Bye Bye, 'Bad Bill.' 'Good Bill' Is Back.

BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C.--It's 6:22 p.m. and still no Mr. President. He was expected here at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island over an hour ago, at 5:15. But when it comes to Bill and the clock, "expected" is an elastic word--and the natives are getting restless. At 6:23, a gentleman leaning on the barricade in front of the press pen turns around and asks if he can put something down on the chair next to me. "I'm getting cramps holding it here," he says. It's a copy of Dean Koontz's "The Husband" (coincidentally) with a "Hillary for President" placard inserted in the pages like a bookmark--which proves anything causes cramps when you've been holding it for two-and-a-half hours. "So he's known for being late?" the man asks me. At 6:24, a frantic, squealing towheaded two-year-old demands that "Daddy" remove his shoes, then continues to squeal. At 6:25, the crowd starts chanting "We Want Bill! We Want Bill!" Chanting might be an overstatement. They quickly ditch the exclamation points and the cheer subsides.

I'm about to experience a similar deflation. Truth be told, I'm expecting fireworks. That's because I've read the stories that have consumed the press this past week: Bill the "red-faced" attack dog, slapping Barack Obama around, "injecting" race into the national conversation, railing at the monstrous media, doing his wife's dirty work in the Palmetto State while she hops, skips and jumps through the Super Tuesday states. Is he freelancing? Is it part of a larger strategy? Is it helping Hillary? Hurting Hillary? Getting into Obama's head? Like any pack-minded member of the MSM, I want a taste of the action.

Turns out, like Bill, I'm a little late. At 6:31, the former president finally arrives. "I drove three-and-a-half hours to get here," he says. Note the number. With the Clintons' anti-Obama talking points firmly fixed in the headlines, Bubba's in a "World Almanac" mood tonight--and my keyboard fingers can barely keep up with all the facts and figures. The median family income: "$1,000 lower today than when I left office." Number of jobs created in the 1990s: "22.2 million." Hillary's tax credit for college students: "$3,500." Savings if students stop defaulting on loans: "$4 billion." Gallons of oil consumed for every gallon produced: "four." And he's just getting started. "I can stand here and tell you how to reduce the energy we need by 30 to 50 percent," he says. "Our health care system costs 700 billion dollars more than any other system in the world," he adds. "That's the size of the trade deficit." Oh, and in case you forgot, "electronic medical records would save us $80 billion--which is 80 percent of the cost of covering everyone." It's almost like a Mastercard ad. Recruiting, training and deploying a new soldier to Iraq: "$56,000." Sending one Blackwater employee to protect a diplomat: "$135,000." Witnessing a former president spout an endless stream of statistics meant to reassure fretful voters shaken by struggling economy:


Of course, no one can process this much data. But that's the point. Bad Bill did his duty; now Good Bill (wonky, experienced Bill) is back. And his goal is to tout Hillary's "Solutions for America"--the more specifics, the better. "Voters don't care about politicians attacking each other," he has said (after attacking). "They want to know how we'll make their lives better."

Tonight, that's exactly what Bill did--and he only made one mistake. Closing his remarks with an anecdote meant to illustrate Hillary's warmth, he mentioned how a former roommate called up on their 37th wedding anniversary and volunteered to help with the campaign. "So it was last September," he started, then paused, catching his erroneous calculation. "Wait. October." Everyone laughed. It was the only time Clinton got "red-faced" all night.

In all fairness, he said "make their lives better." His might be a different story.