Will Clinton do a Clint Eastwood at Obama’s convention?

Barack Obama and Bill Clinton

It all depends on who you believe on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina

BY Nigel Horne LAST UPDATED AT 07:53 ON Mon 3 Sep 2012

ARE DEMOCRATS heading for the National Convention in North Carolina dreading their own Clint Eastwood moment when former President Bill Cinton takes to the stage on Thursday?

Clinton is unlikely to try talking to an empty chair as ‘Dirty Harry’ did in Tampa. Nor is he likely to appear barmy – the former Prez still has his marbles.

The danger is that he might not give Barack Obama the big pat on the back that’s expected from the man giving the nominating speech.

This theory comes from Edward Klein, writing at the weekend in the New York Post, who says Clinton and Obama loath each other and that the former is refusing to let the incumbent see his speech in advance.

According to Klein, it goes back to the 2008 White House campaign when Bill’s wife Hillary was fighting Obama for the Democratic nomination and a Clinton aide said of Obama that he “embraces the politics of trash” while Obama’s surrogates called the Clintons “racists”.  

Klein has an axe to grind. He called his recent book about Obama The Amateur and is a super-keen supporter of Hillary Clinton running for the presidency herself.

He claims that only a year ago Bill Clinton held a secret meeting of friends and advisers at his home in upstate New York and urged his wife to challenge Obama for the party’s presidential nomination in 2012.

Klein’s sources say Hillary refused to stand against a sitting president of her own party “but that didn’t stop Bill Clinton from going on a rant about Obama.” Apparently the former president said: “I’ve heard more from Bush, asking for my advice, than I’ve heard from Obama. I have no relationship with the president — none whatsoever. Obama doesn’t know how to be president. He doesn’t know how the world works. He’s incompetent. He’s an amateur!”

As a result of all this bad blood, says Klein, neither President Obama nor his wife Michelle nor their senior political adviser, Valerie Jarrett, wanted Clinton to make the nominating speech in Charlotte, North Carolina. So why is he?

Two reasons, says Klein:

First, you can’t NOT have Clinton at the Democratic convention – he’s the most senior and popular member of the party. But he refused to play any role if he was not given the nominating speech.

Second, Obama needs someone to persuade reluctant voters that this president is on top of the economy. With unemployment above eight per cent for the past three years, and average household income continuing to fall, 56 per cent of registered voters disapprove of the job Obama has been doing on the economy.

His low approval ratings make it clear he can’t persuade the waverers he’s in control – but if anyone can, it’s Clinton.

“As the most admired Democrat in the country, Clinton appeals to the very constituency — white working-class voters — that gives Obama the most trouble,” says Klein.

And so Clinton will give the speech on Thursday night. But what will he say?

Here Klein argues that Clinton is refusing to give the Obama camp any preview of his speech. “This has led some Democratic insiders to speculate that Clinton will make not-so-flattering remarks about the last four years of Democratic rule in the White House,” says Klein, who goes on to quote an “insider” telling him:

“If I were the president, I’d wake up at night in a cold sweat wondering what surprises Clinton is going to come up with.”

All of which might have the ring of credibility – until you ask the question: how reliable is Edward Klein?

As Dan Amira reported for New York magazine, Klein claimed last month that Obama was toying with dropping Joe Biden as his vice-president and “putting out feelers” to see if Hillary Clinton might take over. According to Klein, Valerie Jarrett “put the vice presidency on the table during a lunch” with Secretary of State Clinton.

But a State Department spokesman quickly shot down Klein’s claim, saying categorically:

"This did not happen
"They did not have lunch
"They did not have any meal
"They did not meet this month
"They did not meet last month
"They did not meet in 2012
"They did not meet in 2011, 2010, 2009
"This is not happening
"Truth is that Ed Klein is an idiot with not a shred of credibility
"Truth is that Ed Klein's motto is 'If at first you don't succeed, lie lie again.'"

The swift and poetic denunciation of Klein’s revelation is not unconnected with previous Klein stories involving Hillary Clinton. As Adam Peck has reported for the Think Progress website, Klein used an earlier book to promote a claim that Chelsea Clinton was born after her father raped her mother and to spread the word that Hillary is a secret lesbian.

‘Fear and loathing in Charlotte, North Carolina’ might not live up to Klein’s billing. · 

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