THE BLOG
10/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bill Clinton's Legacy?

Since Bill Clinton launched his Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in 2005, the annual September meeting (just passed) has cast the former president as an international superstar. His CGI, labeled by one aide "a cause, not a conference," surpassed Davos as the place to be seen and his work on alleviating some of the world's biggest problems -- energy and climate change, global health, poverty, religious and ethnic conflict -- earned him ecstatic front page newspaper stories, network interviews and the prospect of a Nobel Peace Prize.

In my book on Clinton's post presidency, Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, I wrote extensively about how important the CGI is in the legacy building that was going swimmingly -- until Bill Clinton went all out to campaign for his wife for the Democratic nomination. His outbursts, his seeming to interject race into the contest, sent his approval ratings plummeting.

This year, the 4th CGI has just passed -- it's deliberately timed to coincide with the meeting of the General Assembly-- and Clinton has had plenty of media. What the viewer and reader takes away from it all this time around, however, is that the former president is not really supporting Barack Obama, that he is hoping that John McCain wins so that he and Hillary can get going on her campaign for the nomination in 2012.

Darrell Hammond's take on Bill Clinton on last night's Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update" showed just how much damage the former president has done to his reputation -- satire yes, but enough truth in it to make any political watcher nod in agreement.

There he is again obviously hyping McCain, showing his reluctance to really push for Obama. And then there are the old jokes taking the viewer back to Bill Clinton caught in lies about Gennifer Flowers (1992) and Monica Lewinsky (1998). Asked about Sarah Palin he appears to turn his answer into a riff on persuading a reluctant woman to be okay with oral sex.

Bill Clinton's legacy seems to need a bit more work at the moment; it'll need a lot more work if John McCain happens to win on November 4.