Hill's cash, Bill's identity crisis

By putting up $5 million of her own cash, Hillary sent a clear "and if you didn't think I meant business..." message to her party's uncommitted. As a serial entrepreneur, I have to admit, I view Hillary differently now that her own skin's in the game. Since acting as her own VC, others' dollars have poured in, though not at the rate as Obama's.

Her even having $5 million to spare is eye-popping. This, from the couple who had virtual tin cups in hand during those nagging Whitewater battles. (Don't you miss the '90's?) The book signing and rubber chicken dinner circuits have clearly been great to Bill. It's an inspiring comeback story. (My tongue is about halfway in cheek.)

It's no coincidence that with Hillary's cash infusion came major changes at the top. We're talking CEO-style hardball. Out went her campaign manager (and self-described virtual adopted daughter) Patti Solis Doyle, in came veteran adviser Maggie Williams.

This is the maturation of a process put into gear a couple of weeks ago, after Bill's South Carolina gaffe. While Hillary may have snagged shiny Super Tuesday baubles like California and New York, minority voters beat a path right to Obama in huge numbers, even in states Hillary won.

Bill's extreme makeover from attack dog to lapdog somewhere between South Carolina and Super Tuesday just didn't take. That's now clear, and the damage may be lasting. My question is why he saw fit to invoke race in the first place. Smart, Zeitgeist-connected, clearly not racist guy like him? It doesn't wash.

Actually, it does wash if you look at Bill as a guy finding his way into a new phase of life – not retirement, but a period that requires sublimating a Presidential-sized ego, and finding a new identity. Don't underestimate how hard it is to establish a new identity when it's time to turn the page. Stumping for Hillary – potentially re-inhabiting a bedroom (and/or dog house) back at 1600 Pennsylvania – that's uncharted waters for someone used to having the spotlight trained solely on him.

Look at Bill's public-facing activities since leaving the White House, and you see a similar pattern: worthwhile pursuits, starring Bill Clinton as, well, Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton as a brand, that's a good thing if it means getting desperately needed dollars to Africa, or delivering what Homeland Security could not to New Orleans. But Brand Bill doesn't fly on someone else's Presidential campaign trail. Maybe it did early on, but not during the campaign's current, critical phase.

A smart guy once said (paraphrasing) when you're President, they play music every time you enter the room. When you're not, the music stops. Bill would do well by Hill to remember these, his own words. Especially after ponying up five million big ones.

Michael Burnham is CEO of My Next Phase, a consulting firm offering non-financial retirement planning products and services (www.mynextphase.com).

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