When Barack Obama was languishing by the phone in July, yearning to hear from John Boehner on the elusive Grand Bargain, the Big Dog advised blowing off the obstructionists in Congress and invoking the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling.
Clinton will often forcefully — and feelingly — frame the argument for Obama policies that would help the working class in a way that Obama himself, once hailed as a master communicator, can’t seem to muster.
On Sunday talk shows, Bill adroitly defended Barry against Dick Cheney’s sly jab that Hillary would make a stronger Democratic nominee in 2012 and against the Cajun ragin’ of James Carville.
And, on Tuesday in New York, as the airwaves thrummed with talk about whether President Obama provoked a “women” problem by letting the West Wing become too much of a frat house, Clinton showed how easy it is to get a roomful of women purring.
While Obama tried to get some credit for Libya at the U.N. and make nice with Turkey, Bill kicked off his Clinton Global Initiative with a visit to Rachael Ray’s cooking show.
Looking sharp in a three-piece suit and cozy on the kitchen set, Bill charmed the women in the audience with tales of his new vegan diet, how he misses omelets, his fantasy to play sax with the Rolling Stones and his painful recollection of being a chubby 13-year-old.
“The world we live in glorifies people who are skinnier and longer-legged than most of us could ever be,” he empathetically told his rapt listeners.
Asked what he would be doing if he were president again for one day, he replied to cheers: “I would pass as many things as I could to put people back to work.” When Ray wondered what superpower Clinton would want, he replied (perhaps inspired by his own missteps): “I would be able to enter the minds of people who were about to do really stupid things” and stop them.
When a woman in the audience asked if he’d do “Dancing With the Stars,” he said they had petitioned him but that he was too busy to train. “I would like to master the tango,” he said, adding: “Last night, Hillary said to me, ‘You know, when I’m not secretary of state anymore, we should go take dancing lessons.’ ”
The audience swooned.
Obama, in contrast, is still mooning over the tango he didn’t have with Boehner.
The suggestion in Ron Suskind’s new book, “Confidence Men,” that the president in the first year of his administration focused so much on the guys in his West Wing that it created problems with some top women, is not a new one.
Everyone thought the first African-American president would crack open the cloistered boys’ club of officials and columnists that always forms with a new White House. But it turned out that Obama felt he was all the change that Americans could handle at one time. Especially with Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers and Robert Gibbs around, the atmosphere often played as the usual “Mad Men” testosterone culture. Even Rahm was not a completely comfy fit, given that he preferred yoga to football and doted on strong women.
It’s passing strange that a man who was raised by a strong single mother, who talks affectionately about the influence of the banker grandmother who helped raise him, who married a strong woman, who lives with his mother-in-law and who has two daughters he adores, could ever create an Oval man-cave where some women felt uncomfortable.
Or maybe after all that petting and pecking by women, he just wanted to macho it up at the office, bonding by talking sports, playing sports and watching SportsCenter. This president in particular, though, has to be careful to make sure he includes the feminine perspective, even if it’s from men who have a full complement of it, like Joe Biden and David Axelrod.
Obama concedes that he has lost the narrative that brought him to the White House against all odds: his vision for making America great. Suskind’s book suggests he went astray in the sway of Wall Street pal Tim Geithner, going too easy on the gluttonous bankers, demanding no important concessions from them and throwing the equitable balance of society out of whack.
Now the president is trapped in two damaging story lines. Is he too weak and immature to do the job? Or is he too cool and distant to do the job?
The Aloof One has to convince voters that he can connect emotionally. In a way, his relationship with Americans now is analogous to a marriage that’s not working. He’s the detached husband; we’re the neglected wife.
Is he paying attention? Does he understand our needs? Or is he just pretending to listen while he watches SportsCenter?