The exact role former President Bill Clinton plays in his wife’s presidential campaign is sometimes difficult to pin down. He has never excelled at keeping a low profile—it’s difficult to imagine Mr. Clinton as a retiring, camera-shy First Gentleman come January—and it’s long been obvious he’s a lot more popular with most of the Democratic base than his wife.
This explains why Hillary Clinton at times publicly offers her husband big jobs in her putative administration. Last weekend she indicated Bill would be in charge of getting our economy going again. “My husband, who I’m going to put in charge of revitalizing the economy, ’cause you know he knows how to do it,” Ms. Clinton told an audience in Kentucky. What exactly that means is subject to interpretation. Will Bill Clinton head up the new Department of the American Economy next year? How is that different from the existing Department of Commerce?
Details aside, Ms. Clinton needs all the help she can get on the campaign trail, as evidenced by her loss in Oregon and squeaker of a victory on Tuesday in Kentucky, where she beat out Senator Bernie Sanders by half a percent of Democratic voters, despite a big ad buy and a hard campaign push in the Bluegrass State, and despite the fact that she beat Barack Obama in the 2008 primary there by 35 percent. That Ms. Clinton is having considerable difficulty defeating a 74-year-old socialist who represents a state with two-tenths of a percent of the U.S. population does not bode well for her chances in November.
Therefore, Bill the political maestro is on call to help, and few can doubt that Hillary generally benefits from his public appearances, which recall for many voters a happier time—the Clinton era of the 1990s, when the economy was much better and the country overall seemed a happier and safer place than today. For the Democratic faithful, Bill Clinton is a big draw and his wife has no better one to call on.
Fortunately for the Atlantic Alliance, Poland is very serious about that Russian threat—despite the Obama administration’s repeated insults to Warsaw—and the Polish military is the bulwark of NATO readiness and deterrence in Eastern Europe. No less, Warsaw has been our faithful ally since the end of Communism, punching far above its weight in American-led military ventures across the globe. Poland’s contributions to our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were militarily significant, unlike most of our allies, who were content to send token, show-the-flag forces that largely avoided combat. Not so the Poles.
Then there’s the fact that Poland, virtually alone among NATO members, spends the “required” two percent of GDP on defense (Estonia is another outlier, as I recently explained). Simply put, the Atlantic Alliance would be in far better shape if all its members took military matters as seriously as Warsaw does. Poland, then, is an almost ideal ally for America, giving as much as it gets in terms of collective security. Why Bill Clinton would seek to needlessly offend Warsaw is a good question.
The Poles are hardly taking Team Clinton’s insults lying down. Beata Szydło, the prime minister, demanded an apology for Mr. Clinton’s “coarse words” about her country, which she termed “unjustified and simply unfair,” while Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, suggested that the former president had lost his marbles: “If someone believes that there is no democracy in Poland, they should be medically examined.” More diplomatically, President Andrzej Duda stated Mr. Clinton was “grossly misled” about his country.
Polish hard feelings regarding Mr. Clinton’s comments aren’t difficult to decipher. In the first place, the statement that any Polish government wants to emulate Russia in any way seems calculated to offend. Memories of long and brutal occupation by the Kremlin are fresh and fears of Mr. Putin run deep, in light of on-going Russian aggression against Poland’s neighbors. Poles are not much fonder of Russians than Jews are of Germans, a fact Mr. Clinton—who touts his foreign policy accomplishments in the White House—should understand.
Warsaw is likewise touchy about accusations of a lack of democracy, given how difficult it was for Poland—like all countries who spent the Cold War under Soviet occupation—to transition from Communism to multi-party democracy. To say nothing of the fact that Poles are understandably proud of their very democratic resistance to Soviet rule, embodied in the Solidarity movement that did so much to subvert what President Reagan termed the Evil Empire back in the 1980s, entirely peacefully.
Poland’s democracy is imperfect and sometimes messy, but if fragile coalitions and parliamentary name-calling are disqualifying, it’s fair to ask why Italy has been in NATO and the EU for so long. Above all, if Ms. Clinton wins in November, the United States will have been ruled by two political dynasties for 24 of the last 32 years (if she wins two terms like her husband, make that 28 of 36 years), which seems a lot more oligarchical and less democratic than anything that’s happened in Poland since 1990, Observer reports.