Leave Bill Clinton alone!

Why is everybody trying to rain on the Clinton-Obama unity parade by asking about the ex-president? By making himself scarce, he's doing exactly the right thing.

Published June 27, 2008 7:11PM (EDT)

They've tried to unite their fundraisers, they came together for hugs and smiles and mutual admiration in a big public rally in Unity, N.H., but Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are still facing questions about someone who didn't join their unity tour: Bill Clinton. In the last day every political cable show has been crawling with pundits asking why the former president isn't joining his wife at the unity events, and why a statement he released endorsing Barack Obama this week sounded so tepid. On MSNBC this morning Andrea Mitchell complained that there were plenty of television cameras around Clinton as he celebrated Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday -- why didn't he aim his remarks at them, instead of releasing a statement?

I have one thing to say to Mitchell and the other concerned critics: Leave Bill Clinton alone! Maybe someone's even making a video now, spoofing the "Leave Britney alone" video, as well as the funny "Leave Hillary alone!" and "Leave Obama alone!" parodies it inspired.

(I talk about it in this video for Current; don't worry, I don't cry; text continues below:)

After a campaign in which he was savaged by left and right for his sometimes outrageous political statements, for commandeering every camera around, for leaving no microphone behind, Clinton has finally listened to his critics, left the spotlight to his wife, and nursed his grievances in private -- and he's still getting criticized! I think Bill Clinton's done the right thing, letting this week be all about Hillary Clinton and her historic campaign. Besides, if, as reported, Clinton's miffed at the way some Obama surrogates demonized him as a racist during the campaign, he's entitled to his feelings, and it's better he's not out in public either blasting Obama or damning him with faint, passive-aggressive praise. Let's focus on the new Obama-Clinton unity, get the general election campaign started, and leave the former president alone!

The unity rally in Unity had a nice feeling. They looked warm and comfortable with one another. My favorite moment was when a fan yelled out "Hillary rocks," Obama replied, "She rocks, she rocks. That's the point I'm trying to make. We've made history together ... woman can do anything guys can do and do it better, and do it in heels. I still don't know how she does it in heels, I really don't."

I know there are still women holding out support from Obama; I hear from them all the time, and they're entitled to make their own decision in November. But if Clinton becomes a regular partner on the campaign trail with Obama, I suspect their numbers will be few. But I don't know. Today was a great first step to unity, in Unity, but it's a long way to November.

By Joan Walsh

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2008 Elections