Not long ago, South Carolina representative, Democratic Party heavyweight, and prominent African American, James Clyburn, famously cautioned ex-president Bill Clinton to "chill out" concerning race.

Senator Patrick Leahy, Barack Obama supporter and liberal stalwart, characterized President Clinton's recent comments as "glib cheap shots," finding Mr. Clinton's actions "beneath the dignity of a former president."

Is Mr. Clinton's political barnstorming tour "conduct unbecoming of an ex-president"?

Maybe. But what an hilarious turn of events on a number of levels.

1. Wow! Pat Leahy thinks this is conduct unbecoming of an ex-president? Too bad he was not as discriminating concerning Mr. Clinton's conduct as a serving president. We could have used a bit of his new-found moral compass back in the winter of 1998 and 1999.

2. What is beneath the dignity of a former DEMOCRATIC president? These comments make Pat Leahy uncomfortable? What did he think when ex-president Jimmy Carter called the current president the worst president in history? (Googling for a Leahy repudiation of President Carter. Nothing so far. Will continue to look and report back with any discoveries...).

This is politics. John Lewis and Andy Young (Hillary supporters) don't see anything inappropriate thus far. For Joseph Lowery (Obama supporter), the criticism of Obama smacks of racism. Leahy cries foul. Clinton friends say welcome to the big leagues, rookie. This is politics.

More importantly, Bill may well be doing us a great national favor. He has done it before.

Back in the post-Clarence Thomas era, in which the mere whisper of sexual harassment equaled scandal and ruination, Bill Clinton stemmed the momentum of the sexual harassment juggernaut. Of course, he had not planned to moderate the feminist fever sweeping the political universe in 1998 when revelations of his misconduct with a White House intern threatened his presidency. Nevertheless, he fought to retain his office with every weapon at his disposal (intimidation, stonewalling, and mendacity). Along the way, he found it necessary to water down considerably the newly fashioned stigma of sexual harassment.

Undoubtedly, as a society, we benefited immensely from our raised awareness of powerful men abusing their female subordinates. Moreover, we very much needed to address this indignity, and we continue to do well holding people in authority to higher standards in this area. On the other hand, Democrats and feminists, for purely political purposes, had fanned the issue into an overheated mess poised to do great damage to society.

However, to save their embattled president, the most strident voices went silent on sexual harassment and rallied around Clinton. And the great sexual harassment scare of the 1990s abated somewhat. On the whole, this was a positive development.

Now Bill is making the case that we can and must engage with African Americans in the full-contact sport of American politics. Presumably, Barack Obama will not be the last viable African American candidate for president. Therefore, it is not in our interest to perpetuate a political climate in which we must treat a black man running for office with kid gloves.

No one should have to fight off charges of racism for believing that LBJ was key to civil rights. No one should have their words distorted into "race-baiting" (as Bill Clinton's were) at the fairly mundane charge that a political assertion made by an opponent was a "fairy tale." Moreover, a "moratorium" on discussing admitted cocaine use on the part of an opponent, simply because of his race, is a ludicrous measure of political correctness that has no place in a free society.

This is all treacherous territory, and Bill is wading in where mere mortals fear to tread. Why? Because he is one of the few people in the world who has the political capital to navigate this minefield. Why else? Because he must. Just as he did in the Lewinsky scandal, he is providing a needed corrective to a set of rules that are neither practical nor reasonable. And, similarly, as in the Monica moment, he is taking a hard path out of desperation and self interest--not for the good of America.

Nevertheless, on the whole, it is a positive development.

One last comment: for all the conservative talk radio hosts gleefully rubbing their hands together, yelling into the microphone, and fulminating over Bill's “dastardly use of racial code words," please SHUT UP! Think about what you are saying. This is the very same cudgel that has been wielded against us and a whole host of innocuous comments for decades. Once again conservative Clinton hatred and schadenfreude makes us irrational.

Shut up, stand back, and let Bill Clinton work through all this. We will all benefit from his journey.