A fake Bill Clinton headache

No, he didn’t just discover a new, retroactive way to undermine Obama

Topics: War Room,

A fake Bill Clinton headacheBill Clinton (Credit: Reuters/Chip East)

A line that Bill Clinton used two years ago is being revived today with the idea that it supposedly steps all over Barack Obama’s message. There’s actually nothing to it, though.

At issue is a speech Clinton delivered in 2010 at the same Cleveland venue where Obama will later today present his main economic argument for another term as president. What supposedly makes this awkward is that in his ’10 remarks, Clinton said:

“The Democrats are saying something like this: ‘We found a big hole that we did not dig. We didn’t get it filled in 21 months, but at least we quit digging. Give us two more years. If it doesn’t work, vote us out.’”

And now here we are two years later, the hole is still imposing, and Obama has the gall to ask for four more years? It’s almost as if Clinton has stumbled on a new, retroactive way of making Obama’s political life miserable. Unless you consider the context.

Clinton made the speech during a September ’10 campaign swing through Ohio on behalf of then-Gov. Ted Strickland and Lee Fisher, who was running for the U.S. Senate. During that trip and in other appearances that fall, Clinton continually pressed the theme that Democrats had inherited an epic mess from the GOP and needed more time to fix it. For instance, at a Cincinnati rally with Fisher, he used a football analogy:

“In 2008, we threw out a management team that had a 2-14 record in the last season. And now this team of which Lee’s opponent was one of the leaders is coming back and saying, ‘Look, we gave them 21 whole months to fix this mess we dug, and they have not won the Super Bowl, they’re only 8-8; so what you should do is hire a 2-14 team to get back in there.’”

The key point here is that Clinton was asking voters not just to give Obama two more years (they had no choice but to do that), but also to give Democrats two more years of congressional control, to allow the party to continue implementing its agenda. As you’re probably aware, voters ended up ignoring this plea and installing a Republican House, which has pretty much made it impossible for Obama and Democrats to do anything substantive to boost the economy these past two years – like, say, pass a jobs bill that economists widely agree would increase growth and cut unemployment.

Clinton actually spelled out his argument in greater detail in a “Daily Show” appearance that same month:

Give us two more years. And if we don’t produce results, you can throw us all out then. You’ll have another chance – I understand why you’re mad. You’re right to be mad. But give us a chance to make this work. They were in control of the Congress for a very long time, and they had the White House for eight years, and they had the White House and Congress for six years. Don’t throw us out after only two years of having the White House and Congress with a far bigger problem than they ever faced.

In isolation, Clinton’s ’10 words may sound damning today. But they were rendered inoperative by the 2010 midterms. I’ve been happy to acknowledge when the former president has undermined the current one in the past, but that’s not the case here at all. His ’10 remarks had everything to do with that year’s election, and have nothing to do with this year’s.

Steve Kornacki

Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon. Reach him by email at SKornacki@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveKornacki

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>