Commentary Magazine


Obama’s No Bill Clinton

The Wall Street Journal editorial page does us the favor of quoting Bill Clinton’s comments last Saturday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, when the former president made the case for cutting corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent and, as a trade off, “eliminate a lot of the deductions so that we still get a fair amount [in revenues], and there’s not so much variance in what the corporations pay.”

That’s quite a good idea, and Clinton’s remarks are a reminder that whatever his other failures, he was in many respects a constructive intellectual force in the Democratic Party. He moved it toward the center, much as his friend Tony Blair moved the British Labour Party toward the middle, making it not only politically viable but politically successful.

Both Clinton and Blair achieved impressive political track records. They made their parties stronger, not weaker; and more, not less, appealing.

Barack Obama, so far at least, has had the opposite effect. His party was thoroughly repudiated in the first mid-term election of his presidency. The same thing happened to Clinton in 1994, though not on the scale that Democrats were defeated in 2010. But by this point in the Clinton presidency the prospects for Democrats were looking up, and in fact, Clinton was well on his way to winning a comfortable re-election. That doesn’t appear to be the case for Obama, who is turning the Democratic Party into a pre-Clinton party, one characterized by unalloyed liberalism.

It turns out that in almost every respect, Clinton was a more formidable political figure than Obama, and certainly more competent. And as we get closer to 2012, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear Democrats speak longingly of the Clinton Era, as glory days compared to the dangerous, even ruinous, prospects they now face.