The Campaign Spot

The Awkward Question of the Day: Carrying Bags or Getting Coffee?

Tonight, former President Bill Clinton addresses the Democratic National Convention, making the case for another term for President Barack Obama.

Of course, the two men have not always been so friendly. From Ryan Lizza’s piece in The New Yorker:

Tim Russert told me that, according to his sources, Bill Clinton, in an effort to secure an endorsement for Hillary from Ted Kennedy, said to Kennedy, “A few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags.”

But the book Game Change offers a different version of what Clinton allegedly said:

The day after Iowa, he phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

So we know Bill Clinton said some variation of “A few years ago, this guy would have been” and followed it with something a servant, waiter, or butler would do. I’ll leave it to others to decide which is more insulting.

But Clinton has never elaborated on this comment, and why he didn’t think Obama was sufficiently qualified or experienced enough to be president. And while the comment is an exaggeration, there’s no disputing that Obama’s career trajectory was one of the fastest and highest in American politics: in 2000, Obama was a little-known state senator who had just lost an ill-advised primary challenge to Rep. Bobby Rush; he was broke and fielding questions from the Federal Election Commission about his campaign finances; and allegedly Michelle was strongly contemplating divorcing him. Eight years later, he was president of the United States.

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