Just when every poll has Hillary Rodham Clinton slipping, she has gotten a shot in the arm from a very unlikely source: President Bush.
In an interview on Tuesday featuring the first couple and Charles Gibson, the president said of Hillary: "No question, there is no question that Clinton understands pressure better than any of the candidates, you know, in the race because she lived in the White House and sees it first — could see it first-hand."
By saying that she “understands the klieg lights,” Bush lent credence to Hillary’s campaign assertion that she could “hit the ground running” if she were elected president.
Would somebody please explain to us what Bush is doing, touting Hillary just as the rest of America is finally catching on to her artificial, evasive and contrived campaigning style?
This is not the first time Bush has rescued the Clintons. After they left the White House, both the former president and the new senator had low ratings in the polls. Beset by scandal — the White House gifts, the pardons-for-sale, the payments to Hillary’s brothers for pardons, the Hasidic vote-for-pardon scandal, and Bill’s nolo contender plea to obstructing justice — Bill and Hillary were sucking wind.
But, Bush swept in for the rescue, picking the former president off the ash heap of history and elevating him to parity with his father in a two-former-president effort to raise funds for the tsunami victims. By giving him a respected place alongside a former president of unquestioned integrity, Bush gave Clinton a tremendous way to climb out of disgrace and into the limelight.
Then, when the tsunami relief effort was winding down, he re-enlisted former President Clinton to work with his father again on helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Not only did Bush help the Clintons in positive ways, but he let his justice department drop the investigations of the pardons, the gifts, the payments to Hillary’s brothers and the Hasidic vote scandal with no prosecution or plea dealings.
Then Bush let Clinton off the hook another time when the former president’s former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger was caught smuggling classified documents relating to 9/11 and the war on terror out of the National Archives in his pockets and socks. The Bush Justice Department accepted a plea deal with Berger which did not require him to say what documents he had taken and why he had swiped them. As a result, we never knew what aspect of the Clinton record on terrorism Berger was so anxious to cover up.
All of this kid glove treatment of the former first couple led to jokes about how George W. and Bill are the two children of President George H.W. Bush. Now the president is going easy on his putative sister-in-law, Hillary.
The fact is that Hillary has no idea what it is like to be president. Unlike Bill, she did not have to face the media daily and could keep them at arms
length as she toured the world, acting like a tourist, in carefully contrived photo opportunities. When she was really involved in public policy — during the health reform debate — her insistence on the secrecy of the proceedings led to a federal court order and judgment against her.
Is President Bush deliberately helping Hillary to win the nomination because he feels she would be the easiest one of the Democrats to beat? If he is, he’s making a serious mistake. She is the only Democrat who can bring 10 million new single female voters out of the woodwork to sway the election.
Or, is it an ex-president thing? A kind of exclusive club of former chiefs who treat one another with kindness, civility and bend over backwards to show respect? Whether it is through political miscalculation or elitism that Bush caters to Hillary Clinton, he should stop it. Every day, she bashes him full time on the campaign trail. His kind words for her are so out of place, they are jarring.
President George W. Bush has done quite enough to aid the election of Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States already, thank you. Without his generosity to Bill and his refusal to prosecute matters that could embarrass the Clintons, he bears a great deal of responsibility already for Hillary’s rise to front-runner status in the Democratic primary.
© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann