President Bill Clinton will speak at the Democrats’ national convention in Charlotte, and so will former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.
Democrats have probably invested hope in both men for different reasons—Clinton as sage of the party and Crist as disenchanted ex-Republican in search of a political future.
There are potential political hazards for both men should they falter.
Pundits on Sunday kicked around possibilities for Clinton’s speech—one pundit claimed Clinton insisted his speech be scheduled for prime time.
Whatever Clinton says will definitely be a conspicuous part of his legacy because he’s not a young man anymore. How many more years he’ll be active in politics is unknown.
President Barack Obama made history by becoming the first biracial president and this election is a referendum on his actual deeds rather than his personality.
Clinton will have a dual challenge. He must construct a case justifying the reelection of Obama but Clinton must also protect his own legacy. If he makes false claims, conservative media will aggressively correct the record.
Clinton is now politically rehabilitated, with most viewing his presidency favorably. Those of us who were adults during his presidency know Clinton would have less approval had it not been for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) who worked diligently to reform the government. The two men disagreed on many things but both were able to work together for the presumed benefit of the country.
Had it not been for Gingrich's ability to persuade, Clinton's rehab would not have been implemented so seamlessly.
Crist will probably focus on explaining why he left the party. He will more than likely paint Republicans in a negative light and he may fall in line with big government types who malign the tea party supporters who tend to get in the way of burning taxpayer money.
What Crist won’t say is that he left the party because, against all odds on Earth, in heaven and on the Beltway, now Sen. Marco Rubio cleaned Crist’s clock in the U.S. Senate race. Rubio triumphed despite party establishment support for Crist and hostile media.
In the interest of self-promotion, I’d like to point out that I called that race correctly. Pundits believed a 3-way race between Crist, a Democrat and Rubio would hurt Rubio. I said it would impact the Democrats’ votes and it did because Crist and the Democrats’ candidate were vying for many of the same supporters.
Democrats described Crist as “former Republican governor,” without mentioning he had no party affiliation—labeled as an “NPA”—before his only term ended. Crist’s heritage is Greek on his paternal side—maybe he and Vice President Joe “Bidenopolous” will have a grand time discussing their common culture.
Bottom line: Crist only has a political future if Dems like what they see and get behind him on a future run. That will be an interesting process.
A few pundits hinted Clinton has the capacity to surprise convention-goers with his remarks, but it’s not likely he’ll do harm to his party’s presidential candidate. After all, Clinton’s daughter works in the media industry and she’s a natural to do what many of those media types do—enter politics once she’s got her brand nice and stable.
Clinton isn’t about to tank his daughter’s—or, for that matter, his wife’s—political future by upsetting the party machine this go 'round.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Sept. 4, 2012)