It’s pretty amazing that Hillary and Bill Clinton continue to occupy such a central role in foreign policy and in the presidential campaign, respectively, a full 20 years after they first emerged as national figures. To put this kind of staying power in perspective, can anyone imagine the Obamas upstaging the Democratic nominee in 2028? Or Mitt and Ann Romney mulling another national run in 2036? Not likely. Though you can kind of see Bristol Palin showing up for the 500th episode of “Dancing with the Stars.”Why, yes I can imagine Barack Obama giving a convention speech in 2028 that upstage the nominee.
Look, I know this is just a throwaway paragraph from Matt Bai, but it's just so, I don't know, typical of his historical myopia. Why are Bill and Hillary still a big deal 20 years later? Because they were young then, and because Bill Clinton survived eight years in the White House with his party still liking him.
I mean, it's not as if examples are hard to find, anyway...Richard Nixon first "emerged" in 1952, and was pretty important at the GOP convention in 1972. Bob Dole, 1976, and then 1996; for whatever it's worth, his wife ran for president in 2000. FDR emerged in 1920 and was sort of a big deal in 1940; his wife wasn't secretary of state, but she was UN Ambassador 30 years after he was first on a ticket. Even Ronald Reagan: first a candidate in 1968, still a pretty big deal in 1988.
Of course, if Ronald Reagan were alive and in good enough shape to give convention speeches, we would be treated every four years to silly speculation about how the GOP was hurt because he was upstaging the nominee. We practically are now, anyway.
Oh, and if children count (he mentions Bristol Palin), then, yeah, I think I could imagine George H.W. Bush's son having something to do with a convention a couple of decades after his father first became a national figure. I mean, if we count Bush as a national figure from when he was RNC Chair, and anticipate Jeb's next campaign...oh, and that doesn't even count Prescott Bush. Or the next generation.
No, neither Mitt nor Ann Romney is going to be running in 2036...because they'll be in their 90s by then, and because Ann isn't a politician. But if Barack Obama wins in November and avoids any disasters in his second term, he's going to be an incredibly beloved figure in the Democratic Party for a long time, and if his health holds up and he wants to he'll surely be speaking at the 2028 convention and far beyond that.