WASHINGTON — The First Family is all over the news, discussing the management of the economy, income inequality, raising the minimum wage, the vicissitudes of press coverage and the benefits of healthy eating.
Everywhere you look, the Clintons rule.
Bill popped up on the front page of The Times giving a speech at his alma mater, Georgetown University, in which he defended his economic policies and chastised the press for its tendency to create a “storyline” that doesn’t match reality. (Sort of like the storyline the Clintons created about Monica Lewinsky being a delusional stalker.)
Hillary’s Apache dance with the press is detailed in the new issue of Politico Magazine, a piece that got a lot more buzz than the news the White House was excited about Friday: a sharp drop in the unemployment rate.
Chelsea is serenely smiling from the cover of Fast Company for a story about how “the product of two of the most powerful brands in the world” is “carving out her own identity — by joining the family business,” as vice chair in charge of shaping up the tangled finances of the Bill, Hillary &Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Her impending baby is being treated with enormous fanfare and exhaustive political analysis, like America’s answer to Britain’s bonny Prince George.
Obamaworld was even paranoid Hillaryland would hijack the B-list festivities associated with the annual White House Correspondents Dinner this weekend.
The former and future Democratic regime is clearly itching to get back in the saddle and relieve a president stalled on every front and who never really got any joy from working the joystick of power or appreciated the value of the carrot-stick approach that helped Lincoln and LBJ bend history.
President Obama and Hillary recently referred to leadership as a relay race. And if a fatigued and fed-up Obama looks ready to pass the baton early, the ravenous and relentless Clintons look ready to grab it — and maybe give him a few whacks over the head with it.
Obama’s reign has become increasingly bloodless, and while the Clintons are not new blood, they do convey more vitality than the formerly electrifying politician in the White House.
Things have now reached the point where it feels as though 42 and 45 have already taken over the reins of Washington power from 44, who is fading Snapchat-fast.
The Clintons now have Obama, as one top Democrat said, “totally at their mercy” because they “take the oxygen out of the room.”
Hillary’s stock is so high — almost as high as her speaking fees — that in The Daily Beast, Tina Brown urged the front-runner to skip the campaign and simply go directly to becoming “post-President.”
Just to make the Clintons feel completely at home as they ramp up to the restoration, there is even a congressional investigation spurred by the vast right-wing conspiracy.
House Speaker John Boehner announced Friday he would call a vote to set up a select committee to look into the Benghazi debacle, and whether Congress was misled by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others in the Obama administration.
As Slate’s Dave Weigel tweeted, “The nice thing about having a Benghazi select committee is you can roll it over into the Hillary presidency.”
Many of those who aroused the Clintons’ opprobrium and well-known taste for vengeance by supporting the rookie Barack Obama in 2008 thought they were headed to a fresh era in politics, moving past the gnarly braiding of the personal and political that led to chaos in the Clinton era.
But the Clinton machine, once described by David Geffen as “very unpleasant and unattractive and effective,” has a Rasputin resilience. And now, those who broke away are in the awkward position of having to make nice with the woman they helped vanquish.
Samantha Power recently said she regretted calling Hillary a “monster” and offered her new view: “She just brings such rigor and conviction to everything she touches.”
Claire McCaskill, who endorsed Obama in 2008 and said she didn’t want her daughter near Bill Clinton and confided to a friend she was nervous to be alone in an elevator with Hillary, announced in June she is “Ready for Hillary.”
Caroline Kennedy, whose endorsement in 2008 comparing Obama to her father was pivotal, told NBC’s Chuck Todd: “I would like to see her run if that’s what she wants to do. I think she would be great.”
And Geffen, who gave Obama his first big Hollywood fundraiser in 2008 and broke with the Clintons because he thought they lied “with such ease, it’s troubling,” now says he will “absolutely” support Hillary in 2016, calling her “an extraordinary, smart, accomplished woman.”
Elizabeth Warren, who criticized Hillary in a 2003 book for an unprincipled stand on a bankruptcy bill, siding with the big banks she needed to bankroll her political career, lets Hillary off the hook in her new book.
Leon Panetta, who served as chief of staff for Bill Clinton and secretary of defense for Obama, told The Times that Obama had not yet defined America’s 21st-century role in the world.
“Hopefully, he’ll do it,” Panetta said, “and certainly, she would.”
The president who dreamed of being “transformative” seems bummed, and that’s bumming out Americans.
But when you talk about batting singles, you’re just asking to be overshadowed by the next big draft pick. If you’re playing small ball and you’re articulating your diminished expectations, it’s only natural someone is going to fill the void.
Some Obama aides get irritated when Hillary distances herself from Obama and when her advisers paint her as tougher than Obama, someone who wouldn’t be afraid to drop the hammer and sickle on Vladimir Putin.
And some in Obamaworld think she could have skipped her $200,000-plus speeches to Goldman Sachs and helped the stumbling president make his push on health care, given that the push was focused on moms and kids, an area of interest for the woman who would be the first woman president.
But they were hoisted on their own petard.
It was the lone-cat Obama who ignored the usual practice in politics — dancin’ with those who brung ya and dismantling your bitter rival’s machine — and encouraged the view of Hillary as the presumptive nominee compared to his unfailingly loyal vice president, Joe Biden. Three of his key political advisers — Jim Messina, Jeremy Bird and Mitch Stewart — have gone to super PACs supporting Hillary.
David Plouffe, the president’s former top political adviser, said Hillary could call him for advice and told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt that “there’s very little oxygen” for another Democrat to challenge her.
As Obama has learned, to his dismay, there’s now very little oxygen for him, too.
Maureen Dowd is a syndicated columnist who writes for the New York Times News Service.