Thursday, October 2, 2008

Clintonitis

"Had advisers like Clinton's triangulators Dick Morris or Mark Penn been counseling Lincoln, we might still have slavery, though perhaps with some labor standards."

Robert Kuttner, Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency

I'll be posting comments as I read this terrific book. Kuttner ponders on what happens after Obama is elected: What kind of president does America need him to be? I know this is getting ahead of things, etc, but it gets one out of the day-to-day electoral rancor and silliness and into thinking about transformative presidents like Lincoln and Roosevelt and the civil rights dimension of LBJ.

Now back to the quote about Bill Clinton. It perfectly captures my unease with Clinton's checkered presidential record -- health care, welfare, and NAFTA -- wrapped in the rhetoric of change, in his case "splitting the difference." Kuttner's point is that transformative presidents go slow and incremental but end up building a constituency for big change.

"In Clinton's case, the "interest group" that he defeated was welfare recipients. The one that defeated him was the health insurance industry."

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