This is the second time former president Bill Clinton is hitting the campaign trail on the behalf of his wife, but is his election commentary garbling Hillary’s message?

According to the Washington Post, “the former president has reemerged as a potent but unpredictable advocate who sometimes helps his wife’s cause — and sometimes doesn’t.” Although many of us recall the suave and collected Bill Clinton of his presidency, he lately seems to have lost his cool — at least where Hillary’s candidacy is concerned. From the Post:

“In his post-White House years, Clinton has become a coveted Democratic surrogate. But when it comes to his wife’s campaign, something else can happen: He seems to lose it. It was true...in 2008, where Hillary Clinton lost badly to Barack Obama. And it’s been true this month...

...[In New Hampshire] Clinton accused Sanders of running a dishonest campaign — and the media of coddling him.

The outburst was seen as unhelpful to Hillary Clinton. Her campaign aides emphasized that the former president’s role was to positively reinforce her message, not to be an attack dog. But in an unexpectedly close nominating contest, that has proved a difficult task.

‘Bill Clinton is an incomparable genius when it comes to politics — except when it comes to his wife,’ said former Obama strategist David Axelrod. ‘It clouds his judgment.’”

Indeed, Bill Clinton has been vocal about the necessity of holding his tongue where he would rather not, especially when it comes to Hillary’s opponent Bernie Sanders. But his critiques—particularly of Barack Obama—have complicated Hillary Clinton’s effort to present a coherent message as well as to demonstrate her loyalty to the president. The Post explains:

“Sometimes, it’s the tone and apparent vitriol in Clinton’s voice that seem to hit the wrong note. Sometimes it’s in his actual argument, which doesn’t always mesh with what his wife is saying on the same day, somewhere else on the campaign trail.

When Hillary Clinton launched a new broadside against Sanders last week focused on his criticism of President Obama, her pitch, targeted at Obama supporters, attempted to cast herself as more loyal to the president.

Enter Bill Clinton, at an appearance Thursday in Memphis.

The economy is ‘rigged,’ Clinton told the crowd, appropriating one of Sanders’s favorite terms, ‘because you don’t have a president who’s a changemaker...with a Congress who will work with him.’”

Because these remarks seemed to imply agreement with Sanders while issuing heavy criticism against Obama, the GOP grabbed at the opportunity to accuse Hillary Clinton of hypocrisy. Eight years ago her husband’s attacks on Obama—he referred to Obama’s campaign “a fairy tale”—had a decidedly negative impact. In South Carolina, “his words plunged Hillary Clinton’s campaign into a racially charged tailspin, and she went on to lose the state’s primary by nearly 30 points.” Hillary Clinton’s campaign obviously does not want Bill to bring about similar damage this time around.

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“I don’t think it’s his job to vet her opponent. It’s the job of the media,” Democratic political operative Jerry Crawford tells the Washington Post. He has long been an ally of both Clintons. “I think he’s at his best when he’s talking about her, when he’s talking about Hillary.”


Contact the author at rachel.vorona.cote@jezebel.com.

Image via Getty.