, President of the United States, is a woman. It seems that Broder can't imagine a husband deferring to his wife on issues of importance in public, professional matters.
I suppose I would whine a bit about the "Clinton Rules", as I do not remember Broder, who pimped Libby Dole's aborted Presidential run as if it were the most exciting thing in the world, ever once typing a column in which he wondered about the professional relationship between Sen. Dole and her husband, former Sen. Dole. This is true, and probably significant, but hardly the point here.
The truth is, Broder hates the Clintons. He does not like the fact that he is an uppity, southern White Trash governor who managed to have a successful, two-term Presidency despite the best efforts of some of Broder's buddies, or even listening to the sage advice of the Aristotle of the Potomac. He likes Hillary even less because she is a woman who would presume to know more about public policy than Broder (she does) and has the temerity to run for President. If she wins, Broder's "place" is in for at least four if not eight more years of "trashing" and he wants to fight that off at all costs.
UPDATE: David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo reminds readers that less than a week ago Broder pledged, during an on-line forum, not to write about the Clinton marriage. Since this doesn't involve S-E-X, I suppose Broder doesn't consider it part of his pledge. Yet, he does write about the marriage.
UPDATE II: Digby keeps her narrative of Washington Insiders "disappearing" President Bush alive by pointing out the sneaky way Broder writes of a Hillary Presidency as if it were a direct succession.
I wrote the other day that the Village was disappearing Bush and were portraying the Clinton candidacy as a direct succession. Never have we seen it more starkly than this. The most powerful Vice President in history,a man who chose himself for the office, who has operated a presidency within a presidency, who even submitted the novel defense that his office wasn't part of the executive branch (with the attendant implication that he didn't answer to the president), who came into office with express purpose of enshrining the "unitary executive", and who insisted that all decisions be routed to him before they went to the president --- that guy, David Broder hasn't had a problem with.
Bill Clinton coming in a trashing the place with his presence? Houston, we have a problem.
In contrast to what I just wrote in regards to Glenn Greenwald, this is serious media and political criticism done the way it should be.