Quote of The Day: The Rehabilitation of Bill and Hillary Clinton As The Conventional Wisdom Errs Again


Our political Quote of the Day comes from the Atlantic’s always perceptive Marc Ambinder who notes how former President Bill Clinton has rebounded and how “those talented Clintons are “defying Expectations Again,” thus providing yet another example of how conventional wisdom often withers when matched later reality.

Ambinder recalls two warnings President Barack Obama got from some when he decided to choose then-Senator Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State: (1) Bill Clinton would embarrass the administration, and (2)the Clintons would be undisciplined, would leak and would create a counter administration within the Obama administration.

The reality? Ambinder:

Turns out… those Clintons really do know how to seize the moment. Not only has Hillary Clinton been a team player, her team — still made up of loyalists — doesn’t leak. They don’t try to undercut other power centers. (No, I don’t think the Gregory Craig rumors are coming from State. And I don’t put much stock in those rumors either.) They’re humble and effective. When they make mistakes, they get things right, quickly.

And Bill Clinton… his “entanglements” haven’t been an issue. Either have his library donors or his foreign travels. He’s behaved himself in public, by which I mean he has never undermined the administration’s policy arguments, even going so far as to agree with their Clinton-era-corrections to policy approaches. He has not upstaged his wife. He’s matured since the presidential campaign. He now seems to understand the way news cycles work in the Net era. And today, as we’ve seen, he can — and will — drop everything at a moment’s notice to do the administration a favor.

And perhaps that is it.

Perhaps “Big Dog” (not to be confused with “Blue Dog”) has finally got a grasp on how the news cycles work in the Net era. During the campaign, Bill Clinton seemed a bitter, angry man who seemed to let his hopes for his wife and anger against strong political opposition to her seemingly, seriously, cloud his political skills – which some analysts had long said were among the best of his generation.

Perhaps it’s because Hillary Clinton has settled into a job with professionalism and has the respect of Obama and others within the administration — but now Bill Clinton has rebounded in a flash, wiping away all the nastiness of politically foot-in-mouth pronouncements made during the campaign that often made Joe Biden seem diplomatic.

Meanwhile, the idea of the Clinton’s as a team — does anyone really think that Hillary Clinton simply woke up one day to learn that her husband had contacted the White House himself or that the White House had contacted her without the two having discussed it? — rides again. As does the image of the Clintons as a team, except among some talk show hosts…but can you write quotes of what those folks will say and the kinds of questions they will raise in advance.

The whole episode also underscores two realities about 21st century America:

1. Analysis is done on the spur of the moment and can be part of a conventional wisdom that can be proven wrong as quickly as it was written or articulated. The dynamics can change rapidly and shatter the once-certain conventional wisdom announced with assuredness by talking heads on cable news shows, screaming hosts and guests on cable political talk shows, or the (ideologically predictable) analysis of most left and right talk show hosts. Once that conventional wisdom has been proven wrong, few will acknowledge that it had been that: wrong. (It doesn’t matter to a network that wehther you read the tea leaves wrong it’s wrong, just that you are confident as you try to read them. Look at Dick Morris.)

2. Political rehabilitation can happen mega quickly in American politics — this is tied in with the conventional wisdom — where someone who seemingly is down is suddenly up in the media and with pundits, and polls about them subsequently start to rise as the new narrative spreads in the old and new media.But diisgrace and discredit can come just as easily (look at CNN’s Lou Dobbs who went from being a quirky business reporter angry about illegal immigration to someone now branded as being obsessed with talking about the “birther” allegations: it’s unlikely Dobbs will recover since he has so tarnished blemished his image as a serious, thoughtful mainstream network figure on this one).

Meanwhile, what about North Korea? Did Bill Clinton’s mission signal a turning point?

Hillary Clinton, using the Today Show as her microphone, warned that just because North Korea released the two journalists no one should expect diplomatic miracles:

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UPDATE: CNN has a fascinating report sourced “two senior officials” in the Obama administration done “on background” (their names will not be used. It’s a series of points. Here are just a few of them:

*President Obama never spoke directly with former President Clinton about this issue, the officials said.

*During a phone call with their families in mid-July, the journalists told their relatives that they had been informed by the North Koreans that they would be willing to grant them amnesty if an envoy like former President Clinton would come to Pyongyang to secure their release.

*During the weekend of July 24 and 25, President Clinton spoke with National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones about his willingness to take on this mission.

*Clinton ultimately agreed to go on the mission but made it very clear in every communication that this was purely a humanitarian effort.

*Clinton also wanted to make sure, based on the due diligence of the national security team, that there was a high likelihood of success if he went. One official said: “We were convinced this would be the result and based on that we could advise President Clinton that his trip was going to be successful.”

*It was always made clear by Clinton and the national security team that this would be a humanitarian mission.

There’s a great more, so go to the original link.

Meanwhile, the somewhat predictable response from some conservatives has now started — and the argument made by one former top Bush administration official is likely one that will be echoed repeatedly on talk radio and elsewhere:

The Obama administration is rewarding North Korea for its bad behavior by sending ex-president Bill Clinton to Pyongyang to win the release of two US journalists, the former US ambassador to the UN said Tuesday.

John Bolton, an outspoken hardliner in the previous administration of George W. Bush, told AFP that Clinton’s mission to Pyongyang undermines a number of public stands held by his own wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It comes perilously close to negotiating with terrorists,” Bolton told AFP when asked about Bill Clinton’s trip to secure the release of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

The pair were sentenced in June to 12 years in a labor camp for an illegal border crossing and an unspecified “grave crime,” after they were detained by North Korean border guards on March 17 while working on a story.

“I think this is a very bad signal because it does exactly what we always try and avoid doing with terrorists, or with rogue states in general, and that’s encouraging their bad behavior,” Bolton said.

Go to the link and read the story in its entirety.

Translation: soft on terrorism…negotiating with terrorists. Get ready to hear (and read) this argument picked up and perhaps embellished and enlarged on some talk shows.