Bill Clinton to Continue Attacking Obama ’08 for Acting Like Clinton ’92

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Patrick Healy writes in the New York Times that the Clintons feel the Bill-as-attack-dog strategy (“sphincter-like”) is working, and needs to be continued.

Advisers to Sen. Hillary Clinton have concluded that Bill Clinton’s aggressive politicking against Sen. Barack Obama is resonating with voters, and they intend to keep him on the campaign trail in a major role after the South Carolina primary.

The Clinton team has decided that the benefits of having Bill Clinton challenge Obama so forcefully, over Iraq and Obama’s record and statements, are worth the trade-offs of potentially overshadowing Hillary Clinton at times, undermining his reputation as a statesman and raising the question among voters about whether they are putting him in the White House as much as her.

Much more after the jump…

…Bill Clinton has shown as much ability as his wife — or even more — to stir public and media skepticism about Obama’s position on Iraq and his message of nonpartisan leadership, Clinton advisers say.

Bill Clinton is purposely trying to play bad cop against Obama, a senator from Illinois, and is keenly aware that a flash of anger or annoyance will draw even more media and public attention to his arguments, campaign officials say.

According to Healy, we can look forward to Bill continuing the act in California, New York, and other later primaries. E.J. Dionne explains how cynical this all is in the New Republic.

Ronald Reagan, Clinton said [in 1991], deserved credit for winning the Cold War. He praised Reagan’s “rhetoric in defense of freedom” and his role in “advancing the idea that communism could be rolled back.”… Clinton was careful to add that the Reagan military program included “a lot of wasted money and unnecessary expenditure,” but the signal had been sent: Clinton was willing to move beyond “the brain-dead politics in both parties,” as he so often put it.

His apostasy was widely noticed. The Memphis Commercial Appeal praised Clinton two days later for daring to “set himself apart from the pack of contenders for the Democratic nomination by saying something nice about Ronald Reagan.”

…I have been thinking about that episode ever since Hillary Clinton’s campaign started unloading on Barack Obama for making statements about Reagan that were, if anything, more measured than Bill Clinton’s 1991 comments… Obama’s not particularly original insight was a central premise of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. Clinton argued over and over that Democrats could not win without new ideas of their own…

That’s why the Clintons’ assault on Obama is so depressing. In many ways, Obama is running the 2008 version of the 1992 Clinton campaign. You have the feeling that if Bill Clinton did not have another candidate in this contest, he’d be advising Obama and cheering him on.

Years of decrying the politics of personal destruction and now this…

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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