Home/Daniel Larison/On the Bain Attacks and Bill Clinton’s “Intellectual Honesty”

On the Bain Attacks and Bill Clinton’s “Intellectual Honesty”

James Joyner objects to the Romney campaign’s mock Bill Clinton Twitter feed:

My problem isn’t that it’ll be used dishonestly, cherry picking things Bill Clinton has said that favor Romney or criticize Obama, but that the whole exercise essentially punishes Clinton for having the intellectual honesty to depart from the Official Democratic Party Line when it’s BS.

Whatever else one wants to say about Obama’s anti-Bain attacks, the idea that Clinton, Ford, et al. are speaking out against those attacks because of their intellectual honesty is hilariously wrong. Like many other Democrats known for their connections to Wall Street firms, Clinton and the others have their own political and personal reasons to challenge members of their own party, including and perhaps especially Obama, when they think that they are indulging too much in anti-corporate or anti-Wall Street economic populist rhetoric. Each of them wants to stay on the right side of financial firms for various reasons, and Clinton may also see the ties he built between Wall Street and the Democratic Party as part of his long-term legacy.

For the most part, the Democrats complaining about the attacks on Bain are old DLC “centrist” holdouts in a party that has become relatively less friendly to them and their vision of what the party is supposed to be. What’s absurd about all of this is that the old DLC “centrists” feel threatened by a fairly mild, tepid Obama campaign theme that has been targeting his main opponent’s association with one particular firm. The reality is that Obama ran to the right of his main primary opponents in 2008. He has since governed as a relatively “centrist” and corporatist Democrat during his first term. Despite all this, he apparently cannot use his opponent’s business record against him in an election year without facing significant resistance from the old guard of the New Democrats whose agenda hasn’t won a presidential election for their party in sixteen years.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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