Clinton Speaks

God, it’s fun to be a state in play. When you’re in play, you can watch the presidential race unfold from your doorstep.

Such was the case yesterday, when both vice presidential candidates dropped in for Labor Day: Dick Cheney visited the State Fair on the last day of the fair and John Kerry‘s running mate, John Edwards, addressed the annual Labor Day rally on St. Paul’s Harriet Island.

Campaign Strategist Clinton

Did President Bill Clinton plan the timing of his clogged arteries? You gotta smile because it sure seemed like the news of his heart bypass surgery was designed to try and flatten some of President Bush’s post-convention bounce. Bush gives his convention speech Thursday night and by midday Friday, the news is not the deconstruction of Bush’s performance, but instead the TV is filled with hilarious pictures of Clinton chowing down on fast food with the talking heads commenting on his weakness for junk food.

But that’s not the only way the former president dominated the news. His name increasingly popped up in coverage of John Kerry the campaign brought on Clintonites, most notably former Clinton press secretary, Joe Lockhart. The talent the Kerry campaign most glaringly lacked, was a quick-response artist and as Clinton’s former spokesman, Lockhart fits the bill.

Though Kerry has tried to downplay the Clinton influence in his campaign, it was most obviously on display yesterday through both the Democratic presidential candidate himself, and during his running mate’s speech in St. Paul.

Clinton called Kerry to offer campaign advice (from his hospital bed!!, reporters noted) and suggested that he focus not on Iraq but on domestic issues, specifically the economy (stupid) and health care.

In St. Paul, Edwards told his audience of 12,000: "If you believe in millions of Americans losing their health care, millions of Americans falling into poverty, millions of Americans who are struggling every day just to pay their bills, family incomes down, if you believe that that’s the right track for America, you ought to vote for George Bush. But if you don’t, we have to have President John Kerry."

That is exactly the spin that Clinton consistently used throughout his political career: Focus on issues that directly effect ordinary individuals, say if you’re for all the bad things, vote for the other guy. If you don’t like bad things, vote for me.

But Edwards is clearly the more accomplished speaker of the two running mates and many people believe he is also the most accomplished retail politician. So maybe my point is a bit of a stretch?

Consider this: In West Virginia yesterday, John Kerry equated the W of GW with a moral value: Wrong. "The ‘W’ stands for wrong. Wrong choices, wrong judgment, wrong priorities, wrong direction for our country," Kerry said.

It is a label that President Clinton used to describe Bush’s tax credit when he was on Larry King on February 6, 2003. Discussing Bush’s tax cuts with King and Tom Joyner, host of the Tom Joyner Morning Show:

KING: He keeps including us [King and Joyner], i’m not affected by tax cuts.
You’re not effected by the tax cuts, you don’t need it.
CLINTON: Joyner, shouldn’t get one either.
KING: Joyner, don’t need it either.
CLINTON: We shouldn’t. We should spend it to send these
kids to school. Put police on the street. It’s wrong. [My emphasis]

Clinton speaks, and the words come out of Kerry and Edwards’ mouths. Beautiful.