By Dick Morris - 01/09/08 11:39 AM EST
Who should Hillary dismiss amid the wreckage of her recent performance? Surely heads will roll and the strategic geniuses that conceived the idea to run on her “experience” need to go. Their strategy, most responsible for her troubles, forced her into unbelievable twists and turns to try to transform her role as an up-close observer of history into one who shaped it.
But one head needs to roll more than any other: Bill’s. His role in the campaign has been destructive from the moment he took the public stage on Hillary’s behalf.
His very presence out there tells us:
• That Hillary did not make it on her own but owes every step of her advancement to her husband. She was hired by the Rose Law Firm when he became Arkansas attorney general. She made partner when he was elected governor. She became a national figure when he was elected president. She got her Senate seat because of his influence with the New York Democratic Party and his fundraising aura and ability. And now she is running for president on his record, trying hard to transform it into her own. Every woman who makes her own way in her career, without her husband blazing the way, looks down on Hillary for her dependence on Bill. When sons of famous fathers run for office, their predecessors lie in the grave (as in the cases of Al Gore and Mitt Romney) or stay graciously out of the way (as did Bush-41). But Bill is out there, front and center, a living reminder that Hillary’s career is a model of counterfeit feminism.
• That Hillary is not strong enough to stand by herself and must rely on her husband for support. Imagine if Golda Meir or Margaret Thatcher had their husbands at their side as they campaigned and governed. It would have sent a message that they were unprepared to stand alone. When a wife who has never run for office stands beside her husband as he seeks the presidency, it sends a message of family and support. But when a wife stands beside her ex-president husband, it bespeaks dependency and weakness.
• That the Clinton campaign is an artifact of the past, a boomer creation best suited to the ’90s. Bill’s campaign song was “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” but his presence on Hillary’s platform transforms her effort into one that can’t stop thinking about yesterday. In Iowa, voters under 45 backed Obama by better than 4-to-1. Age became the fulcrum on which the election turned, largely because Bill’s presence made it unavoidable. No longer primarily the first woman to run for president, she became another 60-year-old politician facing a 46-year-old new face. He underscores the dynastic nature of her candidacy and transforms her from an exciting new development in political history into a rerun.
And Bill can’t get the message right. He insists on attacking Obama when it is sure to trigger a backlash. He brags about Hillary’s record in totally non-credible ways (like giving her credit for the Irish peace process) and seems distracted and uninterested during his appearances. He excoriates the media, which does neither Clinton any good, and he spends more time defending his own reputation that burnishing hers.
Hillary needs to keep Bill down on the farm. The more he campaigns, the more he erodes his image as an elder statesman and becomes a working, in-the-dirt politician again, attacking her opponents and cutting and slashing. He reminds voters of the chaos and constant conflict of his presidency and lowers his favorability and diminishes the reputation of his presidency at just the time that Hillary needs it to shine.
She needs Bill to get off the stage and let her campaign on her own.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of Outrage. To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to www.dickmorris.com.