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Why Bill Makes You Queasy

Josh Marshall has put his finger on the problem with Bill Clinton's role in this campaign:

But again, I've thought to myself, what is it that seems wrong about what's going on here. And it's this: seven years after he left the Oval Office, in many respects, Bill Clinton remains the leader of the Democratic party. No, not in any formal way. But he remains extraordinarily popular among Democrats. He is almost unique in the last century as a successful Democratic president continuing to live on after his term of office. Give it some thought and you'll realize that it's almost unprecedented. Harry Truman left office extremely unpopular. And the deserved cult that's grown up around him didn't take root until many, many years later. Certainly it didn't apply to Lyndon Johnson or Jimmy Carter. And Kennedy and Roosevelt didn't outlive their presidencies.

For all these reasons Bill Clinton is unique, sui generis. And for all these reasons he commands massive press attention. I agree with what TPM Reader JD said last night that, in effect, Bill Clinton holds a de facto office within the Democratic party. And what he's been doing amounts to an abuse of office. He has come into a primary process between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and used his unique power to jam his thumb down on one side of the scale in a way that I think is very difficult for anyone to overcome. ...

I respect all the loyalties and devotions between the two of them in what is clearly a very complicated but also very enduring relationship. But I'm not part of that marriage. Its obligations aren't any concern of mine and they have no claim on me. My relationship with Bill Clinton is as a member of the party that he is, as I've said, the leader of or at least the most revered elder statesman of. And I feel like he's violating the compact that I have with him.

You might say that's not fair, that that means his obligations as a husband and as a leader of his party are hopelessly in conflict. And I could only say you're probably right. But that frankly is one of the reasons we have instinctive suspicions about dynastic politics.

Couldn't agree more.

--Noam Scheiber