Seeing Clinton behind the podium, passionate and feeling, worried about our country, underscored how different he is from his fellow Democrat. Obama, cerebral and cool, fretted about giving away too much to Republicans and about being late to a Christmas party with his wife.
Clinton showed his grasp of the situation, not with lofty ideas and ideals but with facts and figures: cash in banks, $2 trillion, and on corporate balance sheets, $1.8 trillion. Noting, "It's been since 1964 since they've had that much cash relative to their value."
His argument was that, while not the best option, the compromise "is the best available option." He added, "Everybody's got to give a little."
It's bigger than just this one deal, he continued. "This holds the promise that after the fights are over we'll be able to find principled compromise, and to me it's worth doing."
When people are pressured in new situations, they often lose their way. Several of the Democratic sages Obama might once have counted on are no longer around to provide guidance. Sen. Ted Kennedy, for one.
For the former community organizer who served in the Illinois Senate for six years and the U.S. Senate for two years before announcing his presidential candidacy, this is new territory. While the Democratic Party controlled the House and Senate, Obama's job of governing was easy. But the split government, as Clinton said, is about making deals and making government work.
It's hard work, painstaking work. No one is happy, and every round starts fresh.
The takeaway from the press conference: Clinton still understands our pain; Obama has to go to a party.
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