Why Bill Clin­ton likes Michele Bach­mann

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

There is some­thing strange in the air when for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton com­pli­ments tea party fa­vorite Rep. Michele Bach­mann. Speak­ing on CNN two weeks ago, Clin­ton said he is not sur­prised the con­gress­woman is ris­ing in the polls, be­cause she is a “com­pelling pub­lic fig­ure” and comes across as “real.”

Since Bach­mann pretty much op­poses ev­ery­thing Clin­ton be­lieves in, the ques­tion be­comes ex­actly why does he think she’s com­pelling. It can’t be her ar­dently pro-life views. Or her lower taxes and smaller gov­ern­ment be­liefs. Or even her call to abol­ish na­tional health care. Clin­ton wouldn’t find those things at­trac­tive at all. And the con­gress­woman ab­so­lutely loves the tea party. Is the for­mer pres­i­dent down with that?

Can’t be. So, I sense some games­man­ship in the air, and I suspect it has to do with Sarah Palin. Most Democrats loathe Palin so much that they are happy to see a can­di­date who is tak­ing up some of her air­time. Both Bach­mann and Palin ap­peal to the same au­di­ence: tra­di­tional, con­ser­va­tive work­ing folks. Their views are al­most iden­ti­cal on many sub­jects. But Bach­mann, for some rea­son, seems to be eas­ier for the Democrats to ac­cept.

This might come down to per­son­al­ity. Palin has a harder edge than Bach­mann. A new Gran­ite State poll in New Hamp­shire puts Palin’s un­fa­vor­able opin­ion rat­ing among reg­is­tered Repub­li­cans at a whop­ping 52 per­cent, with 41 per­cent ap­prov­ing of her. On the other hand, 52 per­cent like Bach­mann and just 23 per­cent do not.

So you would think Democrats would want to pro­mote a Repub­li­can who has high neg­a­tives in­stead of one who is gain­ing mo­men­tum. Not in this case.

It seems that Palin has re­placed Ge­orge W. Bush as the per­son many lib­eral Amer­i­cans love to hate. That has ben­e­fited Bach­mann, who is get­ting com­pli­ments aimed at bol­ster­ing her can­di­dacy at Palin’s ex­pense. Democrats well un­der­stand that the GOP does not have room for both women in the pri­mary fray. They would split the tea party vote.

On pa­per, the Democrats should want that split.

But they don’t seem to be pro­mot­ing it. Clearly, big lib­eral guys like Clin­ton are openly root­ing for Bach­mann to hold the tea party banner, and if you be­lieve the polls, it has to be per­sonal. Tac­ti­cally at this point, Bach­mann is more of a threat to the Democrats than Palin is.

The end game, of course, will be quite dif­fer­ent. If Bach­mann were to win the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, I have no doubt that Clin­ton might not find her as com­pelling as he once did. In light of that, here’s a memo to the for­mer pres­i­dent: Let’s keep it real, sir.

Bill O’Reilly is au­thor of the book “Pin­heads and Pa­tri­ots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama”.

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