Does it always - ALWAYS - have to be about the Clintons?
This is the question on Day 1 of the Democratic convention. About a week and a half ago, the Denver Post previewed the convention with a story about how the Clinton forces are attempting to make the first two days of this convention a celebration of the Clintons - and Clintonism. As one Clinton ally told the newspaper, "We want to make this all about her."
Now, on the first day of the Democratic convention, top Clinton aide Howard Wolfson has taken to the pages of The New Republic to publish a screed demanding Barack Obama use the convention to make amends with Bill Clinton. Wolfson writes:
"There is still work to do on the Bill Clinton front. He feels like the Obama campaign ran against and systematically dismissed his administration's accomplishments. And he feels like he was painted as a racist during the primary process."
As disgusting and disingenuous as this is, it is pretty predictable. The Clintons are doing everything they can to make this convention all about them - and to absolve themselves from the substantive criticism of both Clintonism and Bill Clinton's behavior on the campaign.
Yes, many of the Obama campaign's themes indict the Clinton record - and rightly so, because so much of the country has turned against Clintonism. In places like Wisconsin and Indiana, Obama turned the primary into a referendum on the Clinton-backed NAFTA-style trade policies that have decimated the heartland swing-states that will decide the 2008 election. According to polls by the Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine and CNN, those policies are now wildly unpopular - and Obama is capitalizing on the populist anger they have fostered.
No, Bill Clinton was not "painted as a racist" - he was a racist during the campaign. He famously downplayed Obama as a new Jesse Jackson - a not-so-subtle attempt to tie Obama to all the unfair and racially-charged animosity regularly directed at Jackson. The Clinton campaign told the Associated Press that Obama was "the black candidate." And perhaps worst of all, Bill Clinton claimed the Obama campaign "played the race card on me" - a clear attempt to stoke the usual anti-affirmative action backlashes that mark so many campaigns.
That Clinton's top surrogates are now saying Obama's major task is to appease Bill Clinton - rather than, say, win the election - shows just how egomaniacal the Clintons really are.
What Obama should respond with is a very simple directive: President Clinton, please exit stage Right.