Clinton has been in the dog house for a good portion of this campaign, and for good reason. As happened during his wife’s primary against Barack Obama in 2008, Clinton’s foot has spent at least as much time inside of his mouth as outside it. That is, in part, because his wife’s campaign has become something of a referendum on his presidency, particularly his signing of a conservative welfare reform bill that made the lives of many poor families worse and a crime bill that that led to a dramatic increase in incarceration. This has made Clinton crotchety and defensive.
Back in April, for instance, Clinton was condescending to Black Lives Matter protesters about the crime bill. “I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out into the street to murder other African-American children,” he said. “Maybe you thought they were good citizens, she didn’t. She didn’t. You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter.”
We haven’t heard much from Clinton since then, other than that time he met privately with Attorney General Loretta Lynch despite an ongoing investigation into his wife’s use of a private email server. But he is headlining the DNC on Tuesday, when the night’s theme will revolve around police brutality. This is probably making a few people nervous. It’s been a long time since Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton, after all. We now only see glimpses of the guy who once would do anything to win over the last holdout in the room. In recent years, Clinton has mostly receded to the background and/or seemed kind of cranky. But he has had some blockbuster moments—most notably his 2012 DNC speech that may have rejuvenated Obama’s re-election campaign—and he’s shown, time and time again throughout his political career, that he always has something in the tank.
In that way, Clinton is like the Tim Duncan of American politics—just when you think he’s finally lost a step, he comes back as strong as ever. Of course, Tim Duncan just announced his retirement.