A little bit of daylight has begun to emerge between the Clintons and President Obama. As the president’s ratings drop — recently, particularly among liberals — the first signs are beginning to show of distance between the former rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.
As always with the Clintons, the signs are made evident by a carefully choreographed two-step in which they fill their separate roles, one as an outsider and the other as a loyal insider to the Obama Administration. But never doubt that everything these two do is coordinated and orchestrated.
On Bill’s end, there emerge faint signs of disagreement with the president. Commenting on the Gulf oil spill, the former president warned against ratcheting up the rhetoric against BP noting that it is that firm’s expertise upon which the Administration must rely to end the spill and terminate the slide in his ratings that it has triggered. More confrontationally, Bill has endorsed Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff for the Democratic Senate nomination in Colorado even as the Obama White House is strongly backing Michael Bennet, the Democratic Senator appointed to fill the seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. For Bill Clinton to challenge Obama so overtly to a proxy battle in the Colorado Senate primary is, indeed, remarkable considering his wife’s role in the Administration.
Hillary, as befits her position — but not necessarily her personality — is more demure. While she takes no shots at her boss and does not cross him in any way, she is gradually expanding her purview beyond the foreign affairs mandate of her job. It was Secretary of State Clinton who first released to the media the fact that Obama’s Justice Department would be suing the state of Arizona over their new anti-illegal immigration law. And it was also the Secretary of State who noted that she felt that rich people were not paying their “fair share” of taxes in the U.S., while carefully explaining that she was only expressing her personal views. Would Condi Rice have thusly spoken out? Or Madeline Albright? Or even Colin Powell?
Hillary’s forays into domestic policy issues come through her role as a former presidential candidate, not the most comfortable of hats to wear while working in the White House of one’s former adversary.
So…where will this lead? If Obama recovers his popularity and keeps control of Congress it won’t lead to anything. But should his drop continue and the Republicans win the 2010 elections, a groundswell could emerge for Hillary for the 2012 nomination. The Clintons’ moves indicate that they are fully aware of this possibility and want to be in a position to exploit it should the opportunity arise.
The more immediate impact, however, will likely be harsh and swift retaliation from the Obama White House, particularly against Bill for his Romanoff endorsement. These boys and girls come from Chicago where politics is played a little bit differently. Look for no more presidential missions to North Korea or Haiti for a while for the former president and for some strong indication of White House displeasure.