Bill Clinton Criticizes Media's Priorities

Former President Bill Clinton pauses during an address to an audience at Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007. Clinton said Tuesday that if reporters covered the candidates' public records better, his wife's presidential bid would be far ahead of her rivals.
Bill Clinton said Tuesday the public would benefit from more attention to the records of the presidential candidates - like his wife's - and less to daily skirmishes that "won't amount to a hill of beans."

The former president, known as a keen strategist himself, lamented that the campaign has become too much about the horse race at the expense of policy and experience.

"Sixty-seven percent of the coverage is pure politics," he said, citing a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. "That stuff has a half-life of about 15 seconds. It won't matter tomorrow. It is very vulnerable to being slanted and rude. And it won't affect your life."

Campaigning in New Hampshire, he said Hillary Rodham Clinton's work in the Senate proves she can accomplish change and "I would pick her and be here if we weren't married."

Amber Wilkerson, speaking for the Republican National Committee, said Clinton's comments were hypocritical given the struggle to get more papers released from his presidential library.

"It would be a lot easier to assess Hillary Clinton's so-called experience if she would unlock her records and allow the public to make their own determination about her credentials," Wilkerson said.

Clinton talked up his wife's experience and - by implication - pointed out rival Barack Obama's relative lack of it at a campaign stop in Keene.

"One percent of the press coverage was devoted to their record in public life," he said. "No wonder people think experience is irrelevant."

At a later event in Claremont, Clinton told high school students that headline-grabbing skirmishes are not what matters. "The stuff will be gone with the wind," he said. "It won't amount to a hill of beans in a week or so."

Although the focus on political competition is hardly unique to this election - and Clinton is second to none in his own competitive instincts - he said he would feel frustrated if he were running this time.

"There seems to be this fashionable idea that - not just Hillary, but some of the other people who are running for president, Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, Governor Richardson - people who have done an enormous service to this country, would somehow be disqualified from national leadership because they've been change-makers in the past."

In Keene, Clinton recalled the western New Hampshire town as the place he realized he might actually win the Democratic nomination in 1992. He did not win the New Hampshire primary that year, but his second-place finish helped position him as "the Comeback Kid."

Clinton is one of several marquee surrogates trekking through snowy New Hampshire. Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling planned to join Republican Sen. John McCain on Wednesday. Oprah Winfrey planned to join Obama on Sunday.