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Thomas de Zengotita

Thomas de Zengotita

Posted: February 17, 2007 11:05 AM

Where's Bill Clinton?

Oh, we hear a lot about him. Hillary mentions him on the campaign trail all the time. Referencing "their administration" is a big plus for her.

In the primaries.

And we also hear that he's busy on the phone, rounding up support--especially among African-Americans. As what Toni Morrison called America's "first black president," ole Bill is Hillary's secret weapon against the identity challenged Obama. It's really Bill they love, not her. She's used to that, and she'll take every advantage of their affection--which will count for so much.

In the primaries.

Hence, secret weapon. We hear about him, but we don't see him. They can't go on hiding him and using him at the same time indefinitely, but just how to locate Bill is a major issue for Team Hillary. Forget the "he's such a charismatic communicator he would overshadow her" problem. That's real enough, but it's not the big worry.

Here's an analogy: we all understand why she resists an outright "mistake" and "apology" statement about her Iraq vote--even though it would help her so much, right?

In the primaries, that is.

But not in the general election. Not running against McCain or Giuliani for Commander in Chief in the Age of Terror. Don't forget, chances are there will be at least one major terror event between now and '08. Don't forget, McCain and Giuliani will blame the Iraq mess on Bush too--but they'll be saying he wasn't aggressive enough. No, Hillary can't afford to have ads in the general election that show her "weakening" on anything.

Bill presents a parallel problem. To see why, picture the traditional climax (oops!) of the nominating convention, that moment when the candidate is joined on stage by the spouse and the would-be first couple's hands are joined, uplifted to the cheers of the multitude.

Sweet vindication, for some, no doubt. But In middle America--among the independent voters Hillary must have to win--that image will carry a yuck factor. A wave of nausea is going to ripple across that sector of the population at the thought of them living in the White House again, at the thought of them being in those same rooms, including the room where he, well, you know. That will always be there.

So where's Bill? That's going to be the trickiest problem of all for Team Hilary--staging his place.