Appropriate (ex) Presidential Behavior


Americans have a special relationship with the presidency and their presidents. Americans and American politicians on both sides of the table can disagree with their president on policy and other issues but will always support and honor the figure of the “president” out of respect for the institution of the presidency.

As a result, when a U.S. president’s mandate reaches it finale, the president is converted into an ex-president with all that the new mandate entails. Ex-presidents are honored as elder statesmen, as having served their country, and are bestowed with the enduring title of “President”. Former presidents Bush and Clinton, for example, are still officially called President Clinton and President Bush (respectively). And former presidents continue, for the remainder of their lives, to be representatives of their country.

Nevertheless, in the present elections, we’re seeing some of these traditional notions change. Of course, there is the obvious (and possibly hypothetical question) as to what role a former president may play in the new administration if his spouse becomes president. But there is a much more immediate question, that I believe, should be raised. What is the appropriate behavior of a former president in a presidential campaign? What happens when Bill Clinton acts more like James Carville, the Ragin’ Cajun, than like a dignified statesman? Or said another way, is it ethical for Bill Clinton, with all of the weight of his honorary role of ex-president, to campaign as fervently as he is doing now?

There are many precedents for ex-presidents (no pun intended) and their roles as such in presidential campaigns. It is only natural and understandable that former presidents will endorse the candidates of their party and do limit campaigning for them. For example, Bill Clinton endorsed and moderately campaigned for both Al Gore and John Kerry (remember that after 8 years of Clinton’s presidency, it was considered counter-productive to have Clinton in the forefront due to “Clinton Fatigue”).

In 2000, former president George Bush (Sr.) stood very much in the background and remained fairly clear of the campaign trail during his son’s election. President Bush understood his role and responsibility as a former president and national figure, and elder statesmen. There was also the “image” question in reference to having Daddy Bush campaign for and defend the Junior Bush.

Contrast this with today. Bill is seen screaming furiously at political rallies. He insults and demeans Obama — and Obama is a Democrat and we’re only in the primaries. Bill tells the press and voters a tall tale about how possible Obama campaign irregularities that are both impossible to prove or refute. And he does this as the former president of the United States.

(You could turn things around and say that Bill is not campaign as former president but as Hillary’s husband. But then shouldn’t the feminists get upset that a female candidate needs her tough husband, much like the image of Junior Bush being defended by his daddy, to keep her safe?)

Meanwhile, Bill is going door to door, endorsing his wife’s candidacy, and yet he is the former president of the U.S. As I mentioned, the presidency in the U.S. carries a lot of weight for folks, and I don’t care which side of the fence you’re on, but a former president showing up at your front door has a lot of weight.

Is this appropriate behavior? Of course is it not. Can you imagine a former president saying something like “I have been president, I have represented the American people both at home and abroad, and I know what it means to be president. And I can tell you, with all of my knowledge that candidate John Doe is not qualified for the position.” What would happen if John Doe won? Wouldn’t that be dissing the U.S. presidency and even the American electorate?

Apparently, senior Democrats (including Senator Kennedy) are quietly very concerned with Bill’s extreme advocacy for his wife’s campaign. Many believe that it may backfire. But for the time being, this Good Cop/Bad Cop routine (Hillary being the Good Cop), appears to be working. Furthermore, Obama has to run against two Clintons, not one, to win the elections.

Until then, though, we’ll have to weight until after the elections to remember the old “Former President Clinton” and now see the new Bill – the Ragin’ Arkinsane – Clinton. As Eugene Robinson writes in an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, entitled “What’s gotten into Bill?“:

So forget about the Bill Clinton we’ve known for the past eight years — the one who finds friendship and common ground with fellow former president George H.W. Bush (a Republican, last I heard), who dedicates most of his time and energy to the William J. Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, who speaks eloquently about global citizenship, environmental stewardship and economic empowerment. Forget about the statesman who uses appropriately measured language when talking about transient political events, focusing instead on the broad sweep of human history. Forget about the apostle of brotherhood and understanding whose most recent book is titled, simply, “Giving.” That Bill Clinton has left the building.

With the Clintons, anything goes!



Filed under Essays, Obama 08

12 responses to “Appropriate (ex) Presidential Behavior

  1. Personally, I find it disgusting and repulsive, a whole new level of debauchery and inappropriate behavior, even for a primordial scumbag of Clinton’s infamous notoriety.

    What is most disconcerting is pictures, such as the one you used, showing that a certain segment of “The Sheeple Nation”, in their tyrannical desire for further social leveling policies, support the behavior, apparently oblivious to the agenda that moves it.

    Someone should tell him to go home; if his wife had any character whatsoever, she would do so. At the minimum, tell him to sit in the back, in the “bloated coeds” section, and continue his legacy of mindless infidelity, in silence.

    Of course, the counter argument exists: considering what Bushco has done to the image of the presidency, the nadir has already been attained.

    Can it really go any lower or be any more emesis promoting?

    Doubtful. The Presidency is a full blown joke with a non-existent punchline.

  2. eric

    Yes, the Bush Clinton Bush Clinton joke. There is an argument that after the Bush farce, the country is more likely to seek a Hillary-over-prepared and over-focused-group preassembled presidency.

  3. Not certain, we’ll have see what the public response is to the infantile flame war that occurred at the debate last night …

    Obama and Hillary both looked like toddlers trying to pee in the other’s corner of the sandbox …

    My vote for President will still go to Colin Powell, there is no one else fit to run the country.

    I wonder if these cretins actually take the time to consider that their exposure, in arenas such as the debates, is not only viewed by Americans, but in many areas of globe.

    All the while, the perception continues that “America” is a corporate owned conglomerate of mindless fools, thanks to their continued infantile antics.

    The country needs the return of a statesman to the Presidency.

  4. eric

    It will be interesting to see, after the primaries decide the Democrat’s candidate, who the Republicans will choose as their vice-presidential candidate. An African American? A woman? How about both, like Condi?

    Colin Powell, unfortuantely, was destroyed by Bush making him lie in front of the U.N. This should have been Powell’s year.

  5. You are the only other person on the planet who sees it in the same perspective.

    Thanks for that cugino, good to not always be alone in your thoughts. 🙂

  6. eric

    It’s exhausting to witness what is going on, isn’t it?

  7. Especially in light of the recent economic “developments” … you just wonder how much longer …

  8. Charlie

    I like Eric’s Carville analogy and Eugene Robinson’s – both sum it up. I would even call it carelessness on Bill Clinton’s part to desert his role as a skilled politician to his wife’s detriment – not a loving act. Everyone should be concerned how that would play out in (distort) a Hillary presidency.

  9. eric


    It is a real shame that the Clintons aren’t playing fair and that Obama cannot make the real arguments against a Hillary presidency. He can’t make those arguments because doing so would undermine the party — something that the Clintons don’t seem to care about. It is all out war for them as they see Obama as their biggest threat.

    Obama’s arguments in his defense should be:

    1. Bush Clinton Bush Clinton is shameful and un-American.

    2. Bill Clinton is once again putting into doubt his respect for the U.S. presidency by breaking all tradition. Bill is also the first campaigning spouse to campaign with such unprecedented zeal and lack of decorum.

    3. The Clinton 90s were the most devisive political years in recent memory, even more so than the Bush era. The Clintons inspired, regardless of whether or not it was founded, a hatred that was unprecedented in American politcs. The 90s were one corruption allegation followed by a conspiracy counter-allegation, followed by corruption allegation, ad infinitum . . .

    4. Bill and Hillary are using the same despicable tactics against Obama that they so complained, cried and whined about during the 90s — the so called Republican playbook.

    5. You can call Clinton the first black president, but when has Clinton ever been treated as a black man in his lifetime?

    6. Hillary is always talking about her “experience”. Could she elaborate? What was she really doing in the White House for 8 years during the 90s. Why was she doing it behind the scenes? Where was the transparency?

    7. Finally, Obama will be the first candidate in recent memory to offer a real hope of change away from the hatred of the Bush and Clinton years.

  10. eric

    And one other one:

    8: Hillary accuses Obama of having been friends and/or worked with an alleged fixer. Does anyone remember the long list of Clinton friends put on trial or put in jail? How about the pardon scandals and pork futures? Come on!!!

  11. I’m afraid UberChuck, that I must side with cugino on this one, completely.

    Being a skilled politician, (properly read as “primordial scumbag”), does not excuse one for trouncing tradition and total lack of respect for an institution that has ingratuitously suffered quite enough ~ especially from the Clinton’s ~ how about we bring up again how they stole from the White House before vacating the premises?

    The BushClintonBushClinton aristocracy needs to destroyed, Eric is absolutely correct, it’s unAmerican and exactly what the Founding Fathers meant to discourage.

    Hillary’s agenda is bad for the country, her spouse is a disgrace and a hooligan ~ we already have a pack of hooligans in the White House.

    It’s time to clean up, and Hillary is the drunk at the bar at 4:30 a.m. hurling obscenities and refusing to leave.

    America deserves better, more importantly, American children deserve better leadership to provide at least a small glimmer of hope for a future that is not abysmal; politically, economically and socially.

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