Barack Obama obviously has not learned from Bill Clinton.
As the last Democrat to occupy the Oval Office (before Mr. Obama) was facing reelection, the Arkansas native remained above the fray. To be sure, the Democratic National Committee did run outside the major media markets attacking the the team of Dole-Gingrich; Mr. Clinton went about the business of governing. He worked with the Republican Congress to enact welfare reform. Yet, even before we entered the election year itself, the incumbent Democrat plunged into the campaign.
Perhaps, instead of being so combative, Mr. Obama would serve himself better by being presidential, not trying to go around the legislature, but by sitting down with congressional leaders and trying to work out compromises. Instead of making Congress the enemy, he would treat legislative leaders as his negotiating partners. And then, if he couldn’t reach compromises to his liking, he could attack them.
It seems, however, that the attacks have preceded (or supplanted) efforts at cooperation. “Based on what the president and his advisers have said and done in recent weeks,” Yuval Levin writes on the Corner at the National Review, the incumbent seems set on
. . . creating populist confrontations with Congress and then complaining that Washington is broken because Republicans won’t let the president have his way. That’s a strategy that tells the public that the current situation in Washington is untenable and change is needed. Is that not an odd way for a Democratic incumbent president (whose party also controls the Senate) to run against a Republican outsider? It first of all exacerbates the public’s mistrust of government, which tends to reinforce Republican policy proposals (since those generally aim to take power away from government) but to undermine Democratic ones (which generally aim to give more power to government). It also implies that President Obama is having trouble doing his job, which can’t be a great re-election theme.
Indeed. Levin looks at the paucity of the president’s proposals and asks “why does the president want to be re-elected? . . . What does he want to do with a second term? More of the same?”
Read the whole thing.