In the last week or two, an eccentric debate has been dividing Democratic Party pols and commentators in Washington: In 2011, should President Obama strive to be more like Harry Truman in 1947 or Bill Clinton in 1995?
Apparently, they have given up on FDR or Abe Lincoln as plausible role models for the president. They should be careful. The way the economy seems to be going, a year from now, they could be down to deciding between Carter and Hoover as role models.
The point of this debate is that in 1947, Truman, after a crushing midterm election against the Democrats in 1946, was defiant, moved to his left and nonetheless won an unlikely re-election in 1948. (Truman opposed Republican tax cuts and removal of price controls, he vetoed the union-weakening Taft-Hartley Act and was overridden, he proposed national health insurance and moved aggressively on civil rights.)
Bill Clinton, of course, is famous for triangulating between the Republicans and the Democrats, moving to the center/right, signing the Republican welfare reform bill (which he had twice vetoed before the election of 1994, when the GOP thumpingly took back the House and Senate), agreed to the Republican-proposed balanced budget (which he steadfastly opposed before the election), proclaimed that the era of big government was over and, in his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, bragged about signing into law 14 items that had been in the Republican "Contract with America."
But 2011 is not 1947 or 1995. The primary challenge for the president (and the Congress) today is not to be seen to get one up on the other party -- nor is it to be seen to support their base at the ideological barricades. It is to restore the immediate economy to reasonable health, bring down unemployment rates below 7 percent (preferably below 5 percent), see the housing market begin to recover and induce business to voluntarily start investing some of its $2-3 trillion it is fearful to invest in the current market.
If none or little of that happens in the next two years, the voters may unleash their justified wrath at both parties' politicians -- from the president and the speaker on down.
So, from the president's perspective, he should have a high value in getting his policy right and implementing as much as he can by pressuring the GOP to pass it. But what is his economic policy?
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.