08/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Should Obama Put Bill Clinton to Work on Swinging Votes for Health Care Bill?

Bill Clinton has been uncharacteristically silent lately. Hillary, too, who has had to contend not only with a fractured elbow but also with a crew of Obama-appointed special envoys who cover the world's hot spots and condense her portfolio. She finally, this week, found her voice, responding to pundits' speculation that President Obama had managed brilliantly to sideline both her and her husband. She described herself as fully engaged as Secretary of State and quipped, "I broke my elbow, not my larynx."

She spoke for herself, not Bill. Yes, last May he too won a special envoy appointment, but his came from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, and it was not to the Middle East, where Hillary hinted during the primaries that she might send him after she moved into the Oval Office, or Afghanistan/Pakistan or North Korea-- but rather to....Haiti.

Here's an idea for President Obama. How about naming the former president and Arkansas governor, special envoy to ...his old friend and traveling companion, Arkansas Congressman Mike Ross? (Bill and Mike go way back; Mike volunteered in 1982 to drive Bill all over Arkansas when Clinton was running for governor).

Ross is now a four-termer representing the 4th District of Arkansas and he owes Bill Clinton big time. In 2000, about to leave office and seriously sidelined by his own vice president, Al Gore, Bill Clinton was pining to be out on the campaign trail. Clinton traveled to the district the Sunday before the election to speak for Ross and to bring out the African American vote--the 4th District has the state's largest population of blacks. Without the boost from Clinton, Ross might have lost to the republican incumbent, Jay Dickey--a man whom the President had vowed to defeat as payback for Dickey's voting for Clinton's impeachment . While Bill's appearance in Arkansas didn't keep George W. Bush from winning the state, it did put shove Ross over the finish line--with 51 percent of the vote.

Now Ross, a leading Blue Dog Democrat, said his group has enough votes --seven members, perhaps as many as 10-- to derail Obama's health care bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Perhaps Bill Clinton, who knows something about losing the fight for national health care, can persuade Ross to change his mind.

As I discovered while writing Clinton in Exile, a book about Bill Clinton's post presidency, it's often unclear where exactly Bill Clinton's interests reside. Is it to the Clintons' advantage for Obama to succeed in a mega-reform of health care -or not? It depends on what the definition of ..... 2012 is.