Clinton and Context

One of the chattering class’s favorite games of late, as you know, is to parse every word said by Bill Clinton–or anyone ever connected with him and turn it into something that “undermines” Barack Obama. Most of these “gaffes” are remarks ripped out of context (not always necessary with the “Clintonites,” particularly those who stopped being Democrats some time ago and/or are on Wall Street payrolls). But it doesn’t take a lot to justify one of those “Clinton versus Obama” or “Democrats in Disarray” memes, does it?

The latest “example” of Clinton “undercutting” Obama, though, is from 2010,for God’s sake, and as Steve Kornacki of Salon explains, it does not actually say what it’s being quoted as saying:

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:… ‘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….

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 incease growth and cut unemployment.

This is simply a variation on the GOP habit of keeping Obama from doing anything and then complaining that he’s not doing anything. That’s unsurprising, since their idea of “doing something” is doing the sort of things that got the country into the mess it’s in, along with some other things that are far worse than what George W. Bush did. But the MSM really should not be going along with this sort of brainless revisionist history.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.