A tense Bill Clinton on Charlie Rose

In an interview with the inimitable Charlie Rose last night, former President Bill Clinton said his wife's most threatening challenger, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, isn't ready to be president.

"It's less predictable, isn't it?" Clinton said. "I mean when is the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?"

He called voting for Obama being "willing to risk it."

Which is more important? he asked. Electing a symbol or a woman who has done things to chanhe people's lives.

He suggested that Obama take a page from his life, and realize he's not yet experienced enough for the gig.

"When I was a governor and young and thought I was the best politician in the Democratic Party, I didn't run the first time.  I could have," said Clinton referring to the 1988 campaign he ultimately decided to sit out.  "I knew in my bones I shouldn't run. That I was a good enough politician to win, but I didn't think I was ready to be president."

(Historians may take issue with that explanation as to why Bill Clinton didn't run. The reason they cite is that coming off Gary Hart's 1987 "Monkey Business" scandal, those close to Clinton cautioned him that his personal life would be dissected and probably wouldn't withstand the scrutiny -- which would harm his beloved then-7-year-old daughter. Read more here from David Maraniss's First In His Class or from Carl Bernstein's A Woman In Charge.)

ABC News Political Director David Chalian watched the Charlie Rose interview and writes: "This interview was remarkable and perhaps quite telling about the mood within the Clinton world at the moment. I'm not sure that Bill Clinton did anything in this interview to advance his wife's cause. He appeared quite tense and almost pissed off that Barack Obama is running for president."

Chalian continues: "The Bill Clinton political brand about looking to the future and empathizing with the strife of the average American was nowhere to be found. He intimated Democratic voters would be 'rolling the dice' by nominating Obama. He tried to make light of his wife's campaigns pushing the Obama kindergarten essay thing as proof of his outsized ambition."

"Time and again he described Obama as someone who decided to run for president after only serving a year in the Senate. And he continued to pitch his wife as the candidate who has done most in their life to make positive change for the lives of others. Clinton also made sure to take his usual shots at the political press as well. He made sure to repeat his belief that all the Democrats could change direction from Bush and that all the Democrats are good people and that he will support the nominee. However, all of that seemed beside the point.  He spent considerable time talking in a way that made it quite clear he was trying to portray Obama as not ready for the job of President."

Our former colleague Marc Ambinder notes that "...(Clinton's) hands began to shake and his face reddened as he discussed the political thicket his wife finds herself in....Towards the end of the interview, Rose indicated that Clinton's staff was asking producers in his show's control room to get them to have Rose end the interview."


-- jpt

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