After all the recent cutbacks in the newspaper business, thank goodness we still have Frank Bruni in The New York Times to offer expert analysis -- like this brilliant parsing of Bill Clinton's call for a restoration of canceled insurance policies under Obamacare:
You can alternately view what he said as payback.... It was more vinegar than honey, with just the slightest trace of arsenic.No! Really? You think Bill might be trying to help his wife become president? (Smacks forehead.) Gosh, that never occurred to me!
Or you can view what happened last week in grandly strategic and utterly gallant terms, which is where things really get interesting and which may be the most accurate appraisal of all. Clinton is looking to 2016, and he's helping Hillary.
There's also this:
But the calculus for [Bill Clinton] over the coming years is much, much more complicated. If Obama doesn't recover, if there are more fumbles and if Hillary formally decides that she'd like to carry the ball next, Bill's best approach may be cheerleading mingled with fault finding....Fault finding? You mean, if Obamacare continues to struggle, and Hillary runs for president, Bill might try to help her distance himself from the health care program? Amazingly subtle plan! Tip of the hat to Bruni for ferreting it out!
Bruni also reveals his astute grasp of recent history:
In his animation and expansiveness, [Bill Clinton is] a sustained retort to Obama's style....Which would have been brilliant, right? The perfect response to the moment!
As I watched Obama's stiff apology on Thursday -- "I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans," he said, with a listlessness that suggested that he completely wanted to get far away from the podium -- I couldn't help imagining Clinton's hypothetical performance in a similar spot and bind. He would have been lavish with empathy, promiscuous with it. He would have bled and he would have gushed.
Except that Bill Clinton was the same emotional guy he is now during his own health care crisis, in 1993 and 1994 -- and what good did it do him? His proposed overhaul failed. His poll numbers suffered. His party was wiped out in the '94 midterms. "I feel your pain" was a punch line.
In this compare-and-contrast, Bruni is, of course, Maureen Dowd without the pop-culture references to Mr. Spock or TV robots. The Times still values Dowd, too. Isn't that wonderful?