Bill Clinton will speak at the Democratic convention Wednesday, officially placing Barack Obama‘s name into nomination for president.
In the Washington Post, author David Maraniss examines their (at the very least) awkward history.
The Clinton-Obama divide four years ago was political and personal. It began during the intense and at times nasty primary campaign between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton as intimations of racism were thrown back and forth, a sure sign of competitive overreaching involving two men (the former president was asserting himself in his wife’s campaign at that point) with strong though different bona fides on matters of race — Clinton so empathetic that he was once called the first black president, Obama on his way to becoming the real first black president. That campaign-season animosity was accentuated by diametrically disparate individual styles. Presidents 42 and 44, separated in age by 15 years on opposite ends of the baby-boom generation, have been called matter and antimatter, fire and ice, extrovert and introvert. …
Obama in high school played basketball, smoked some pot and showed no political inclinations whatsoever. He ran for no offices then or in college at Occidental and Columbia and was 35 years old when he entered the Illinois Senate. Eight years in Springfield and two as a U.S. senator, and suddenly he was running for president. Clinton apparently considered him an upstart. In the current issue of the New Yorker, journalist Ryan Lizza quotes the late Tim Russert quoting the late Ted Kennedy quoting Clinton during the time that Obama and Hillary Clinton were competing for Kennedy’s endorsement during the 2008 primaries. “A few years ago,” the former president said to Kennedy, according to Lizza’s account, “this guy would have been carrying our bags.”
Maraniss writes that Obama asking Clinton to speak at the convention is “an acknowledgment of how much the sitting president needs the former president.”