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Bill Clinton's Campaigning for Wife May Boomerang


NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr is following the Democratic presidential contest closely. And he has these thoughts on the most famous spouse on the campaign trail.

DANIEL SCHORR: In a moment of introspection on the campaign trail in South Carolina, Bill Clinton said think what being president is like. They play a song every time you walk into the room. After I left the White House, nobody played a song anymore. I didn't know where I was.

Clinton may not understand where he is these days as his campaign support of his wife adopts an increasingly striking tone. The man who was once described by Toni Morrison as America's first black president wages a personal war for the defeat of the candidate who would indeed be the first black president.

Clinton says that he's not standing in the way of Barack Obama's becoming the first black president - just not this year. I think Hillary would be a better president at this point in history, he says. But Bill Clinton's sharp criticism of Senator Obama with phrases like fairy tale and rolling the dice on the presidency may have alarmed some in the Democratic camp. They fear it may boomerang against Senator Clinton in the crucial primary next Saturday in South Carolina with its large African-American Democratic electorate.

Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle says that Bill Clinton's conduct is not in keeping with the image of a former president. I think it destroys the party, Daschle said. And indeed, the tone of Bill Clinton's stump speeches does not seem to be in keeping with the ex-president who has written a book on giving and has joined high-minded bipartisan ventures with former President George Bush.

Many think that Clinton's current position as his wife's attack dog is a departure from his image as a philosopher philanthropist. He has provided an opening for Obama to say - as he did on ABC on Monday - that the ex-president has taken his advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling.

Bill Clinton has become more than a surrogate for his wife. Asked about the prospects for his wife in South Carolina, he said, this is a state I won in 1992. And I like it here and love being here. Some people are asking what's gotten into Bill. Whether Clinton yearns for the sound of "Hail to the Chief," well, that's something it'll take more than a journalist to analyze.

This is Daniel Schorr. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr passed away on Friday, July 23, 2010. See an obituary, photo gallery and an archive of Schorr's commentaries for NPR.