Bill Clinton’s answer to a question by Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation Sunday about whether Hillary Clinton would be a stronger candidate than President Obama – as mischievously suggested by Dick Cheney – has widely been interpreted as a statement closing the door on a possible primary challenge by her against Obama.
IT EMPHATICALLY WAS NOT.
To know this, you have to understand Clintonspeak, a special language that some reporters like me who covered Bill Clinton for years were able to pick up.
The most famous example of Clintonspeak was this:
Now, I was still new to Clintonspeak at the time, so I didn’t realize that the correct translation to this was “I didn’t actually copulate with her.”
And then there was this classic, which you all enjoyed.
You have to listen very closely to Bubba, because he always says more by what he leaves out.
So here’s the exchange with Schieffer. I give you some video and the full transcript below:
SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you about one thing that our next guest on the broadcast, former Vice President Cheney, said: He said your wife, Hillary Clinton, is the most competent person in the administration and suggested that maybe she would be a stronger candidate than Barack Obama. I wanted to give you a chance, if you care to, to endorse the vice president’s statement.
CLINTON: Well, you know I’m very proud of her and so I’m always gratified whenever anyone says anything nice about her. And I very much agree that she’s done a good job. But I also have a high regard for Vice President Cheney’s political skills and I think one of those great skills is sowing discord among the opposition.
So I think he’s right that she’s done a heck of a good job, but she is a member of this administration and committed to doing it. And I think he, by saying something nice about her in the way that he did it, knew that it might cause a little trouble. I don’t want to help him succeed in his political strategy, but I admire that he’s still out there hitting the ball.
Now, look and listen closely. Did you notice anything?
HE NEVER SAYS SHE WOULDN’T BE A STRONGER CANDIDATE THAN OBAMA. HE NEVER SAYS SHE’S NOT RUNNING.
I assure you, this is fully intentional. I’m not saying she’s going to run. But whatever he’s up to, Clinton decided not to preclude the possibility of her candidacy.
Now you are learning Clintonspeak too. And you thought you were too old to start a new language!