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.

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • Silhouette

    It’s possible that Obama welcomes the Clinton “interference”. Imagine trying to tackle all the stuff on the agenda with only one pair of capable hands?

  • Father_Time

    You know Mr. Gandelman, I don’t think we will be seeing President Clinton suddenly jump out of an Obama suit waving that long lost birth certificate.

    Notice the private Boeing Jet. No official government markings. No President Obama at the scene. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton…..in Nairobi!

    No overt commitment by the United States.

    No Clinton Team.

  • shannonlee

    The Clintons never needed rehab. They just needed time for Americans to forget what the conservatives and MSM wanted us to believe about them.

    Hillary is doing a great job and Bill just did a good thing. I never voted for Bill, but I thought he was a good President.

  • smithmj

    I think it is important to note the Obama administration and the Clintons worked together to achieve a safe resolution for these journalists. We should be proud that this was resolved without force or any negative connotations. The important thing is these journalists are home safely and our administration and former presidents work for the common goal, these journalists’ lives.

  • in my opinion this right-up is both classy and astute. . . . it’s a fitting match for the Clintons in this latest humanitarian diplomacy. . .

    may the next Rehab be politics of destruction on both sides. . . .

  • kritt11

    This is proof that narcissistic Bill CAN put aside his own humongous ego and use his substantial star power for the good of the Obama admin and America’s image abroad. I see this as the best way for him to simultaneously repair both his personal reputation and our country’s. Sometimes we forget just how popular he is outside the US, and how much good that can do.

    This was a smart move by all sides— Obama’s for not being too intimidated to ask him, Hillary’s for not worrying that he would overshadow her, and Bill’s by his willingness to help save the two journalists from a harsh fate.

  • shannonlee

    Kritt…the demonization of Bill and Hillary Clinton during the Dem nomination process made me ill. The way liberals turned on the Clintons for the greater glory of the lord and savior Obama was disgusting to say the least.

    I’ve lived and worked in numerous different countries….Bill Clinton is loved by almost everyone. I even ran into some Palestinians that said…”We really liked Bill Clinton”…and that was while we were bombing Iraq and no one liked America.

  • DLS

    1. Hype over the Clintons (or of a rare recent liberals’ or Democrats’ success, in contrast to the health care failures) is not justified.

    2. Does it mean that Obama had to rely on wiser as well as more-seasoned people to get a job done?

  • imavettoo

    Is there anyone on the planet John Bolton doesn’t hate and want to bomb into oblivion?

  • kritt11

    Its amazing that Bolton was chosen as a UN Ambassador— he doesn’t understand the first thing about diplomacy. He thinks that the US should lead by domination, intimidation,force and threats.

    When there’s a good outcome- of course he can’t celebrate it!

  • shannonlee

    It would be nice if the media would just ignore Bolton. He’s a man on an island…a very heavily armed island.

  • Jim_Satterfield

    At least Bolton is where he belongs, working in the AEI.

  • vkb

    Mr. Gandleman,

    You’ve reversed things quite a bit in this post. The MSM and the Left wing of the Democratic party, stealing the lies and smears of the right wing from the 90s, did their best to undermine Bill Clinton during the primary in order to bring Hillary down and give the nomination to Barack Obama. In recent news coverage, even the most Clinton-hating news outlets have been forced to take note of Bill Clinton’s stature and global star power. They’ve been a little less willing to acknowledge Hillary’s class and professionalism, but then we know they are for the most part a sexist, misogynist bunch.

  • Father_Time


    […a very heavily armed island]–lol

    …and he probably thinks he needs a concealed weapons permit.

  • DefiantOne

    “He’s matured since the presidential campaign.”

    “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…”

    False and false. I love it how when the media is proven wrong, they spin to make it seem as if they have been right. They were wrong about the Clintons, plain and simple.

    The only thing that happened to Bill Clinton during the campaign was that the Obama camp purposely, viciously, and divisively used the media to play the race card against him and his wife for statements which weren’t racist then or now. Obama and the media were wrong, not the Clintons. If anything has changed or matured, it’s the media’s analysis. Bill and Hillary have been the same: hardworking, intelligent, public servants dedicated to the Democratic party and the center-left consensus.

    The deranged Clinton haters keep throwing mud, manufacturing outrage, and changing their minds about the Clinton outrage based on the (usually wrong) conventional wisdom of the hour. Meanwhile, the Clintons just keep on doing what they do with success and competence. The same ole song.

  • Father_Time

    Something is wrong here. WHERE is George Bush??

    Did we trade him for the girls?!

    Now I’m not going to stand for this! George don’t like pumpkin soup AT ALL……

  • kritt11

    Wonder if GW is considering trying to repair his reputation— or still living in his bubble where the sky is always blue, apple pie abounds, and his approval ratings are twice his IQ!