OxBlog

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

# Posted 1:26 PM by Taylor Owen  

THE BILL FACTOR: While there is no doubt that I would like to see Obama as the next US president, I grew up with a fair amount of admiration for Bill Clinton. He was the cool, eloquent American president, to our not-quite-so-well-spoken Prime Minister. In Canada we aren't generally allowed to make our politicians into celebrities, so it's fun to relish in the cult of personality that we are deprived of. What's more, Clinton's stock only rose in my mind when he left office and turned his fame into the Global Initiative. What they are doing for development is truly innovative, and exciting to watch.

This sentiment has changed over the past week though. For all of the reasons that others have suggested, my gut feeling was that his recent actions were somewhat unbecoming of a president. But why did he feel the need to risk his image? Wasn't being the stately former President a better way of supporting Hillary?

What became crystal clear today, via Eugene Robinson's excellent column (key pieces below), is that he now sees Obama not only as a threat to Hillary's potential presidency, but as a threat to his legacy. This is why the Reagan as transformative leader (good or bad) line was such a trigger for angry response.

It is also, however, a misreading of Obama's message. Obama is not saying that the Clintons weren't good then. He is questioning the attractiveness of a Clinton presidency now. He is arguing that while their politics may have worked well in the climate of the 1990's, it is fundamentally ill disposed for the politics of now.

So, Robinson is right that Bill Clinton sees Obama as a challenge to his presidency. But he shouldn't. It is simply a challenge to Hillary's position that what was good for America in the 1990's is what is good for America in 2008.

Here is Robinson:
Obama's candidacy not only threatens to obliterate the dream of a Clinton Restoration. It also fundamentally calls into question Bill Clinton's legacy by making it seem . . . not really such a big deal.
....
Bill Clinton's brilliance was in the way he surveyed the post-Reagan landscape and figured out how to redefine and reposition the Democratic Party so that it became viable again. All the Democratic candidates who are running this year, including Obama, owe him their gratitude.

But Obama has set his sights higher, and implicit in his campaign is a promise, or a threat, to eclipse Clinton's accomplishments. Obama doesn't just want to piece together a 50-plus-1 coalition; he wants to forge a new post-partisan consensus that includes "Obama Republicans" -- the equivalent of the Gipper's "Reagan Democrats." You can call that overly ambitious or even naive, but you can't call it timid. Or deferential.
...
There's a battle to be fought against an upstart challenger who has the audacity to suggest that maybe the Clinton presidency, successful as it was in many ways, didn't change the world -- and that he, given the office, could do better. Some things, I guess, just can't be allowed. Bill Clinton obviously has decided that history can wait.

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Comments:
Although this is quite tangential to this post, I would like to call attention to two blogs that may be of interest to Oxblog readers:

The Center for International History:
http://thecenterforinternationallaborhistory.blogspot.com

The Civility of Yankee Imperialism:
http://thecivilityofyankeeimperialism.blogspot.com/

Steven Schwartzberg
 
I was wondering what Obama will do with his "obama republicans"
are his ends and clinton's ends the same or similar but his political means different?

Or does he have an agenda that he has not publicized?
 
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