Obama-Clinton's Tag Team Show
Obama - Clinton Tag Team
(c) 2010 Dana Summers
"Obama's Stunt-Double Presidency," read an Investor's
"A Third Clinton Term?" asked a
"Clinton Refuses to Leave White House!" joked the disturbingly believable humorist
Yet it soon became apparent that Obama was getting the last laugh. His Friday afternoon surprise with the former president gave visual support to a message conveyed by his pending tax-cut compromise with Republican congressional leaders: This president is triangulating, trying to regain independent swing voters in much the same way that Clinton did after his own midterm setback in 1994.
And who better to deliver that message than Clinton, the great triangulator himself?
At a time when Obama was getting roundly beat up by many of his own supporters for, at best, giving in too soon on his signature issue of limiting tax cuts only to those who make less than
Winning the center with this deal appeared to be easier than holding onto his base. An
On the other side, most Republican leaders and conservative pundits reacted initially with celebration after winning their core issue of "tax cuts for everyone," including the rich. A notable exception was conservative columnist
Clinton went on, as eager as any other retired person to share his wisdom, for almost a half-hour of answering questions. Obama slipped out of the room after the first 10 minutes, confident that Elvis still would be in the building, staying on message.
The sight of a president calling on a former president to help deliver his message was largely unprecedented, but watching the two share the stage, it was easy to see what Obama can learn from Clinton. For all of Obama's formidable oratorical skills, one is hard pressed to find any living American politician who beats
It would be hard to imagine, for example, Clinton casting barbs in public at his own liberal critics as "sanctimonious" and "purists" as Obama did in earlier defenses of his tax deal.
Clinton also learned from experience in his own unsuccessful attempts to pass universal health care that you don't get so wrapped up in policy that you forget the politics of reaching out to the country and thoroughly explaining the policy you're trying to implement, a failing to which Obama confessed in a
As Obama faces a new
Obama's big challenge will be to succeed where he has said in the past that Clinton failed. Triangulation forced Clinton, who came into office pursuing big ideas like health care reform, to begin thinking smaller -- like promoting mandatory school uniforms -- in order to compromise with his opponents. As Obama tries to pick up where Clinton left off, he has a lot to learn from the old master's mistakes as well as his victories.
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