Sunday, October 31, 2010

Will Obama Follow The Clinton Model?

Anne Kornblut has a piece in the Sunday WaPost in which she draws the historical analogy between the Republican tidal wave of 1994 and the one coming Tuesday--and their impacts upon the seated Democratic President.

We all remember Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich--there was quite a bit of cooperation between the two (right up until the Republicans shut the government down--which really only hurt them, and helped re-elect Clinton) and some good policy came out of their alignment.

In this article, Kornblut postulates that Mr. Obama may follow the same model.  I've made this same argument to at least one of my Dem friends--that a Republican House--especially one with Paul Ryan Chairing the Budget Committee (one of the few Republicans of substance Mr. Obama seems to respect)--might hold out the same prospects for good policy moves.  This Dem friend thought I was smoking crack, attributing the unlikelihood of such an atmosphere to the toxicity of the town, etc.

I'm beginning to think he may have been right--except for the wrong reason.  If the new alignment doesn't work in terms of good policy, it increasingly looks like it would be attributable to the differing political instincts of the President's involved.  Bill Clinton was a centrist Democrat who led the DLCC to prominence in the 80's by putting forward policy options that challenged the traditional liberal establishment in the Party.  What many called his "triangulation" policies seem to me to have been simply policy making in his comfort zone. 

Does anyone think Barack Obama is possessed of centrist tendencies?  I simply don't see it.  From a simple numbers game, the Democratic caucuses of both the House and Senate will be MORE liberal as a result of this election, and they'll be in no mood to compromise.  It would take extraordinary leadership on the part of the President to buck his own Party, a level of leadership on policy I simply haven't seen from this White House--you remember, the one that tells the Democratic leadership to gin up bills.

The one wild card here?  Self-preservation.  Barack Obama will want to get re-elected, whether his party is in power in Congress or not.  If he sees his re-election prospects increased by cooperating with the Republicans, the stage could be set for some serious policy-making.  We'll  see.


Sally said...

Your last point is right on. His reelection hopes will trump ALL ELSE. I'm more curious about how Republicans will behave.

"The Hammer" said...

Rubbish! Clinton was a pragmatist, Obama is not only an ideologue but doesn't have the requisite intellectual software to adjust and compromise. Remember who you are dealing with here; Obama is a pup. He has no experience at anything, apart from rabble rousing. He has surrounded himself with liberals, socialists and yes men. Obama and crew would go down with the ship rather than compromise. They simply don't know how. Look, the whole team takes their direction from the top and Obama himself doesn't have the smarts, the political skills or the experience to triangulate or move to the center.

Bottom line? Compromise ain't gonna happen! And when power doesn't or can't operate, there is a vacuum. Handled right we will have a good opportunity here. Obama's numbers are flirting with the upper 30s (just what I predicted two years ago). Get his numbers low enough and Dems will get scared and we can get some stuff passed.

Anonymous said...

Remember his quote to Diane Sawyer, "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president."

You have to wonder if President Obama's view of himself will continue to override a desire to be a mediocre two-term President.

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