At a GOP primary debate in January 2008, the late, great Tim Russert of NBC asked candidate Mitt Romney the following question: “Governor Romney… if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she'll be running as a team with her husband. Specifically, how would you run against Hillary and Bill Clinton in November? “
To uproarious laughter, Romney answered: “…the idea of Bill Clinton back in the White House with nothing to do is something I just can't imagine….”
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Now it’s a little more than a month to Election Day 2016, and the question isn’t what will Bill be doing on Pennsylvania Avenue; it’s how much in these closing days of the campaign is he going to hurt Hillary’s chances of getting there?
Yesterday, the former president took a shot at Obamacare, the signature domestic issue of Barack Obama who along with his wife Michelle has been frequently and forcefully promoting the candidacy of the onetime rival he appointed Secretary of State.
In the context of a 40-minute speech Bill gave in Flint, Michigan, his comments about health care were linear and probably correct. He said the Republican answer to America’s health care conundrum was to let the markets figure it out, and that didn’t work out so well: “We wound up with the most expensive system in the world and we insured the smallest percentage of people. On the other hand, the current system works fine if you’re eligible for Medicaid…if you’re already on Medicare or if you get enough subsidies on a modest income that you can afford your healthcare.
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Then he launched into his tirade about one of the biggest flaws in the Affordable Care Act. Watch this video:
Bill’s right. That is crazy. It’s also crazy to say that in the heat of the last days of the campaign and right before Hillary’s next debate with Donald Trump.
From her primary campaign against Bernie Sanders right up until today, Hillary has had to haul around all her Bill Baggage. No wonder she was worn out and got pneumonia.
Against Bernie, she had to cast herself as a proponent of criminal justice reform without prosecuting Bill for signing the 1994 crime bill that many believe contributed to the mass incarceration of young black men, including activists in the Black Lives Matter movement. To be fair, she herself spoke in favor of the legislation at the time and is still defending herself against using the term “super-predators” to describe those it was aimed at. But it would have been a lot easier to apologize and move on if she could have disavowed the law entirely.
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Against both Sanders and Trump, she has had to absorb criticism of NAFTA, the trade deal with Mexico and Canada that both her Democratic and Republican opponents claim stole jobs from American workers. If Bill hadn’t pushed the agreement through, Hillary could be joining in the criticism and pointing out that the North American Trade Agreement was originally devised during the Republican administration of George H.W. Bush and became a pivot point of attack against Bush by third-party candidate Ross Perot in the election of 1992. But no.
Bill’s sometimes ill-tempered remarks during the primary campaign of 2008, such as calling Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen,” not only made it seem to some that he was sabotaging Hillary’s shot at the nomination, but also so damaged relations with African-American voters that it took years to repair.
And Bill’s rambling Valentine to his bride of 41 years at the Democratic National Convention was unnerving to many.
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Trump smugly crowed in the first debate about his gentlemanly restraint in not bringing up Bill’s sexual dalliances, but there remains the distinct possibility that he will hit Hillary with below-the-belt jabs in the second round on Sunday night in St. Louis. For all his billions, the man has the class of a gold-plated neck chain from Kmart.
And now he has the Obamacare haymaker to throw at her.
The best thing Bill can do for Hillary between now and November 8 is button it. Mouth and wherever.