Bill Clinton, famous as president for polling about where he, Hillary, and Chelsea should vacation (Jackson Hole, Wyoming), cannot be happy about last week's Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll which found that, for the first time in five years, more Americans were just about as likely to have an unfavorable as a favorable view of the former president.
Having revived his trashed (legitimately by pardons, illegitimately by alleged ripoffs of mementos on Air Force One and furniture from the White House) reputation after leaving the White House, Clinton reached impressive positive public ratings (60 percent) as he became a crusader for the public good at home and, especially, in Africa.
He has been on the public opinion roller coaster so often that he surely knows that he'll be back up again when Hillary wins the nomination and he can have the best time ever at the convention in Denver. Even if things don't go that gloriously and the Denver convention is the site of a bloody battle between Obama and Hillary; and even if he doesn't get to move back into the White House in November 2008, Bill Clinton knows he'll come back.
He'll craft some show stopper good work and the public's short attention span will, once again, he knows, work in his favor. Can he assume again the rock star president title? Will news of his six-figure speaking fees and front-page investigations of smelly business dealings be neutralized? Yes and yes.
The other thing that Bill Clinton knows is that he can bend and fracture the facts at will and few will remember. As reported by CNN and Politico's, here's just a sample of what could be characterized, in congressional testimony parlance, as misstatements, or, in plain English, as lies:
--Clinton claimed in a weekend interview in New Orleans with CNN's Sean Callebs that reports that he turned negative in the campaign in South Carolina are "a total myth and a mugging." He argued that of course African Americans are going to support one of their own. In fact, Bill Clinton certainly knows as well as anyone that just a year ago Hillary held a double-digit lead over Obama among African Americans. Bill Clinton's calling Obama's Iraq war stance a "fairy tale" and his comparison of Obama's win in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson's wins there in 1984 and 1988 contributed to Hillary's losing that advantage and losing it big. Obama picked up 80-90 percent of that vote. Bill supported his claim by quoting his friend, Charles Rangel, the prominent African American congressman, who helped to persuade Hillary that she could run and win as senator from New York even though she had never lived there and had never held elective office; the man who saved Bill Clinton from the toxic publicity generated by his selection of high-rent offices in midtown Manhattan and planted the legacy-saving idea that Bill put his offices in Harlem. The former president told the CNN reporter that Rangel said "in unequivocal terms...that no one in our campaign played any race card, that we had some played against us but we didn't play any." What?
--In a conversation with students at Tulane University, Bill Clinton took heated exception to being described as "the insider from Washington." "I'm not in politics anymore," Clinton responded. Really? This is the same man who has been lobbying hard any politician and super delegate he can find to support Hillary. This is the same man who urged his wife and her campaign honchos to go negative early on Barack Obama before he could become the rock star candidate. ("Rock star" is an appellation Bill Clinton likes to have attached to his own name.)
As someone who has spent the last two years thinking and writing about Bill Clinton, I have learned that a sure sign that he might be preparing to unleash a whopper is not only finger wagging, but also added emphasis as in --quoted in Politico-- "Contrary to the myth, I went through South Carolina and never said a bad word about Sen. Obama--not one."
Does the former president believe this? Maybe. Or perhaps it just depends on what the definition of "bad word" is.