John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Clintonian Mystique

Posted on September 4, 2012

Bill Clinton is the new star of the Obama campaign, which is pretty hilarious if you think about it.

During the nasty primary campaign of 2008, Clinton and Obama hated each other.  Even before the primary really heated up, Obama dissed the Clinton record, basically equating his with Richard Nixon, as he painted himself as the latter day version of Ronald Reagan.

Obama is turning out to be more Jimmy Carter than Ronald Reagan, and these days, the current President would love to be in the position Clinton found himself to be in at this stage of the 1996 campaign.

If you look at how Clinton and Obama operated early on in their first two years, it is eerie how similar their starts were.  Clinton jammed through an unpopular stimulus package because he was worried about the economy.  Obama did the same thing.  Clinton spent a good deal of his first two years on health care.  Ditto with Obama.  Clinton tried to raise taxes on the rich (and succeeded).  Obama talked throughout his term about getting the rich to pay their fair share (and failed).

Clinton tried to rush through as much left-wing ideological garbage as humanly possible.  Obama did the same.

linton’s Treasury Secretary was a Wall Street Financier.  Obama’s is going to be a Wall Street Financier, once he leaves the job.

Clinton’s first two years were such an over-reach that it inspired a counter-reaction from the voters, who gave Congressional Republicans their first majority in four decades.  Obama’s first two years helped to spawn the Tea Party, and gave the Republicans their largest House majority in history.

The critical difference between Obama and Clinton had to do with the Senate.  Clinton so alienated the American people that Republicans were able to win the Senate in 1994.  Obama’s alienation of the American was similarly intense, but because Tea Party Republicans played a much bigger role in the Republican nominating process in the Senate, the GOP ended up nominating candidates that could not win the general election, thereby keeping Obama’s party in control of the Upper Chamber.

Counter-intuitively, this may have sealed the fate for Team Obama.

The critical difference between the electoral success of Bill Clinton and likely electoral failure of Mr. Obama comes with who controlled the Senate.  Because Republicans had majorities in the both chambers of Congress, that allowed them to send pieces of legislation that forced Bill Clinton to the center.

A balanced budget, tax cuts for wealth creators, welfare reform, all eventually were signed into law by Bill Clinton, over his initial objections.  Clinton did not want to govern from the center.  He wanted to govern from the left.  But with Republicans in charge, he had no choice.   By controlling all levers of power in Congress, the GOP could pass their agenda and dare Bill Clinton to veto it, which he did repeatedly, until he decided that he wanted to win reelection, which forced him to sign it.

Barack Obama hasn’t had to face those tough choices, because he has the Nevada Strangler in charge of the Upper Chamber.  Harry Reid has snuffed out just about every good idea emanating from the House, at the direction of the President, because this White House doesn’t want to confront the Republican agenda.  He wants to govern from the left, just like Bill Clinton.

The result is political gridlock and economic stagnation.  Obama won’t compromise because he doesn’t have to.  As a result, he is running not as a centrist, but rather as a left-wing economic populist.    The problem for Obama is that left-wing economic populists almost never win Presidential elections in America and they certainly never win reelection.

Bill Clinton is basking in the glory of the 1990’s economic revival, but he deserves little if any credit for that revival.  He was forced by Congressional Republicans to govern with sensible centrist principles, and as a result, the American economy roared back to life in 1996 and for the rest of the decade.

Clinton is going to try to share some his wisdom at the Democratic convention.  Probably the best advice he could give is that if you are going to lose the Midterm elections, lose them big, bigger than what happened to Democrats during Obama’s first term.    Losing the Senate would have been very helpful to Mr. Obama.