Mr. President, I observed the presidency of Bill Clinton. I marveled at his ability to co-opt partisan adversaries’ ideas and spin them as his own. Bill Clinton was a political genius. Mr. President, you are no Bill Clinton.
Perhaps the most brilliant aspect of Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign, was the series of TV ads the Democratic National Committee ran in media markets outside the nation’s three big markets tying then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (who would emerge as his Republican opponent) to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich who already then had high negatives. The then-president left it to his ad-makers to attack Republicans while he himself offered a much more upbeat message.
It didn’t hurt that the economy was much stronger during his fourth year in the White House than it is at the same point in the term of the next Democrat to have his old job, the current incumbent.
One wonders why Mr. Obama hasn’t followed the tack of his Democratic predecessor, why the incumbent feels it incumbent upon himself to attack. Peggy Noonan, a conservative pundit once impressed by the Democrat’s charm and optimistic about his ability to unite us, has, on listening to his speeches, shed any illusions she may once have had. She found his Tuesday speech to be
. . . an unusual and unleavened assault on the Republican Party. As such it was gutsy, no doubt sincere and arguably a little mad. The other party in a two-party center-right nation is anathema? There was no good-natured pledging to work together or find common ground, no argument that progress is possible. The GOP “will brook no compromise,” it is “peddling” destructive economic nostrums, it has “a radical vision” and wants to “let businesses pollute more,” “gut education,” and lay off firemen and cops. He said he is not speaking only of groups or factions within the GOP: “This is now the party’s governing platform.” Its leaders lack “humility.” Their claims to concern about the deficit are “laughable.”
The speech was not aimed at healing, ameliorating differences, or joining together.
What makes this speech so unusual, to Peggy at least, is that it comes from the lips of a man who, in his presidential campaign, portrayed himself as the exact opposite of the type of president he would become.
It doesn’t seem he has learned from Bill Clinton, a man able to adapt to a changing political environment.