Back in December, 2007, when it looked as if the Obama train was about to run over Hillary Clinton’s “sure thing” in New Hampshire, Bill Shaheen, Clinton’s NH chairman, did the unthinkable: he attacked Barack Obama.
Worse, it was a personal attack and it involved Obama’s past use of marijuana and cocaine. In an interview with the Washington Post, Shaheen commented:
“The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight … and one of the things they’re certainly going to jump on is his drug use,” said Shaheen, the husband of former N.H. governor Jeanne Shaheen, who is planning to run for the Senate next year. Billy Shaheen contrasted Obama’s openness about his past drug use — which Obama mentioned again at a recent campaign appearance in New Hampshire — with the approach taken by George W. Bush in 1999 and 2000, when he ruled out questions about his behavior when he was “young and irresponsible.”
Shaheen said Obama’s candor on the subject would “open the door” to further questions. “It’ll be, ‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'” Shaheen said. “There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It’s hard to overcome.”
Thus far, Bill Shaheen has been proved wrong — the Republicans have not made an issue of Obama’s drug use, at least not yet. But until Shaheen spoke to the Post, the Democratic primaries had been a well-mannered, almost genteel affair. His comments were seen as out of line, somehow even racist in nature, and Shaheen was forced to resign as Hillary’s campaign chairman.
Strategically, perhaps, Shaheen did the right thing. As events have shown, Obama is personally vulnerable on a variety of issues, and as his opponents have brought them to the attention of voters, Obama has stumbled, lost ground in polls, even lost primaries.
But now Hillary is gone and Obama has returned to New Hampshire this week as his party’s nominee. This is a state he lost in the primaries. Joining him now on the stump is none other than Jeanne Shaheen, a popular former New Hampshire governor in the fight of her political life against John Sununu Jr., son of another former governor and Bush One’s Chief of Staff, John Sununu Sr. She is also the wife of the disgraced Bill Shaheen — disgraced only in the eyes of certain Obama supporters.
Whether or not Barack Obama bears any grudges against Shaheen for the drug snafu seems irrelevant at the moment: New Hampshire is up for grabs in the general election and both he and former governor Shaheen need each other.
For now, the incident is forgotten. Unless your name is Bill Shaheen.