Saturday, November 3, 2007

Bill, Hillary and Al: The troika splits and part of why Gore lost in 2000

In addition to how much the MSM might have picked on Gore and given Bush the nod of the soft bigotry of low expectations, there were more legitimate reasons for Gore’s loss, and I’m not talking butterfly ballots or Ralph Nader.

Gore was sometimes wooden, sometimes preachy on the stump, and like it or not, American presidential contests are in part about personality.

But, there was another reason. Besides Gore’s concern about distancing himself from Clinton, the distancing went both ways.

In the new Vanity Fair, Clinton White House staffer Sally Bedell Smith spills all sorts of beans including:

1. Bill and Hillary really were co-presidents of a sort in many of their workings
2. Bill basically felt he owned Hillary anything she wanted in the way of Senate race support, fundraising, etc. in exchange for her having stood beside him in l’affaire Lewinsky.
3. From the time she decided to run for Moynihan’s Senate seat almost immediately after Pat announced his retirement, Hillary made a conscious effort to cut Al out of the loop of the lion’s share of Bill’s support, and to cut Tipper out of her personal ring as well.
4. Well, well, before this, Al and Hillary competed strongly, not just competed, but strongly, for Bill’s ear. And, often, Al was the fifth wheel or odd man out, take your pick.
5. Smith also rehashes some of the subtle putdowns (not nearly as bad as Ike for Dick in 1960 but putdowns, nonetheless) Bill had for Al.

This, to me, does a fair amount of explaining why Al isn’t running for president.

I don’t doubt that he’s not 100 percent interested right now, but the Hillary factor is at play.

He’d have to compete with her for former WH staffers and fundraisers, for one thing. For another, the contest, because of everything listed above, if entered by Al, could have gotten very personal, even fratricidal/sororicidal, very quickly.

The VF article is an excerpt from Smith’s upcoming book, “For Love of Politics—Bill and Hillary Clinton: The White House Years.”