He had survived a scathing partisan battle and left the White House with a higher approval rating than he had at the start of his second term. Despite an all-encompassing impeachment and a few minor mini-scandals (last minute pardons of a wealthy fugitive and the "plundering" of the White House come to mind), the Clinton brand was strong and durable enough to propel his wife to victory in the race for RFK's New York Senate seat and positioned the president as a powerful and influential force on the world stage.
The Clinton Brand isn't what it once was.
At the end of March 2008, a majority of Americans viewed the former president unfavorably. His wife's presidential campaign has brought out the worst in the former president. As her chief surrogate (and attack dog) he has left many wondering, "What happened to the sharpest political mind the Democratic party has seen in a generation?" Was it all an illusion built by a sophisticated political marketing machine?
Today, Ambinder pronounces:
"The debate about his political legacy is effectively over, and no one but a handful of prominent Democrats will argue that his presidency was salutary for the Democratic party."
On David Gregory's new MSNBC Show, the panelists discussed (video below) the fallout from Bill's latest misstep - resurrecting the Tuzla story and blaming the media's unfair treatment for his wife's floundering campaign. But, Chuck Todd disagrees and points the finger right back at Bill:
"Every time you see him. (Don't) forget - elections are never about the past. They're always about the future. And every time you see him, you never think about the future. And I think that's the fundamental sort of message problem that the Clinton campaign has because Obama seems like the future...and Bill Clinton's - just - aura says, "The Past."
- snip -
"That's been the issue that the Clinton campaign hasn't really grasped that well. It's this. How much credibility damage that Bill Clinton did to the Clinton Brand over that long period of time between 1998 and the end of his presidency."
Todd (and Newt's former toady, Tony Blankley) believe Clinton may not have survived if there had been a 24/7 news cycle in 1992. The YouTube Age has rewritten political campaigning. Anything and everything can come back to haunt you. Just ask George Allen.
But, I'm still wondering, "Was he ever the sharp political practioner of the Clintonista iconographers?"