Bill Clinton's Answer

When Jeralyn and other bloggers met with Bill Clinton last month, I mused this question:

I asked myself what I would have liked to discuss with Clinton. I thought of this issue most of all - 'does Clinton think his Third Way/New Democrat approach, that worked so well for him (did it work for the Dem Party?) in the 90s (of course since he is the best politician of his generation it is not clear that using of other approaches would not have worked for him) is the right political approach in today's hyperpartisan age of Bush Republicanism?'

In the past month, Bill Clinton has provided his answer:

Former President Bill Clinton rallied Iowa Democrats Saturday with a blistering attack on the Republican leadership in Washington . . . Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, have alienated rank-and-file voters by working for the interests of the wealthy and painting opposing viewpoints as unpatriotic, Clinton said in his 45-minute speech at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines.

More Clinton:

I have never seen the American people so serious. Listen to how quiet it is in here . . . And I think I know why, because people know things are out of whack - that fundamental order of the rhythm of public life and our common life as Americans has been severely disturbed," he said.

. . . He marked the differences between his administration and President Bush's, and faulted the current president for ushering in ideological leaders who had the interests of the few as priorities.

Unlike Barack Obama who is still searching for "common ground" with extremist Republicans and foregoing the partisan fight for the Party he belongs to, Bill Clinton has realized that his Third Way approach does not work in this climate:

Clinton -- who regards Rove with a mixture of admiration and disdain as the most effective modern practitioner of polarizing politics -- said in an interview that he has become fixated on the problem of how Democrats can learn to fight more effectively against the kind of attack President Bush's top political aide leveled. Associates of the former president said he thinks that Democrats Al Gore in 2000 and Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) in 2004 lost the presidency because they could not effectively respond to a modern media culture that places new emphasis on politicians' personalities and provides new incentives for personal attack.

While the Foley and Allen episodes burned Republicans, Clinton said in an interview earlier this year that he thinks the proliferation of media outlets, as well as the breakdown of old restraints in both media and politics, on balance has favored Republicans. Without mentioning Gore or Kerry by name, he complained that many Democrats have allowed themselves to become unnerved and even paralyzed in response.

"All of this is a head game, you know. . . . All great contests are head games," Clinton said. "Our candidates have to get to a point where they don't allow other people to define them as either people or as political leaders. Our people have got to be more psychologically prepared for it, and there has to be more distance between them and these withering attacks."

Associates said he regards this as his most important advice to his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), if she runs for president in 2008.

On the other hand, Barack Obama is living in a different reality:

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that - regardless of our personal beliefs - constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, some liberals dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word "Christian" describes one's political opponents, not people of faith.

Obama the political consultant. What Dems should do is what Obama has been about. Not about electing Democrats. Predictably, Broder and Klein love him.

Me, I'll take Bill Clinton every day of the week and twice on Sunday.    

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    Re: Bill Clinton's Answer (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 02:23:51 PM EST
    The other answer Clinton should have given was the defamation suit against the folks who put together that "Path to 9/11" propaganda piece.  Bring it in a Commonwealth jurisdiction where it's a lot easier for a defamed plaintiff to win(though, yes, I know the House of Lords last week issued a decision which made libel suits in the UK much more difficult for plaintiffs).  Point is, without putting these folks under oath, their propaganda version of history will become the "True" history.  And it won't all shake out in the end.

    Re: Bill Clinton's Answer (none / 0) (#2)
    by theologicus on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 03:03:18 PM EST
    Why I won't take Clinton on any day of the week.
    And never on Sunday.

    Warming Up to Torture?
    By Alan M. Dershowitz       Opinion
    Los Angeles Times       October 17, 2006

    Bill Clinton's call for court-approved 'torture warrants' hasn't drawn the same outcry as a similar proposal from a few years back.

    Re: Bill Clinton's Answer (none / 0) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 03:26:18 PM EST
    Excuse me, Clinton just said what you would have us condemn, and I do.

    As for Dershowitz, he has been applauding wholesale torture for some time now. An incredibly dishonest column from him.


    Re: Bill Clinton's Answer (none / 0) (#4)
    by theologicus on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 03:45:39 PM EST
    Marital Harmony

    McCain team mocks Hil torture loophole
    New York Daily News       October 16, 2006

    Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) said she supports legalizing the torture of a captured terror suspect who knows about "an imminent threat to millions of Americans" - making an exception to her opposition to torture and marking a key difference from her possible rival for the White House, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).


    Re: Bill Clinton's Answer (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 03:56:38 PM EST
    Please stay on topic and save the Hillary/torture position for another thread.

    Re: Bill Clinton's Answer (none / 0) (#7)
    by theologicus on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 04:48:59 PM EST
    Narrow is Apparently Okay

    Bill Clinton warns against wide torture approval

    21 Sep 2006 18:12:21 GMT
    Source: Reuters

    WASHINGTON, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton joined a chorus of critics of Bush administration proposals for the treatment of suspected terrorists, saying they would give broad approval to torture.

    "You don't need blanket advance approval for blanket torture," Clinton said in an interview with National Public Radio aired on Thursday.

    He said any decision to use harsh treatment in interrogating suspects should be subject to court review.

    Is this position widely different from Dershowitz's?


    Re: Bill Clinton's Answer (none / 0) (#6)
    by scribe on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 04:05:07 PM EST
    Thanks, TL!