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The Clinton Effect

Tuesday, 26 September 2006 12:00 AM

It was a win-win situation for former President Bill Clinton and Fox News on Sunday. Fox News (my employer) won by getting all the attention, the highest ratings since the capture of Saddam Hussein and the most views on YouTube.

The former president won by taking control of the national dialogue on the war on terrorism, such that he has everyone comparing President Bush's pre-9/11 record on hunting down Osama with his own, and in the process undercutting the Bush administration's claimed strength (the only one left) at fighting terror, which is why Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is most recently trying to put the issue behind us. She who says it's ancient history lost the war.

But the big winners, in the long run, may prove to be the Democrats, who were looking for a leader to get in front of the midterm parade and energize the base, rally the troops and provide the momentum for the final weeks of the campaign.

Which may make the big loser the man who Clinton has been yearning to defeat (if only Al Gore had let him) for all these years, along with his party.

Like him or hate him (I like him), there's no one on the scene quite like the former president. By one appearance on a news show that is otherwise rated behind its competitors, he changes the way the debate over the war on terror is conducted. One appearance, on Fox News, his first time on "Fox News Sunday." And he has everyone talking.

Coming on the eve of a national intelligence estimate finding that the war in Iraq is increasing the dangers of terrorism, and on the heels of the revolt in the Senate on the detainees bill, Clinton's popping up at center stage has put this president on the defensive on what has been the only issue where Republicans still hold an advantage over Democrats.

Is Clinton the October surprise?

The Democrats needed a leader to rally the base, give people a reason to reach into their pockets a second time, to push their passion buttons and remind them to care. Who better than the former president?

What better way to do it than to take on Republicans in a partisan attack on their strength?

Who better to do it than the man who has become a symbol of bipartisanship, global leadership and all things George and Barbara?

And he probably didn't even set out to do it. (Can you imagine Harry Reid going to Clinton and asking him to throw himself under this particular train?) Having left it to surrogates to defend his record, clearly unsuccessfully by his lights, he went out and did it himself.

It could have been a disaster. If the party had some other effective leader in place, some other better strategy working, the interference of a former president taking over the conversation to defend his record from six years before might be considered unwelcome, to say the least. I might be ranting about the oxygen in the room, and all that.

But this is a party that needs Bill Clinton.

And it's working like a charm.

Liberals are thrilled, convinced, even if only momentarily, that Clinton is once again one of them. If the right is left to mumbling about Monica Lewinsky, it's because they don't have better answers to the bigger questions, which is a victory of sorts. Monica Lewinsky is not the answer to Osama bin Laden. The president's comments have, fruitfully for him, generated numerous posts and articles that support his reading of history, based on Richard Clarke's book, whose sales have soared. The Clinton effect is at work.

There are still five weeks to go .

COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.

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It was a win-win situation for former President Bill Clinton and Fox News on Sunday. Fox News (my employer) won by getting all the attention, the highest ratings since the capture of Saddam Hussein and the most views on YouTube. The former president won by taking...
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2006-00-26
Tuesday, 26 September 2006 12:00 AM
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