One of the great open secrets within the Democratic party is that many of the activist worker bees would love to see Bill and Hillary Clinton go away. I hear it all the time, abeit off the record: Bill put us through the mill with his sex scandal and made us the party of immorality; Bill and Hillary are all about themselves, at the expense of everyone else; if Hillary runs for president, with all her Bill-era baggage, Bill will inevitably upstage or undercut her in some fashion - not because he wants to, but because he's larger than life, he has too many connections in too many places, and besides, an alpha male simply can't help himself.
Sure enough, here we go again. At a time when Hillary, in her capacity as New York senator, is leading the charge against the Dubai port deal, Bill, in his capacity as far-flung private citizen, took a phone call not long ago from some old pals of his - the rulers in Dubai - and offered them some help in managing all the damage control over the port deal. That's not surprising, in a way, since Bill has given six-figure speeches in Dubai, and the rulers have given six figures to the Clinton presidential library.
Anyway, in a story broken first by the subscription-only Financial Times, Bill proposed to Dubai that they hire a veteran damage control expert, Washington strategist Joe Lockhart - the ex-Clinton White House press secretary. The proposed deal apparently reached Lockhart via another longtime Friend of Bill, ex-environmental protection agency head Carol Browner...who works with another Friend of Bill, ex-secretary of state Madeleine Albright..whose lobbying firm represents Dubai Ports World.
Lockhart turned the deal down. Maybe that decision was tied to the fact that he is a Friend of Hillary, a member of her farflung political network.
One report today says that Bill never told Hillary about his February phone conversation with Dubai. One can only imagine how the spouses sorted out this latest tiff; nobody has yet said whether Hillary wanted to "wring Bill's neck" (her self-confessed reaction during the Monica scandal). Publicly, of course, she says there's no problem: "The president, my husband, supports my position." And there was Paul Begala, another Friend of Bill/Hillary, on CNN yesterday, defending the First Couple just like in the old days. (Bring back the '90s! Team Clinton spin on the cable nets! Folky Jewel CDs! New spongeworthy Seinfeld episodes!) Said Begala: "She's going to put what she thinks is best for New York and the United States first, and whatever speeches that her husband gives comes second."
Exasperated Democrats - and bemused Republicans - recognize that, as Hillary charts her ascent, this kind of episode probably won't be the last.