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Is Obama Embarking On Bill Clinton's Third Term?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

"John McCain has decided to run for George Bush's third term, and we can't afford it."

If Barack Obama stated that once during his campaign, he stated it hundreds of times.

And the fact that Senator McCain had alienated his own party by being a thorn in Bush’s side for much of the past eight years didn’t matter. It was a clever way for Obama to label McCain during the campaign, and by all indications, it worked.

So now, what are we to make of the return of the Clinton gang to Washington? As one liberal blogger noted, “Barack Obama acted all hopey and changey to get elected,” but now that he’s actually going to be President, he needs to staff-up with people “who actually know what they’re doing.”

That’s one way to look at it. But what are the implications of having the “Clintonistas,” and maybe even the Clintons themselves, in and around the Obama White House? It would be horribly naïve to assume that these “Washington insiders” will only bring their utilitarian value and “professional expertise” to the table, and will leave behind the policies, instincts, and sensibilities of 1990’s Washington.

So let’s not be so naïve. The passionate Obama partisans aren’t. The polling data on these voters released last week by John Zogby may have confirmed what many of us had suspected for months - - that millions of Americans who supported the Obama candidacy knew essentially nothing about him - - but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that Obama sold people on the idea of “change.” And based on the left-wing reaction to the Clinton re-emergence, “change” was taken to mean not merely a reversal of the past eight years, but an un-doing of the past couple of decades.

This has left-wingers outraged. Obama spent much of the past two years vowing to end the “senseless war in Iraq.” As he stood on stage with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards for those seemingly never-ending Democratic debates, he took every opportunity imaginable to remind us that he was the only candidate who had always opposed the war in Iraq. Yet, now he may be about to appoint a “war supporter” to head up the Department of State. That’s not “change,” and it’s not hopeful - - at least not to those who have been caught-up in the Obama trance.

Similarly, Obama spent a lot of time and energy earlier this year brutalizing Mrs. Clinton in front of fearful blue collar workers, assuring them that “free trade,” and Mrs. Clinton’s previous support of the “N.A.F.T.A.” agreement, were the reasons that jobs were moving overseas and their futures were uncertain. He also assured voters that “N.A.F.T.A.” would be reigned-in when he became President. Yet now, Obama has appointed as his Chief Of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a man who, along with Bill Clinton, bucked the Democratic party’s wishes, and helped bring about the N.A.F.T.A. agreement in the 1990’s.

And then there is Obama’s selection of Timothy Geithner for Treasury. When the news broke last Friday afternoon that the New York Federal Reserve Chairman had been tapped for the new administration, Wall Street surged upward and ended in plus territory. Seemingly, Obama’s choice provided some calm and assurance to a financial world gripped with the fear that Obama would actually attempt to radically realign America’s economic structures, as he promised from the campaign trail.

Yet once again, Obama’s selection of a man who arguably has ties to both the Bush Administration, and the centrist policies of the Clinton Administration, is a slap in the face to those who were hypnotized by his campaign rhetoric about impugning “the rich.”

And after months of running against the “failed policies of George W. Bush,” Geithner’s selection painfully suggests to the Obamanicas that maybe, just maybe, Bush 43 wasn’t such a failure after all.

At this early stage, the apparent Clintonizing of the Obama White House could be a hint that the incoming President may be far more pragmatic, far more “centrist,” and far less radicalized than what he portrayed himself to be on the campaign trail (judicial appointments not withstanding). Yet it also ensures that Washington will remain the home of, to use a Clinton phrase, “the politics of personal destruction.” This is not hopeful. And it is not “change.”

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