Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Is there a Clinton backlash at stake if Bill touts Rahm for mayor of Chicago?

Hearing that Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., says Bill Clinton should butt out of the upcoming mayoral elections (the former president says he will campaign in Chicago for his one-time staffer, Rahm Emanuel) makes me wonder what the backlash could be if Clinton were to immerse himself in Chicago politicking.
CLINTON: Is coming to Chicago a mistake?

Could it be that Bill Clinton could suffer negative consequences should he decide to get himself mixed up in the Feb. 22 election for who gets to replace Richard M. Daley at City Hall?

FOR THE RECORD, Davis says that a Clinton appearance in Chicago would wind up being divisive, and could even stain his legacy among African-American voters in Chicago – who were a significant part of the reason why Clinton never had trouble taking Illinois’ electoral votes when he ran for president in 1992 and ’96.

Then again, that could just be reflected resentment over the fact that among non-black Chicago voters, former Sen.Carol Moseley-Braun’s mayoral campaign is the one most likely to be taken seriously – and not his.

Now we can argue that Bill Clinton isn’t going to run for office in the future. What does he have to lose if the various ward organizations on the South and West sides of Chicago get ticked off at him?

I am not sure what to think. Although I think the people who glibly dismiss such a possibility are being shallow.

BUT I HAVE to admit that learning of Davis’ tough talk toward Bill Clinton reminded me of an anecdote offered up by Clinton’s ’92 campaign manager, James Carville, when he and his then fiancé (now wife) Mary Matalin (herself a South Chicago neighborhood native) wrote their joint book “All’s Fair: Love, War and Running for President” about the Clinton/Bush (the elder) campaign.

DAVIS: Bill should butt out!
Carville told how Clinton campaign aides seriously considered having Bill himself come to Chicago to publicly endorse the Democratic primary opponent of then-Rep. Gus Savage.

We all remember Gus, although our perception of his persona depends heavily upon our own racial perspective. Black bigot? Or the man who told it like it is, even if white people got uncomfortable at hearing reality?

As Carville (who said Savage made “bigoted” and “anti-Semitic” statements) wrote in one of his passages of the joint book, “We kicked around this idea pretty hard inside the campaign for a day and a half, two days. I said, ‘It will show some political courage, it will lick the’Slick Willie’ problem, and in the end it ain’t gonna matter’.”

OF COURSE, IT never happened. It seems the Chicago-based Clinton staffers expressed hesitation because Savage’s backers included many of their backers, and Savage wasn’t doing anything to speak out against the idea of whether an Arkansas governor was fit to be president.

While Carville, in his book, called the lack of an endorsement, “a blown opportunity,” perhaps it was a case where fate saved Bill Clinton from future embarrassment that could have never been anticipated.

For as we remember, Savage did lose that primary election cycle. To Mel Reynolds. We all remember the one-time Far South Side and surrounding suburbs congressman who later did prison time, in part for his intimacies with a 16-year-old girl.

Be honest. If Bill Clinton had come to Chicago and endorsed Mel Reynolds, you just know somebody would have taken the pictures that would have resulted from such an event and rehashed them repeatedly when the president went through his own ordeals involving intimacies with a White House intern.

I CAN JUST envision the ideologues drooling at the very thought, and wishing that such an event could have occurred. Clinton and Reynolds – a “meeting of the minds” (or perhaps some other body part). Make sure no young girls are anywhere near the event.

EMANUEL: Will it help, or hurt?
Now I’m not saying that Clinton coming to Chicago to talk up Rahm Emanuel (of whom he once said at a D.C.-based Gridiron Club dinner, “I found Rahm. I created Rahm. I made him the man he is today. I am so sorry”) is going to create tawdry stories of young girls.

But it also means there is always the potential for consequences that we can’t dream of now. So is Danny Davis correct when he says that Clinton’s relations with Chicago’s black population would be “fractured” and “perhaps even broken?”


DOES IT MATTER? Who’s to say!

Bill’s political career is finished (and he made it to the top). Although there always is the possibility that wife, Hillary, has her own aspirations in public life.

Hillary R. Clinton even has an outside chance of someday running again for the Democratic nomination for president (although I’d say 2016 is her year, not ’12). Could it be that a Hillary Clinton campaign could someday have to struggle more than it ought to in order to get the support of Illinoisans and the state’s (still ample) electoral votes?

Considering how some political people are more than capable of holding a grudge for years to come, I can’t help but wonder if the after-life of a Clinton appearance in Chicago on behalf of Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral dreams is that Hillary would (once again) suffer for the “sins” of her husband.


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