Monday was the day the Hillary campaign unleashed Bill Clinton, once again sending him out to stump for his wife.
While she is the Democratic front-runner, email investigations are swirling and her favorability ratings are down in the dumper, so it was thought the better-liked Bubba could add some pleasant pizzazz to his bland wife’s bland campaign.
But the Great Unveiling was more like a viewing.
The rail-thin Clinton, 69 but looking far older, stood there in New Hampshire appearing as a kind of muted version of his old self. His voice was thin, his delivery flat and dull, the music of days past mostly gone. He looked like a nicely presented, well coiffed grandpa — but a grandpa nonetheless, his hands shaking as he wagged a crooked finger, his movements stiff and brittle.
Clinton’s appearances may be most notable for his contrast with Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who is the same age as Bill, but cuts a figure of far greater vigor. Energy and health are two of Trump favored weapons. He’s aimed them at GOP opponents younger than he to great effect and has already deployed them against Hillary, who has had her own share of health scares.
“She’ll do a couple of minutes in Iowa, meaning a short period of time. And then she goes home,” Trump said recently in Davenport, Iowa. “You don’t see her for five or six days. She goes home, goes to sleep. I’m telling you. She doesn’t have the strength. She doesn’t have the stamina.”
The sight of creaky Bill may only play into this line of attack. Even worse for Hillary than Bill’s current stiffness is his past suppleness. Trump has made clear that with Hillary Clinton presenting herself as the candidate of women, Bill’s reputation as a ladies’ magnet of a different sort is fair game. The more often he appears, the more opportunities present themselves for Trump to remind voters that Bill Clinton is an accused serial sexual harasser who turned the Oval Office into his private pleasure palace.
After his speech Monday, Bill was asked by Cecelia Vega of ABC News if his tawdry past was indeed “fair game.” The former president dodged, mumbling something about how he wants to talk about Hillary and how he cares about the people.
That won’t work for long.
All that said, though, the former president lost his deft political touch years ago. It seems he either doesn’t fully get politics anymore or he has some deep-seated, Freudian urge to sink his wife’s campaign. There was the time in 2014 when he revealed that it took Hillary six months to recover from a December 2012 concussion and blood clot that resulted from a fainting spell, and that her health was “a serious issue.” That opened up a big can of worms for her.
Then there was the moment during the 2008 campaign when he ruined her chances in the South Carolina primary by comparing President Obama to Jesse Jackson, injecting the race issue into the campaign. Now, older and less and less wiser, Bill has been unfurled to do new, unknown damage to Hillary’s final crusade for the office he once held.
Get ready for an oldies tour featuring the many women Clinton has allegedly wronged and who no doubt perceive another chance to get a little of the justice they feel they were denied. And get ready for the other oldies tour, featuring and effete former president who threatens to help Hillary only in that he might protect her from the burden of being president.
This post also appears in LifeZette.