Jonah Goldberg
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There's been a lot of talk about Bush nostalgia lately.

At Martha's Vineyard, the Obama-bilia wasn't moving like it was during the Obamas' previous visit there. The biggest seller was a T-shirt depicting a smiling George W. Bush with the tagline "Miss Me Yet?"

Meanwhile, liberal writers, and even the president in his Oval Office address, have had kind(er) words for Obama's predecessor.

"Words I never thought I'd write: I pine for George W. Bush," Peter Beinart recently vented in the Daily Beast, in response to Obama's vacillating and lawyerly support for the ground zero mosque.

Well, I'd like to return the favor, a little. I'm suffering from a mild case of Bill Clinton nostalgia.

Yes, I'm grading on a curve. I was no fan of Clinton's -- I vaguely recall predicting in writing that he'd spend eternity in Hell sandwiched between Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, and the cast of "Cats."

And while I can't say I pine for the Caligula of the Ozarks, I have mellowed in my animosity for the man. More to the point, I miss having a Democrat who could sell.

Clinton, a political prodigy of the first order, loved the human side of politics. He listened to the hoi polloi more than he listened to the Harvard faculty. It made him a less consequential but more democratic president.

Meanwhile, Obama's "People of Earth Stop Your Bickering" aloofness often makes him seem exasperated with the country he leads. He doesn't seem to care what the people think. If voters disagree with him, that's their mistake.

He's lost -- if he ever had it -- his appetite for persuasion. Oh, he can explain things just fine. But there's a difference between explaining your position and selling it. Clinton, the consummate salesman, understood the difference.

When you look back, the only thing Obama really sold on the campaign trail was the semi-magical thrill of being one of "the ones we've been waiting for." He didn't sell policy proposals, he sold abstractions. He even picked fights with abstractions, insisting, for example, that his biggest opponent in the Democratic primary was "cynicism."

Lots of salesmen start by trying to sell you on a fantasy. That's how they get their hooks in you. Get the customer to say "yes" in principle before he even knows what he's buying. "Would you like to look young, feel great and eat all you want?" That's the easy part. The hard part is translating that abstract yes into an actual sale.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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