Bubba being told by top Democrats to back off

Here’s an interesting tidbit of news, via Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter:

Prominent Democrats are upset with the aggressive role that Bill Clinton is playing in the 2008 campaign, a role they believe is inappropriate for a former president and the titular head of the Democratic Party. In recent weeks, Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, both currently neutral in the Democratic contest, have told their old friend heatedly on the phone that he needs to change his tone and stop attacking Sen. Barack Obama, according to two sources familiar with the conversations who asked for anonymity because of their sensitive nature. Clinton, Kennedy and Emanuel all declined to comment.

On balance, aides to both Bill and Hillary still see Bill as a huge net plus in fund-raising, attracting large crowds and providing a megaphone to raise doubts about Obamaβ€”even if some of those doubts are distortions. But there’s concern that in hatcheting the Illinois senator and losing his temper with the news media (last week he thrashed a San Francisco TV reporter for asking about a lawsuit filed by Clinton-backing teachers union members to limit the number of Nevada caucuses), Clinton is drawing down his political capital and harming his role as a global statesman. “This is excruciating,” says a member of the Clintons’ circle, who asked for anonymity. “But the stakes couldn’t be higher. It’s worth it to tarnish himself a bit now to win the presidency.”

During a December taping with PBS’s Charlie Rose, a frustrated Clinton called Obama “a roll of the dice,” as aides tried to end the interview. Then, in New Hampshire, he argued angrily that the story of Obama’s principled position on the Iraq War was a “fairy tale,” a charge few reporters bought. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the top-ranking African-American in Congress and officially neutral, found Clinton’s tone insulting and said so publicly.

When the former president called Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat gave Clinton an earful, telling him that he bore some blame for the injection of race into the contest. In any event, both Hillary and Obama made peace on the race issue at the Las Vegas debate. The Clinton camp now fears that Kennedy is leaning toward Obama, according to the Clinton source, though Kennedy’s office says he is making no endorsement “at this time.”

This is an issue we talked a little bit about last night on BlogTalkRadio w/ Rick Moran, after The Nation and more mainstream news outlets began to note that even though Hillary had won Nevada, she actually ended up with one less delegate than Barack Obama, which led to me suggesting that we’d probably see a red-faced Bill Clinton on one of the talking head shows today complaining about it. I argued that it was unusual to see Bill Clinton play this aggressive “bad cop” role, because, if you remember during his presidency, the only time we ever saw him get red-faced was when he was denying the affair with Monica Lewinsky.

But over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a different side of Bill Clinton. One who sheds his “uniter” skin when faced with tough questions about his counterterrorism record. More recently, we’ve seen it with some of the incidents Alter mentioned, such as his accusation that Obama’s Iraq record was a “fairy tale” and his getting upset with ABC7 reporter Mark Matthews when questioned about the lawsuit filed by Clinton supporters that would have, essentially, disenfranchised Hispanic and black voters who worked the casinos along the Las Vegas strip. Ironically enough, when all the counting was done, Hillary Clinton won most of those votes.

What’s happening here isn’t rocket science. Barack Obama represents a changing of the guard, while the Clintons represent the old guard. The Clintons have both been involved in Democratic party politics for so long, with so many Democrats looking to them (more so Bill than Hillary) for political advice and endorsements, and help with campaign strategy, that it’s almost like they feel like they are “owed” the nomination as a reward of sorts for all the work they’ve done for the Democratic party. You’ve got this young upstart in Barack Obama, who threatens their hold on a party whose modern day version they helped build up, and naturally you’re going to see them fight to try and maintain their status as king and queen of the Democratic party.

Hillary Clinton had such an advantage in most of the polls going into the caucuses and primaries that she and her husband probably assumed that the race to the nomination was going to be a cakewalk. But they’ve found out that rather than it being handed to them they’re having to work for it, because the competition isn’t the pushover that they had anticipated. They fiercely resent having to work for a nomination they felt should have been in the bag as a payback for all they’ve done for the Democratic party. As a result, expect more Bill Clinton outbursts in the weeks to come, especially after what I anticipate to be a loss by a sizeable margin to Obama in next Saturday’s SC Dem primary.

Cross-posted to Right Wing News, where I am helping guestblog for John Hawkins on Sundays.

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