Yesterday Bill Clinton made a totally reasonable argument, one at the core of this primary debate: that the partisan wars of the 1990s were not an aberration but simply the nature of modern Washington politics. Some of Obama's followers believe he can put an end to those fights, whereas Hillary can't. Clinton was arguing that's a naive view of what would happen under an Obama presidency.
Fairly basic stuff. To some, Bill seemed to swipe Obama by saying he "literally was not part of any of the good things that happened" in the 90s. But in the very next breath he added "nor any of the bad things that were stopped before." It seems pretty clear, then, that Bill wasn't ripping Obama but simply pointing out that he enjoys the luxury of seeming to be supra-partisan because he simply hasn't been in the DC mix very long. That is not some kind of dirty, underhanded cheap shot. That's a defining difference between Obama and Hillary.
But last night MSNBC's Keith Olbermann took that quote and went here with it:
OLBERMANN: I thought that the former president had essentially declared he wished he had campaigned a little differently last month. This would not be differently. This would be the same... between the debate ads in Wisconsin and these quotes about the states in which Obama has not, you know, won, not really being important states and this again, today from the former president, I can`t see any way around this. They sound angry. Are they angry? Are they angry at Obama, at the media, at the voters?
I'm sure the Clintons are angry. And some of their comments and spin have been petulant or below-the-belt. But Bill's comments yesterday really were not, by any fair definition, "angry." Indeed, shocking as it may sound, not everything Bill Clinton says is by definition an angry outburst. This is a campaign, not one big infomercial.
I know some people think Bill shouldn't be campaigning at all, which is a different point (one that I disagree with). I do think it's weird and unfair how his new media image is one of some bitter, crazed hit man.
I should add that Olbermann didn't spend a moment debating the interesting actual point Bill was making, only the associated process questions.
P.S. New York's John Heilemann makes a persuasive case that the Clintons--though hardly above fault, I reiterate--have gotten a raw deal in the media.