Bill Clinton proved bipartisanship was more art than science. Here again, he didn’t always practice it, but when he did, it was a thing of beauty, and it worked.
Remember “triangulation”? The practice of leveraging support from the opposition party - or even a smaller minority in your own – to move legislation or force compromise was sheer Clintonian. Frankly, that’s how consensus-building should work in this town. It’s one of the few ways to move public policy, and chances are it yields positive outcomes. We’ve entered an era where 60-votes is the goal, when super-majorities are the only numbers that matter, and yet it’s evident they are nearly impossible to secure.
Bill Clinton would never have endorsed a Super Committee for debt reduction. Why? Because he wouldn’t have been a part of the solution. His ego was larger than that. Plus, the numbers were decreased, meaning he’d have less elected leaders to motivate or coax. Sure, the Clinton White House had plenty of special commissions. But one that dealt with such an important topic would never have been relegated to just 12 individuals.
Remember “It’s the economy, stupid!”? It was the single-largest issue facing President Clinton in the 1990s, and it’s the same today facing President Obama. Clinton threw everything he had at the problem, even if it meant borrowing votes from the other side of the aisle. He gave to get.
Just this week, however, the Obama Administration has signaled a shift left, away from the middle where compromise is forged and consensus is found. That does not bode well for a bipartisan solution when clearly one is needed.
“The Era of Big Government is Over”
One thing is evident regarding the Clinton years: he knew when he had been beat. Following the loss of both houses of Congress in 1994, the president rightly declared, “The era of Big Government is over.” He spent the next several years resisting that fact, but enacting policies that matched the statement. Remember welfare reform in 1996? It took a Republican Congress to force a liberal president to enact that landmark law. Yet it took a chief executive to do his part.
President Obama knows the era of big government in 2011 is over. It took the Tea Party to prove to him this fact. Now, he must repeat the steps of Clinton and work with Republicans to enact meaningful, center-right policies that reflect the will of this nation. Resistance is futile. Just look at the imminent loss of the Democrat-controlled Senate in 2012, and perhaps even the loss of Obama’s own job if he’s not careful in these upcoming months.
There were a lot of things wrong with the presidency of Bill Clinton. I would have much rather preferred a second term of Bush 41. But comparing the Obama presidency to Clinton’s accomplishments of the 1990s, and it’s easy to see why the travails of President Clinton were good “problems” to have.