MSNBC: Can Democratic leaders get Bill Clinton to 'pipe down'?
Prominent Democrats, including Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), recently told former President Bill Clinton he has to tone down his campaign rhetoric against Barack Obama.
Jonathan Alter, who broke that story for Newsweek,
explained to the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe that the party leaders felt that, although it was acceptable for Clinton to say nice things about his wife, it was "inappropriate for a former president -- and the guy who is informally still the head of the Democratic Party -- to be out trashing another Democrat."
"Bill Clinton seems every week to come up with a new story that makes people roll their eyes," suggested host Joe Scarborough. "In Nevada, we had the story of Bill Clinton and other people being chased by union thugs. ... There's a story like that every week that you know is just not the truth, and yet he keeps doing it. Is he just out of control?"
Alter replied that on balance, the Clinton campaign considers Bill a huge asset in raising money and drawing crowds, but that it's true they can't control him. He added that a current Obama advisor, who had been the leader of Clinton's impeachment defense 10 years ago, had raised the question that "if Hillary's campaign can't control Bill Clinton, how will Hillary's White House be able to control Bill Clinton? And what will we be in for?"
Co-host Willie Geist pointed out that Obama is now striking back at Bill Clinton himself, saying in recent remarks that he "has taken his advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling. He continues to make statements that aren't supported by the facts."
Alter noted that Obama has problems in striking the right tone while defending himself against Bill Clinton, because "it's not too helpful to be on defense against somebody who is still widely revered in the Democratic Party." He also agreed with co-host Mike Brzezinski that the Clintons are very deliberately "trying to force Obama off his message and to get into the trench and to respond," but said that if Obama tries to ignore Bill Clinton's attacks and remain above the fray, the slurs will go unanswered.
Alter concluded, however, that the "basic question in the Democratic primaries ... is restoration -- the Clintons -- versus inspiration -- everybody on both sides agrees Obama's inspiring." He said the nomination will ultimately turn on one simple question: "Do we want to ... go back to those 90's ... or do we want to turn the page, as Obama says, and move on to the next chapter."
"Good luck shutting Bill Clinton up," were Geist's final words.
Read Jonathan Alter's Newsweek article here.
This video is from MSNBc's Morning Joe, broadcast January 21, 2008.