Politico has an interesting piece today discussing the Bill Clinton show, the series of rallies the former president is holding on behalf of his wife’s candidacy. As it turns out, these rallies often take long detours into Bill Clinton’s favorite territory: himself. Even a longtime friend and supporter, Rep. Charlie Rangel, thinks Bill’s focus sometimes seems to wander:
“I thought he was running for reelection rather than campaigning for his wife,” Rep. Charles Rangel, who introduced the former president at the three back-to-back church stops, told POLITICO in an interview on Tuesday. Rangel — the “lion of Harlem” whom Hillary Clinton credits with convincing her to run for Senate in 2000 — has been a stalwart supporter for years.
But Rangel said the former president appeared to revel more in his own past than in his wife’s future during his remarks on Sunday. “He was talking about all the great things he and I had done together — the empowerment zones,” he said, referring to the 1994 law that incentivized private investment in the struggling neighborhood through tax credits. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s nice, but that had nothing to do with Hillary Clinton. But I enjoyed it, it’s OK for me.”
Rangel added: “There are times that I think he’s got it; there are times when I think he’s off subject. But it’s clear the crowds love him.”
One of those times Bill got “off subject” was last week when a small group of Black Lives Matter protesters heckled him about the 1994 crime bill and Hillary’s support for it at the time. Bill’s decision to yell back at the protesters resulted in some backlash online. Alicia Garza, one of BLM’s co-founders wrote a sharp response last week attacking Bill’s handling of the protest and saying Hillary was speaking out of “both sides of her mouth about black people…” That’s certainly not the kind of press Hillary wants to see.
It’s also not the first apparent gaffe Bill has had on the campaign trail. Last month he referred to the “awful legacy” of the Obama years, even as his wife was cozying up to Obama’s legacy. Back in February Bill suggested the Obama recovery was not really working for a lot of Americans. But Politico reports not all of Bill’s diversions are as heated or interesting as his face off with Black Lives Matter protesters or President Obama. Some of the time he just seems to be rambling on about himself:
Back on his adopted home turf, Clinton also wanted to reminisce about his own personal history with the historic neighborhood. Explaining his decision to move his personal office to Harlem 16 years ago, Clinton seemed to give the audience more of a blow-by-blow than voters were necessarily hoping for. “People who did this sort of thing … picked out some office space for me in midtown, near Carnegie Hall — I thought I could see a lot of music,” he said. But he explained that the pricey office space sparked a controversy over the high rent, leading him to decide to move to Harlem instead. “President Reagan opened his office in Los Angeles [without] arguing about the rent,” Clinton said. “But I heard it for a couple days.”
Despite all of this, the campaign maintains Bill is a net positive.