Bill And Hillary's Experienced Lies

With her sad and fruitless attempt at attacking Barack Obama's kindergarten ambitions behind her (by the way, who in her campaign hunted down and interrogated his teacher, and under what pretense?), Hillary Clinton is back on the Obama-no-experience track, a safer, if not necessarily more productive approach.

To that effect, she now associates herself with the non-threatening single-digit crew (Bill Richardson, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd) and their combined 88 years in elected public office, ignoring the fact that she is far closer in experience to Obama than she is to them. As was her husband when he first considered running for president in 1988: kicked out of the Arkansas governor's office by voters in 1980 (returning in 1982), he skipped the '88 contest to succeed Ronald Reagan. When he did run, in 1992, he had a total of 12 years as chief executive of a small, poor state with few international links. Despite some successes (notably in education), after a straight 10 years in office, Governor Clinton barely managed to lift his state from poorest in the country to second poorest, just a hair ahead of Mississippi.

Nonetheless, he went on to win the nomination, defeat an incumbent president and rule for eight years. Whatever one's assessment of his presidency, clearly he did not run the country into the ground, regardless of his previous experience, or lack thereof. But now, in true Clinton style (a mix of chutzpah and straight lying), Bill lectures Obama about waiting his turn, as he says he did in 1988. Of course, we know this is not true, because it never is, but it's also nice to know that people close to the Clintons remember things differently, specifically that he backed away from running then because of concerns about his womanizing in the wake of the Gary Hart scandal.

Besides Bill's relative success as president, there is no clearer affirmation that experience is not all it's cracked up to be than Hillary, Biden and Dodd's vote in favor of the Iraq war resolution, despite (or is it because of?) their accumulated wisdom. All three of them long ago forfeited their right to lecture anyone on foreign policy, let alone one (Obama) who opposed the pointless, devastating war they started and that they now claim they have the experience to end.

Established politicians like to claim that in a post-9/11, post-Iraq, post-Katrina world, experience counts more than ever. But 9/11, Iraq and the Katrina disgrace happened on their watch, and sometimes with their active participation. Why would we trust that things would be any different now, and why have their mistakes (or their cynicism) earned them a right to a promotion? Some observers dismiss Obama's original anti-war stance as being not risky because he did so from the safety of the Illinois state senate. That presumes there was a risk for those who voted for the war from the discomfort of Congress, and the question is fear of what? Voters? Do we really think that Clinton would have had trouble getting reelected in New York for being anti-war? Senators from states far less liberal than hers, such as Florida, Michigan or Wisconsin, voted against the war. So was it fear of voters nationally that was spurring this hawkishness?

In a satisfying twist, those national voters have turned against the war and are giving Obama a second look, partly because of his original stance on the war. Of course, the fact that Hillary is caught wrong-footed again, this time on Iran, does not enhance the tale that her experience leads to good judgment.

If she played it right, Hillary could probably drive home the point that Obama lacks experience, but instead she unravels, and accuses him of being ambitious and dishonest: how ironic is that?

For years, many of us have been in awe of the Clintons, really in awe: a little scared and a little admiring. But the spell finally broke in the past couple of weeks, when both halves of the couple looked a little ridiculous, and a little desperate.

She, tone-deaf as so often (did she not talk about one-night stands with her middle-aged rural audience this week?), went for her version of the jugular, Obama's musings as a 5-year-old. Her husband, a practiced liar, tried to get away with the biggest lie he could think of: that he had always opposed the war in Iraq.

After the hundreds of polls, focus groups, and various analyses they and others have paid for, surely the Clintons know by now that their Achilles' heel is their unbearable prevarication. It goes to show how deeply embedded this deceptiveness is that these two smart, accomplished actors are simply unable to even pretend to be honest.

After seven years of George W. Bush, and two uninspiring Democratic presidential candidates in Al Gore and John Kerry, we were really missing Bill, but next to Obama's fresh, open-faced, apparent candor, Bill is an unpleasant caricature of the lip-biting, mischievous, smart guy we loved back in the day. And lying about his support for a war that has had horrendous consequences is on another level altogether than covering up for sleeping with subalterns (in itself not a very pretty thing).

Hillary never oozed public charm, so there is no fading charisma there, but she should know better than to lash out about, of all things, another candidate's presidential ambitions.

And so here they are, looking annoyed, perhaps even angry, at the stupidity of voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere who are not giving them a free pass to their second presidency. Maybe the Clintons no longer have the fight in them. Or maybe they just need to feel cornered to get their juices going, in which case, it could get very ugly, especially in South Carolina if Hillary loses the first two states.