by Frank James
The very thing that Sen. Hillary Clinton doesn't need is what she got from her husband and former President Bill Clinton last night at a campaign event at Dartmouth College.
That's where he accused the media of being soft on Sen. Barack Obama, of having a double standard when it comes to the Illinois senator and the former First Lady.
In response to a student's question about a misjudgment made by Mark Penn, the New York senator's pollster, who sent a memo after the Iowa caucuses that dismissed, prematurely, as it turned out, Obama's bounce in the New Hampshire polls, the former president veered off to attack Obama.
An indignant, finger-pointing Clinton said:
"But since you raised the judgment issue, let's go over this again. That is the central argument for his campaign. 'It doesn't matter that I started running for president less a year after I got to the Senate from the Illinois State Senate. I am a great speaker and a charismatic figure and I'm the only one who had the judgment to oppose this war from the beginning. Always, always, always.' "
"First it is factually not true that everybody that supported that resolution supported Bush attacking Iraq before the UN inspectors were through. Chuck Hagel was one of the co-authors of that resolution. The only Republican Senator that always opposed the war. Every day from the get-go. He authored the resolution to say that Bush could go to war only if they didn't co-operate with the inspectors and he was assured personally by Condi Rice as many of the other Senators were. So, first the case is wrong that way."
"Second, it is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, numerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, 'Well, how could you say, that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war and you took that speech you're now running on off your website in 2004 and there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since?' Give me a break.
"This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen...So you can talk about Mark Penn all you want. What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the Senator from Punjab? Did you like that?"
"Or what about the Obama hand out that was covered up, the press never reported on, implying that I was a crook? Scouring me, scathing criticism, over my financial reports. Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn't take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon.
"So, you can take a shot at Mark Penn if you want. It wasn't his best day. He was hurt, he felt badly that we didn't do better in Iowa. But you know, the idea that one of these campaigns is positive and the other is negative when I know the reverse is true and I have seen it and I have been blistered by it for months, is a little tough to take. Just because of the sanitizing coverage that's in the media, doesn't mean the facts aren't out there.
"Otherwise I do not have any strong feelings about that subject."
Obama responded to Clinton in a very measured way, saying essentially that it was an attack born of the Clinton camp's frustration and that he expected the Clinton campaign would get back on track soon enough.
Watch the video below for Obama's response.
The problem for Sen. Clinton is this. She didn't need the distraction of her husband attacking Obama.
Everyone can understand the former president's desire to stand up for his wife.
But by wading in the way he did, he once again eclipsed her. Why would he want to do that in the hours before such a crucial election?
Another problem: when he gets angry as he did Monday night, he reminds people of some of the worst moments of his presidency, especially the infamous, finger wagging performance when he asserted that he didn't have a relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
That's poison for the New York senator's campaign. The downside of the Clinton years and the specter of a repeat of such messy drama in another Clinton White House is what makes many voters reluctant about voting for the senator.
Obama is riding a wave of a public hungry for change and more than a little leery of extending the dynastic string of presidents. All the former president's anger at the media, or fate, won't change that.