Posted by: Joe Eds | January 21, 2010

Obama is Clinton part II?

Joe Klein, writer for Time, has always come across to me as a smart centrist, and sticks to a certain belief system that has not wavered too much over the last couple of decades. And he’s certainly openly critical of Presidents who don’t fulfill his ideals of the job, like Clinton and, perhaps soon, Obama.

His latest cover piece for Time is an interview with President Obama headlined “Can Obama Revive his Agenda?” The article comes off fairly critical of the President, if not downright openly disappointed, with such quotes as:

And the President seems to have fallen headlong into the muck and madness of Washington, pursuing a historic goal — universal health care — that is certainly worthy, and central to his party’s unfinished legacy, and crucial to the country’s long-term economic future, but peripheral to most Americans, who have relentlessly told pollsters, by huge majorities, that they are happy with the health care they currently receive and far more worried about other things.

He also writes about the comparisons between Clinton and Obama’s first term, calling the parallels between the two “striking,” adding:

Both passed significant economic legislation — Clinton passed an economic package, complete with tax increase, that set it on a path toward the balanced budgets of his second term — despite a stone wall of Republican opposition. Both were driven by ambition and high-mindedness to chase the health care phantasm. And both seemed to lose track of basic gutbucket politics in the process.

Not a great piece, but there was one last token toward the end that did take me back, and has me a bit worried about Obama’s future (along with the nation’s). This is Klein’s reaction when Obama held a National Security Council meeting immediately following the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, and went straight to work on policy:

There is an essential disconnect here, an emotional distance from the public, an emotional distance from his own staff. Take the National Security Council meeting after he won the [Nobel Peace] prize: Clinton would have hugged everyone in sight; George W. Bush would have made a self-deprecating C-student joke; Reagan might have said, “First, I’d like to thank the Academy …” The only recent Presidents who might have responded as aridly as Obama did were Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, both replaced by world-class emoters after one term.

The State of the Union address is six days away. If there’s going to be a big game change this year, it’ll be set in place then.


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