What Would Bill Clinton Say?

Bill McGurn looks back on Bill Clinton’s presidency (as many of us have done of late) with some enhanced appreciation:

Yet for all his undeniable weaknesses, Mr. Clinton does seem to understand something that eludes Mr. Obama: In a center-right nation, a liberal doesn’t want to get too far ahead of the voters. At times (and HillaryCare was one) Mr. Clinton got himself too far out in front—but when he had, he’d generally been careful to respond by scurrying back to the center and appropriating his opponents’ most appealing messages.

As McGurn notes, Clinton showed some contrition in his State of the Union address following his party’s 1994 midterm election wipeout and began his migration to the center of the political spectrum. Alas, Obama is no Bill Clinton. McGurn observes that Obama, unlike Clinton, seems unaware of the country’s Center-Right orientation and so far evidences none of Clinton’s wily ability to adjust to new political circumstances. Moreover, Obama’s arrogance in the wake of defeat is increasingly off-putting:

His team argues, apparently oblivious to the inherent condescension, that no intelligent American could possibly oppose his health-care agenda on substance. It’s all just a big misunderstanding, says the White House. We just need to explain it better—like recasting a second stimulus as a “jobs bill,” selling health-care reform as “deficit reduction,” and throwing in a lot of speech references to the “middle class.”

It’s foreign territory for Obama, to be sure. He’s never experienced real political defeat or a personal rebuke of this magnitude. He’s lived a charmed political life by dint of his rhetoric and persona, neither of which is wearing well. He’s never much deviated from statist, liberal ideology and now seems frustrated that the voters don’t appreciate all that the Obama administration is trying to do for them. You can see why he’s testy, defensive, and mulling over whether one term might be enough.

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What Would Bill Clinton Say?

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