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Bill Clinton's renaissance and the passage of time


Bill Clinton has been enjoying a renaissance among the chattering class.

Pegged to his Clinton Global Initiative, he's giving advice to President Obama that the press is eating up. "Embrace people’s anger, including their disappointment at you," he told Politico. "And just ask ‘em to not let the anger cloud their judgment. Let it concentrate their judgment. And then make your case.”

Clinton added on "Meet the Press": "I think that [Democrats'] only chance here is to shake their own voters out of their apathy and respond to the legitimate voter anger by saying, 'What's going to happen in the next two years? What do we need to do, and who's more likely to do it.'"

And MSNBC's Joe Scarborough declared on "Morning Joe" today that there are many Democrats who wish Clinton could run for president again.

What explains the renaissance? Here's one explanation: Clinton is benefiting from the passage of time and Washington's collective short-term memory. (Two other reasons: Obama's weakened standing has created an opening for Clinton nostalgia, and Republicans no longer are attacking him.)

After all, it was just two years ago when Clinton was blamed -- due to his infamous comments in South Carolina -- for harming his wife's presidential bid. Also two years ago, these were constant criticisms of Clinton: He never won 50% of the vote in '92 and '96... He failed to pass health care... He squandered his second term.

And those were complaints among Democrats and liberals. Republicans and conservatives focused on his impeachment, the state of his marriage, and the numerous scandals during his administration, either real or imagined (Whitewater, Travelgate, fundraising with the Lincoln Bedroom).

Now when California gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown (D) jokes about Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky and then has to apologize for the joke, Clinton's rehabilitation is fully complete.

Of course, the passage of time and political forgetfulness could end up benefiting others. A year from now -- if she runs for president -- will voters and commentators remember that Sarah Palin quit her job as Alaska governor? What about her false accusation of "death panels" during the health-care debate?

Likewise, a year from now -- if the unemployment rate drops, and his poll numbers go up -- will Obama become the new "Comeback Kid"?

In short, time heals plenty of political wounds. More evidence of that: Republicans are poised -- just four years after being fired, and two years after George W. Bush left office with an approval rating in the 20s -- of taking back the House.