Clinton mea culpa boosts Obama

2012-10-16 22:20

New York - If President Barack Obama wins re-election in three weeks time, he will begin his second term heavily in debt to Bill and Hillary Clinton, one-time tormentors turned power couple protectors.

As Obama headed to New York for a crucial debate against resurgent Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the Clintons, the dominant Democrats of the last 20 years, were again stealing the headlines.

Taking a hit Romney may have lined up for Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the blame on Monday for shortcomings in the handling of an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans.

Her comments, in Peru, may have taken some of the sting out of Romney's possible attack and marked the administration's most emphatic effort to quell a political storm over Libya that threatens to hurt Obama's re-election bid.

The 11th-hour pre-debate intervention also prompted new questions over the motives of the Clintons in embracing their former foe, including: will the bill come to Obama in the form of backing a "Hillary 2016" White House bid?

Republicans, though, are not done with this year, and continued to pin the Benghazi blame on Obama, recalling the ad Clinton ran in the 2008 Democratic primary, questioning whether her relatively inexperienced rival was ready for a national security crisis.

"I think it's the 03:00 call, right? I mean, the buck stops at the White House. That's what Hillary Clinton said back in 2008. She's saying something differently today," Republican party chief Reince Priebus told MSNBC.

With a wink and a smile Clinton often declares she will be "out of politics" early next year, but her enduring popularity makes her decision to accept the Benghazi fallout for Obama on the eve of a make-or-break debate a distinctly political act.

Bill Clinton, the 42nd President, was meanwhile waging another tussle for his Democratic successor, rebutting Romney's tax policy in the folksy drawl he used in last month's acclaimed Democratic National Convention speech.

Admire Clintons

In a campaign video, the snowy-haired veteran made the kind of forceful case that was beyond Obama in the first debate - a point not lost on one of the ex-president's chief antagonists, former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich.

"You have to admire the Clintons. Bill and Hillary Clinton have done more to re-elect Barack Obama than Barack Obama has," Gingrich told Fox News.

Bill Clinton, whose economic credibility is vital for Obama, will hit the campaign trail again for Obama in Ohio and Wisconsin this week.

The heft of the Clinton effort for Obama is all the more remarkable considering the bitterness spawned by his 2008 primary battle with Hillary.

Obama, whose campaign was once dismissed as a "fairy tale" by the former president, effectively blocked what would have been a remarkable Clinton restoration, eight years after they left the White House.

Clinton was also furious when some Obama supporters said he had played the race card.

The thaw began when Obama shocked his inner circle by asking Hillary, then a New York senator, to join his "team of rivals" cabinet.

But even now, few people suggest that the Clintons and Obama are friends, though the president and his secretary of state and her husband show mutual respect.

As for the Clintons' motives, they remain open to debate.

Second campaign

Given Hillary Clinton's narrow defeat to Obama and support of 18 million primary voters in 2008, talk of a possible second presidential campaign frequently churns in the Washington rumour mill.

Could the former first lady be courting Obama's supporters to bolster her own coalition, knowing she will be the Democratic favourite four years hence?

Some Clinton watchers doubt the retiring secretary of state, who will be 68 in November 2016, has the desire for another campaign, and point out her legacy would be sullied if she lost.

Much may depend on the political conditions in a few years, but the Clintons have towered over Democratic politics for so long that many in Washington cannot believe their ambition is slaked.

A less Machiavellian explanation may be that the Clintons want Obama to win, as the latest bulwark against the conservatism they spent their lives fighting.

Bill Clinton must also be luxuriating in the sight of Obama, who was once sniffy towards his 1993-2001 administration, now gushing with praise.

A former Clinton campaign aide said on condition of anonymity, that the ex-president was in a "no-lose" situation in his support of Obama.

Should Obama tumble to Romney, Clinton would get credit for helping Obama and would still be known as the only Democrat to win two terms since World War II. Memories of his age of prosperity would grow just a little more golden.

If Obama wins, the ex-president will guarantee himself a place in the history books alongside the man who he once believed stole the Clinton crown.

USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham suggested that lingering hurt over the race row may also be driving Clinton, once known as America's "first black president".

"If Clinton plays a key role in delivering the winning margin of voters to Obama, an overwhelming number of blacks - and many historians - will see him as one of black America's greatest friends," he wrote on Tuesday.

  • jean.rossouwsa - 2012-10-17 05:21

    Stupid woman to take the blame for the useless one!

  • rhett.deklerk - 2012-10-17 05:59

    Democrats, Republicans all funded by the same source at the end of the day; a very large

  • moses.mabhida.52 - 2012-10-17 07:14

    mea culpa? what does the heading mean news24?

      desertratbkf - 2012-10-17 07:30

      Ever heard of Google? Try it out sometime. Type in and then type in mea culpa. And Voila! You'll get the answer! Some people!

      moses.mabhida.52 - 2012-10-17 08:56

      mea culpa Meaning. I'm to blame. The literal translation from the Latin is 'through my own fault' "Clinton mea culpa boosts Obama" – I still don’t get the heading! I’m sorry for asking desertratbkf, but even with the translation the heading makes no sense to me... either way, i apologise for asking! some people!

      gerald.nchabeleng - 2012-10-17 11:26

      @ moses.mabhida.52 The sign of intelligence is the freedom to express the curiosity of the mind. You have nothing to apologise for in this case, and certainly not to a dimwit who made a million assumptions to come to the conclusion that you are stupid, there exposing his own ignorance. More on point though, the headline is merely suggesting that Hillary is assuming responsibilty for the White House response to the attack as minister of foreign affairs. Whether such is warranted is a whole can of worms in itself which calls for its own debate. Interesting, but perhaps some people should best stay in deserts.

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