I just watched Tom Brokaw's interview with Bill Clinton on Meet The Press. Tom asked Bill if -- given how Bill refers to John McCain as a great man -- he would say the same thing about Barack Obama. I thought Bill Clinton's answer was very instructive... and very appropriately supportive of what an Obama presidency would mean for America.
Bill Clinton said Barack Obama is potentially great and that his greatness will come out... will be demonstrated... in what he does once he becomes president. Bill essentially said that you cannot be a great man until you have done great things. Bill acknowledged that Barack has accomplished a lot from a standpoint of seeing the political future and, as a result, being able to win the battle to become the Democratic nominee. (And Bill actually appeared to be at peace with the fact that Hillary lost to Barack.)
But what he was saying was that Barack's true greatness will arise in what he does as president, not as a candidate for president. And this I agree with 100 percent.
Bill Clinton said that John McCain is a great man for what he's done in the past, including coming back from Vietnam and deciding to continue serving his country as a politician rather than getting a medal and just living the (potentially marginal) life of a former POW who had been horribly tortured. He did not say that John McCain was a great man for what he could do for American as president.
By saying Barack Obama is potentially great... by saying Barack Obama sees the future and is very capable of leveraging that vision for political success, Bill Clinton was saying that Barack Obama knows where he thinks America needs to go... where American can go... and where, from Bill and Hillary's perspective, American must go.
Bill Clinton sees that both Barack Obama and America's best days are ahead... and that both Barack and America's future greatness are linked.
This was about as great an endorsement as I can imagine Barack Obama getting.
Our best days are ahead of us, as we all work to clean up the mess that the Bush/Cheney/Rove/McCain wing of the Republican party have made of America.
There are individually great people in the Republican party (including John McCain).... but what Bill Clinton was saying is it's Barack Obama who has the potential to lead America to a new and better place. Here is the video of Bill Clinton's interview...
And here is the text of the relevant part of that interview...
Mr. Brokaw: You know, we like to keep track of records here on Meet the Press, as you're well aware of. We looked at this interview that Tim did with you a year ago at the Clinton Initiative -- Global Initiative, and at that time you predicted that John McCain would be the Republican nominee, at a time when a lot of people thought he was...
Pres. Clinton: He was dead.
Mr. Brokaw: ...toast, in political terms. But you said as well, at that time, "I've disagreed with him, but I have admired him." And then to Maria Bartiromo last week you said, "I have never concealed my admiration and affection for Senator McCain. I think he's a great man. But I think on the issues, that matter to our future, the Obama-Biden team is more right."
Pres. Clinton: I do believe that. I think Senator Obama has shown a remarkable ability to learn and grow in this campaign. He always was highly intelligent and always a very good politician. He, he got the change--the fundamental change in, in the calendar of this Democratic primary process of which we were engaged, his energy program kept getting better through the campaign, his healthcare program kept getting better. I, I, I think what you want in a president at a time like this is somebody with good instincts who generally starts in a right position and then just keeps getting better and that's what he's done.
Mr. Brokaw: Would you use the same words for him that you have used for Senator McCain, that you admire him and that you think he's a good...
Pres. Clinton: I certainly...
Mr. Brokaw: ...and that he's a great man?
Pres. Clinton: Well, I don't, look, I had my first conversation with him in my entire life in Harlem.
Mr. Brokaw: You had never talked to him before that meeting.
Pres. Clinton: No, I'd talked to him, but always in passing. I did a fundraiser for him when he ran for the Senate in 2004. I saw him briefly at Senator Kennedy's 75th birthday party. I had always, you know, I always--Hillary's the one who told me to go help him. She said, "This guy's got real skills. He's got almost unlimited potential." And I--she--so I did and I've always thought he was a really commanding presence. What I mean by saying that about McCain is, you know, most people would've been broken by what he went through. Oh, we would've been happy just to give him an "atta boy" and a medal and let him wander through life. I, I think his greatness is that he keeps trying to come back to service without ever asking people to cut him any slack or feel sorry for him or any of that stuff because he was a POW. But I, I genuinely, you know, I am developing a really good relationship with Senator Obama and I certainly admire him. And I know he saw and imagined the way this thing could develop, this political year and this, and this economic situation in a way that is left him in a position of leadership that he's in now. And I think that the rest of us should admire that. That's a big part of leadership, being able to sense, as well as see the future.
Mr. Brokaw: But I get the sense that you think that he has the potential for greatness, but he's not yet arrived at that station.
Pres. Clinton: Well, he would probably agree with that. I mean, he was, you know, until he was in the State Senate until 2005 and then he began a campaign for president, which is, in all probability, will be successful, and those are very great accomplishments. But those are personal accomplishments. When he becomes president, he'll be doing things for the American people and for the world and he is--and the greatness will then become apparent because of the good he'll do. And I, I think that's what I very much believe is going to happen.