Where was Bill?
Hillary Clinton’s much-anticipated video announcing her bid for the White House in 2016 included a range of diverse families talking about real economic issues but there was one glaring component that was missing: Her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
“Every day Americans need a champion and I want to be that champion,” Clinton said in her video. “You can do more than just get by, you can get ahead and stay ahead because when families are strong, Americans are strong.”
Hillary Clinton never mentions her strong family in the two-minute video. Candidates almost always include their families in their announcements to run for office, particularly the White House, but Clinton chose to make her announcement about the American people, not the Clintons.
She is re-branding her public image as a less hard-nosed mother and grandmother but, at least in her video, she intentionally downplays her four-decade role as a wife.
What strikes me as interesting is that while the Clinton campaign is now re-inventing her as a softer mother, grandmother, and family-oriented woman, it seems unnatural not to include Bill Clinton, her husband, in the discussion. If the strategy is to convince voters that Hillary Clinton isn’t a driven, calculating politician with heavily-crafted messages, then not acknowledging Bill Clinton only reinforces this perception.
So why doesn’t Bill Clinton, former president, husband, and famed political guru appear in the video?
Bill Clinton is a brilliant political strategist, a Rhodes Scholar, and a charismatic and controversial figure once dubbed “America’s first Black president.” But he also comes with baggage. He is praised by many and polarizing to others.
Some women can’t forgive Clinton for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky; and some black voters are still angry over Bill Clinton’s perceived racially-incendiary remarks during the 2008 presidential election where he characterized Obama’s candidacy as “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.”
Clinton later explained that his remarks were directed only at Obama’s views on war, not about his overall bid for the White House. But Clinton’s remarks caused a national firestorm – and a split – in the Black community with many Black voters shifting their allegiance to President Barack Obama.
This isn’t to say that Bill Clinton won’t be present on the campaign trail with Hillary in the months ahead but right now it appears her campaign is carefully choreographing Bill Clinton’s roll out.
“Bill’s role on the campaign was an ongoing frustration for him and his team the last time Hillary ran for president, campaign operatives from the 2008 race said,” according to POLITICO. “Tension between the former president’s staff and the campaign festered as the chances of winning dimmed. The feeling within Bill’s inner circle, sources said, was that if he had been allowed to have a bigger say in strategy from the beginning, the campaign wouldn’t have ended up where it did.”
“There is no public role planned for Bill in the early stages of this year’s campaign, when Hillary will be trying to reintroduce herself to voters in the intimate settings where she is at her best,” according to POLITICO. “The campaign has yet to hire a single staffer to work with the former president.”
Here’s my take: Don’t hide Bill Clinton in the attic like the crazy uncle who may embarrass the family; don’t pretend he’s not a factor; and don’t relegate him to the shadows in the initial weeks of the campaign.
How can you reasonably ignore a man who appears on the cover of this month’s Town and Country magazine with the headline: “He Wheels, He Deals, He Makes a BIG Difference?”
Bill Clinton is Hillary’s husband for better or worse, a lasting, high-profile marriage and lucrative political partnership that has spanned 40 years. Hillary Clinton, and her campaign, should own it.
What do you think?