The Surrogate

After the New Hampshire primary victory, Hillary Clinton stood before her supporters and said that she had found her own voice. Some wondered if the voice she had found was Bill's and whether his enmeshment in her campaign was a detriment, to her and to him.

Like a lion in winter, Bill Clinton, of late, has been prowling the political savanna, his head now covered in a mane of thick white hair, energized by the crowds, his face, on occasion, turning a mottled red. When angered by reporters (which occurs more and more frequently), he leans in, wagging a long forefinger to make a particular point. A signature gesture that will always be associated with that moment when he stood before the cameras and said, unequivocally, "I did not have...." As he works the campaign trail, his aides, no doubt, carry his luggage from hotel to motel, town to town, state to state. But he also arrives at each event with considerable baggage. His tenure in the White House was the epitome of prolonged political warfare between his administration and those Republicans who did all they could to drag and stall and obstruct his legislative agenda.

Special Prosecutor Ken Starr spent $70 million investigating the Clinton Whitewater affair. And not to forget Travelgate. On Jan. 21, 1998, Starr began investigating whether the President obstructed justice when he lied about his relationship with a former White House intern. Bill then spent more than a year struggling to survive the House Republicans' effort to impeach him. And though he was acquitted in the Senate, he later acknowledged he gave false testimony regarding his affair with Lewinsky, relinquished his license to practice law and, according to reports, paid close to $1 million in fines and costs.

After eight years, the memories of those rancorous, bruising days have dimmed. But there is a sense that old grievances linger just beneath the surface for President Clinton. And it's fair to ask the question if this past-President has inserted himself into this campaign out of a wish to protect his own legacy as much to promote Hillary's candidacy.

Since he left the White House he has become an elder statesman, supervised the building of his Presidential Library, created the Clinton Foundation, and has traveled the world on behalf of HIV/AIDS treatment, and aid for the victims of Katrina and the Asian tsunami. It has been a remarkable transformation. His poll numbers have been higher than any he experienced as President. Part of his legacy as President has become inextricably connected to his good works since leaving office.

So watching his recent, short-fused performances on behalf of his wife's candidacy, it is hard not to wonder if there isn't a sense of desperation embedded in his attacks on Barack Obama. Bill, standing behind the bully pulpit, has characterized Obama's early opposition to the Iraq war as a "fairy tale," followed by a sneering, "Give me a break." Almost in the same breath he asserted that he opposed the war in 2003, despite earlier statements to the contrary. He continues to voice questions about race and gender and at times has acted like an over-involved parent at a soccer match complaining about the press, the debates and recently said the Obama camp had put out a "hit job" on him. He didn't expand.

Clearly he seems driven to return to the ultimate seat of power, power which must surely be an aphrodisiac, and represents a platform unlike anything he could construct as an ex-President.

But Bill's actions on the campaign trail begs a question: have his attacks on Obama (and the press, which he accuses of being biased) become unseemly? Also, will his candidacy &

it begins to feel more and more like this is a two-person candidacy wherein Bill has merged with Hillary saying, "we" and "us" repeatedly &

do Hillary and the Democratic Party more harm than good.

And then there's the question about Hillary as the first woman candidate for President. If she is extraordinarily capable &

and there is little doubt that she is &

does it make sense to send her husband into the fray in her stead, allowing Bill to lead the attacks on Obama. And are we seeing a preview of what it will be like to have this tag team back in the White House with Bill, un-tethered, roaming the world stage as a stealth Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and Attorney General, depending on his interests?

Would it not have been better from the outset had President Clinton recused himself from the day-to-day campaign and taken the detached role of elder statesman and titular head of his party? Perhaps. But he shows no signs of bridling back; for him, so it seems, there is far too much at stake.

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