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Chill, Bill

Attacking Obama is beneath the stature of the 42nd president.

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It's hard to imagine three political rivals more likely to privately admire one another's values on race and civil rights than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. So it's a relief that, even as the tenor of their campaigns becomes increasingly harsh in other respects, they've agreed to spare Democrats any more gratuitous skirmishing around race.

A second step forward in campaign decorum would be some self-restraint on Bill Clinton's part. I count myself among his legions of 1990s-era campaign supporters and impeachment opponents still nostalgic about his two terms in office. Thus it gives me no great pleasure now to chastise him in print. But let's be blunt: In his shrill attacks on Senator Obama's candidacy, President Clinton is demeaning himself and jeopardizing his well-earned stature as statesman.

That Bill Clinton has a favored candidate in the Democratic horse race is understandable, and anything short of an enthusiastic affirmation of Senator Clinton as the best leader for the country would be odd. He's right to celebrate his wife's personal qualities and her decades of various forms of public service. Giving voters insight into the kind of experience she chalked up as a substantively engaged first lady makes sense. And chiming in on the nexus between experience, judgment, and leadership is perfectly fair game.


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