In the wake of sweeping Republican gains in yesterday’s elections, the biggest question facing President Obama is whether to “do a Clinton”-- adjusting to changed political realities with a sharp shift to the political center. The fact that White House aides tell the press that Obama will never preside over such a transition, or emulate Bill Clinton’s ideological flexibility, clearly exposes the hypocrisy in Democratic propaganda that previously praised Obama as the second coming of “Slick Willie.”
As a matter of electoral expediency, it made sense of Democratic apologists to try to talk about the “good old days” of the Clinton era rather than defending Obama’s own record of soaring unemployment and staggering budget deficits. In particular, liberal pundits and politicos loved to compare the prosperity and shrinking deficits of Bill Clinton’s reign to the financial reverses that characterized the last two years under George W. Bush—as if the choice between President Obama and his vociferous GOP critics actually amounted to a choice between Clinton and Bush.
But this nostalgic pitch ignored the sharp contrast between Clinton and Obama – two Democratic presidents with radically different policies and priorities. Clinton came to power as a centrist “New Democrat,” pledging to avoid the big government excesses of an older generation of liberals. Obama campaigned for activist government with a host of new initiatives, welcoming comparisons with FDR.
In a much-quoted State of the Union address (after the Republican sweep of 1994), Clinton announced that “the era of big government is over”; Obama insists the expansion of big government is just beginning.
Clinton pushed a pro-business agenda of deregulation and free trade; Obama bashes business and pledges to impose new regulation and a more protectionist trade policy, regardless of GOP opposition in Congress..
Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and, after abandoning an early push for gays in the military, instituted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’; Obama wants to repeal both Clintonian policies.
Clinton worked with the Republican Congress to achieve welfare reform, ending a dysfunctional federal entitlement; Obama enacted new and even more costly Washington entitlements, like the trillion-dollar health care bill.
Clinton dropped his plans for a government takeover of health care in face of ferocious public opposition; Obama rammed through an even more poorly designed “health care reform” and ignored the even more fervent resistance of an engaged electorate.