Mr. Troy is Professor of History at McGill University, and the author, most recently, of
The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction, (OUP) and
Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents: George Washington to Barack Obama . His other books include: Hillary Rodham Clinton: Polarizing First Lady and Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s. He is a member of the advisory board of HNN. His website is giltroy.com. His next book “Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight against Zionism as Racism” will be published this fall by Oxford University Press.
DNC Day 3: The Clinton Catharsis was a Con – and a Historical Hijacking
Watching Bill Clinton’s performance Wednesday night removed any doubts about this admittedly ungenerous interpretation of Mrs. Clinton, who had made an impressive comeback in her own historic presidential quest. The ex-President was characteristically charming, charismatic, compelling – and completely self-absorbed. He gave the Democrats exactly what they wanted – an enthusiastic, eloquent endorsement of Barack Obama that was far more specific and substantive than his wife’s vague okay the night before. But this Clinton catharsis was a con because, like a compulsive flirt who everyone knows will succumb eventually, the drama was all self-made – and damaging.
By acting so ungracious for months, by being so petulant about Obama, the whippersnapper who dared seized the mantle both Clintons decided Hillary had earned, Clinton created the crisis his endorsement resolved. Thus the convention – and this particularly historic day -- ended up being far more about the Clintons than it ever should have been. By working himself so relentlessly and effectively into the Democratic story line, Clinton repaired much of the damage he had caused to his own reputation during the campaign, and made himself relevant in the 2008 Convention. But it came at great cost to Obama and the Democratic campaign. Far too much time and energy was expended in Clinton-crisis-management. Every moment reporters spent speculating about the joint will-he-or won’t-he and will-she-or-won’t-she endorsement questions was one less moment spent boosting the Democrats’ candidate, Barack Obama.
Moreover, ultimately, despite Bill Clinton’s clever, skillful endorsement, both Clintons made Barack Obama look weak. One Fox News commentator suggested that had the Clintons been the winners, they would have imposed a deal on Obama. They would have pushed supporters to cover the defeated rival’s campaign debt on the condition that he maintain a low profile at the convention and follow their script to a tee. Instead, as always with the Clintons, too much of this convention was all about them, rather than about Barack Obama and his historic but now somewhat distracted push for the presidency.