Dionne: Obama Running Clinton's 1992 Campaign

Yes, this is an old refrain from me, but E.J. writes it today:
Obama's not particularly original insight was a central premise of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. Clinton argued over and over that Democrats could not win without new ideas of their own. To reread Clinton's "New Covenant" speeches from back then is to be reminded of how electrifying it was to hear a politician who was willing to break new ground. That's why the Clintons' assault on Obama is so depressing. In many ways, Obama is running the 2008 version of the 1992 Clinton campaign. You have the feeling that if Bill Clinton did not have another candidate in this contest, he'd be advising Obama and cheering him on.
Of course the problem here is it is 2008, not 1992. As I have written, I believe Bill Clinton would NOT be running his 1992 campaign today. Indeed, when Obama argues against a return to the 90s, in my view, he is arguing against himself as it is his political style that is the return to Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. The politics of today demand a politics of contrast from Fighting Democrats. It is ironic that it is the Clintons, taking their lead from John Edwards, who are not the ones reliving the 90s. It is ironic that it is Barack Obama who is reliving 1992.

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    Obama, Media, and Pundits: Whiners Extraordinaire (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by JoeCHI on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 08:15:12 AM EST
    While seeking the endorsement of the editorial board of a conservative newspaper, Obama indeed waxed poetic about Reagan. But that was not the reason why Democrats, the Clinton's, Edwards, and liberal blogs took such offense.

    Rather, it was Obama's apparent willingness to denigrate the hard-fought, yet unwon battles of the '60's, '70's, and '90's while throwing his party under the bus and prop up the GOP as the party of ideas for his own personal gain.

    It was unseemly, and remains a sore spot among Democrats and accounts for Obama's difficulty in securing the support of the base of the party, even as the media and pundit class rallies to his defense.

    Obama and his surrogates need to stop going on TV and whining about how the Clinton's are a bunch of meanies! It makes Obama look weak and unprepared for the office he seeks.

    What does he think he was getting into, a quilting bee?

    No doubt, the Clinton's have the best punch and counter-punch in contemporary politics. And while there may be some "Democratic Party Leaders" who are reaching for the smelling salts, it's only because they haven't seen a successful Democratic Presidential campaign since 1996, and forgot what one looks like.

    Democrats take note: this is how Presidential campaigns are won!

    As a Democrat who desperately wants a Democrat back in the White House, the Clinton's muscle-flexing gives me every confidence that they actually know what it takes to win one of these things. After all, there is a reason why the Clintons are the only Democrats to win the White House twice since FDR.

    Finally, that Obama finds himself so easily thrown off his game by a little bit of friendly fire from the Clintons tells me that he will be eviscerated by the balls out business end of the GOP attack machine.

    Friendly fire? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 09:24:03 AM EST
    Even within the NYTimes endorsement was a call to Clinton to back of the swiftboating.

    Actually, I would sure like to hear Clinton do a comparison about say, her Social Security plan versus Obama's. That might actually be constructive and point out real differences and give people a real reason to support her over Obama.

    Whenever you're ready.


    I take great exception (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by Judith on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:05:18 AM EST
    to your use of the term "swiftboating". Is it not only absurd, it is severely damaging to misuse terminology so that it takes away its sting when it REALLY DOES HAPPEN BY THE GOP.

    i also think the ny times (none / 0) (#17)
    by hellothere on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:19:25 AM EST
    felt that way also. now the gray lady has not found a lot of favor with me in recent times but i found their coming out for her and the comments here about it quite interesting.

    this seems to be one more example of the few thinking they speak for the many. maybe they need to take a closer look at what the person standing behind them in the grocery line thinks versus some shallow pundit on cable. those who are in the wrong will find themselves left behind. i no longer watch most cable shows. i no longer go to daily kos and probably won't return. tpm is on hold till after the primaries.


    Joe - well said (none / 0) (#19)
    by Judith on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:41:03 AM EST
    <<And while there may be some "Democratic Party Leaders" who are reaching for the smelling salts, it's only because they haven't seen a successful Democratic Presidential campaign since 1996, and forgot what one looks like.>>

    Gave me goosebumps.


    HRC takes a ton of abuse (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Klio on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 08:38:59 AM EST
    for not admitting mistakes, for not repudiating her "war" vote but she has always shown that she learns from experience and adapts to new circumstances.  That's a quality I associate with intelligence and one that I appreciate.

    Unfortunately, her Kyle-Liberman vote (none / 0) (#6)
    by byteb on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 09:16:42 AM EST
    demonstrates she hasn't learned very much from her Iraq vote.

    I agree in this criticism (none / 0) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 09:23:29 AM EST
    But Obama missed the vote.

    Agree (none / 0) (#11)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 09:49:45 AM EST
    Political beliefs grow and change. In the rough and tumble of a political campaign it's hard to explain how one has changed from prior positions. I do believe that Edwards has been radicalized, for ex, but some positions from his time in the Senate still stick in the craw.

    Hillary is abused because she is Hillary (none / 0) (#18)
    by felizarte on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:38:20 AM EST
    Rodham AND Clinton.  She has been on the political radar ever since her valedictory  at Wellesley when she was Hillary Rodham and because she is also Bill Clinton's wife.  And she clearly knows what she is talking about.

    We are facing (none / 0) (#1)
    by Kathy on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 07:50:16 AM EST
    more problems now than Clinton had to deal with when he ran (I won't list them because we all know).  I think Edwards really helped put Hillary Clinton on point, because it seems to me that last year, she was trying to find a message that resonated.  She took it and ran with it, and reached people in a way he could not (still not sure how that happened).  

    Also, Bill Clinton was the most senior governor in the nation when he made those speeches, too.  He had the experience to back up the promise of hope and change--and history tells us he followed through.

    Ironic that BO & HRC will NOT do much (none / 0) (#3)
    by seabos84 on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 08:19:11 AM EST
    different than was done in the 90's?

    cave, cower, and whimper in front of the fascist onslaught?

    I HOPE I'm wrong, but

    I gotta be real.

    These FISA-less, Impeachement-less, spine-less Dems were born into cowardice, tempered by cowardice, disciplined by cowardice, and are proud of their wet nappies.

    they will bear any burden when it comes to looking pathetic and acting pathetic,

    pay any price to fit in to the village,

    oppose internal opposition,

    to assure the success of their cushy lives on the Vineyard, in the Hamptoms, and in Aspen.

    what is ironic is that these pathetic sell outs get to call themselves Democrats.


    A different dynamic (none / 0) (#10)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 09:46:53 AM EST
    Having grown up in the sixties, I have seen this "cowardice" grow over the years. I'm not saying that it isn't there, and that it isn't disgusting, but you have to understand that the cowardice is not only real, but there are reasons why so many politicians are so cowardly in the same direction.

    Think about it all. This FISA, where Congress is trying to give after-the-fact immunity on all the broken laws and Constitutional violations of the CIA/NSA, is only the latest attempt by the intelligence agencies and their allies to cover up their misdeeds. It used to be that if someone in, say, the Department of Agriculture, was caught in a scandal he or she was thrown out and maybe even indicted. How come that doesn't happen with CIA/NSA/etc. scandals?

    In fact, our political system is controlled by our intelligence services (which themselves are only the secret police of the oligarchy). Anyone who's read enough history knows that IBM sold Nazi Germany a punchcard computer system that helped the regime track Jews, dissidents and other undesirables. With punchcards millions of Jews, gypsies, Communists, Socialists, gays died. At the same time J. Edgar Hoover had files on everyone of note and those files kept him in office until his death. Imagine if Hoover, or the Nazis, had the computers we have today. Of course, the CIA's James Jesus Angleton was reported to have had his own file on Hoover, including pictures of homosexual trysts. People are willing to look away from even murders to keep their secrets secret.

    Forget about the political assassinations. If you've got a file rich enough you can kill someone's career without bullets. You can go back to 1972 and see Lucy Goldberg's work spying on McGovern using a CIA cover. In the 90s she was best friends with Linda Tripp while being Mark Fuhrmann's literary agent. She doesn't need a cover, but does she still have a relationship?

    My point? Unless you understand and admit the actual dynamics of power in America 2008 you are as powerless and gullible as if you are a citizen of Pakistan wandering down the street, still believing that democracy is alive and well in your country.


    Excellent Piece! (none / 0) (#22)
    by felizarte on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:55:14 AM EST
    I just wand to add a few tidbits:  Bush Sr. was once Director of the CIA and I think it is safe to say that he used his network and experience to the fullest for his son's benefit.  I wonder what it took to persuade the Supreme Court to rule in his son's favor over the Florida vote, not to ignore Jeb's being gov. of the state.

    Has anybody ever come across an estimate of what the Bush family fortune is?  Does anybody have any idea how much an estate or the heirs will benefit from the repeal of the Estate Tax?

    My point is:  WHO OWNS the intelligence network?


    forgot to mention (none / 0) (#5)
    by Klio on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 08:41:58 AM EST
    that your commentary here is excellent.

    Want more please!

    Dionne exposes (none / 0) (#9)
    by Tano on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 09:40:40 AM EST
    the utterly fraudulant whining of the Clinon supporters over the past few weeks.

    The Clintons will say and do anything to win. And so many of the Obama-haters will simply pick up on whatever their leader says and run with it, without thinking, or caring, about what sense it makes.

    The real irony is that one could define a certain approach - call it the Clinton-'92 approach. And the opposite - the Rovian approach (gin up the base, divide the country, hope to sneak over the finish line).

    The "progressives", at least some of them, have thoroughly internalized Rovism. They saw Bush sneak over the finish line in '04, and they have convinced themselves that that is the right and proper way to wage politics.

    I think Hillary probably really believes in her heart that Clinton-'92 is the right approach. She is not running an Edwards campaign. But Obama is out-doing her as the "big-tent democrat", and so she attacks him in a completely unprincipled and opportunistic manner.

    Heh (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 09:53:54 AM EST
    I saw it as exposing the fraudulent claim that Obama wanted to move past the 90s.

    His campaign is Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign.

    What do you think of that?


    I think it is silly (none / 0) (#13)
    by Tano on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:02:22 AM EST
    Reaching out to build a sustaining majority, rather than just a base-excitement strategy, is not a "policy of the nineties". It is a timeless strategy of a wise political movement.

    IT worked for Ike in the fifties, for JFK in the sixties, for Reagan in the 80s, for Clinton in the nineties.

    The logic is simple. Both parties have a core of around 30-35%. With consistent leaners it is around 40%. Almost all presidential campaigns are run between the 40 yard lines.
    You either try to incrementally grow your 40 up to 50, or you aim for the entire middle- you try to go for 60.

    If you get 50+, you get to be president and fiddle around a bit. If you get 60%, that, in and of itself, defines a new political era. The notion that the president has a strong mandate from the people infects the minds of every political player, and causes most all of the policy decisions to break his/her way.

    Reagan understood this, and defined an era. Clinton understood it, but failed to implement it. Obama understands it too.

    I still am gob-smacked how it is that so many progressives, who seem themselves as revolutionaries of a sort, dont seem to get it, and are content with the incremental just at the moment that the big prize is in sight.


    gob smacked by reality (none / 0) (#15)
    by Judith on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:07:55 AM EST
    sorry - but that is how real and lasting change occurs.  Just like weight loss - the only way is long term change of diet/habit not some extreme starvation or only fruit diet.  One learns this with experiece.

    Ike???? (none / 0) (#16)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:09:06 AM EST
    Ike essentially let LBJ be Prime Minister of America for most of his term.

    You are not good at political history (none / 0) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:42:55 AM EST
    Reagan was a partisan divisive figure who attacked Dems at every turn.

    Ike I'll grant you. Which world war did Obama win?


    '92 Clinto strategy minus the novel ideas (none / 0) (#21)
    by felizarte on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:46:28 AM EST
    to deal with today.  Change is only a word if it does not also say WHAT and HOW.    It is like proposing to build a skyscraper when the only materials you have is wood; without a blueprint and you are not even an architect, an engineer or a heavy machine operator.

    Thats odd (none / 0) (#23)
    by Tano on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:56:19 AM EST
    given that most people realiZe that the Obama policy agenda is pretty much the same as Hillary's.

    The differences between their policies are trivial relative to the realities of the political negotiation that will happen in the next Congress. One thing you can be sure of - nothing that either one is proposing now will ever become law in the form that the are discussing it now.

    Health care plans, and all the others, will be submitted to congress and argued and fought over in committee, and between the chambers. The result will probably be similar whether the starting point is an Obama proposal or a hillary proposal.

    So given that there isnt much differnce on the basis of policy, then the relevant question is simple - who can win for Democrats the bigger mandate, and thus maximize the chances of actually accomplishing something.

    I think the possibility of a significant Obama win, and maybe even a landslide reelect in 2012 are viable possibilites. I honestly dont see Hillary ever breaking through in such a manner.


    Obama's the party of ideas? (none / 0) (#24)
    by ctrenta on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 11:42:59 AM EST

    That's what he claimed to be in his NH campaign commercials.

    How 'bout moving away from the past and creating a new future, a new agenda, and new approach to politics? The GOP wants to return to days of Ronald Reagan. Obama wants to return to the days of the Clinton. That means triangulation. Something that many bloggers want to move away from. So much for new ideas. Obama's is just a fine-tuned version of Bill Clinton.

    i generally like dionne (none / 0) (#25)
    by Turkana on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 11:44:25 AM EST
    but the more hysterical the pundits get, the more i warm up to the idea of a hillary presidency.

    Did You Ever Think That You Would (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by MO Blue on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 01:41:38 PM EST
    get to that point? I know I didn't.

    I Didn't Either (none / 0) (#27)
    by BDB on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 04:32:59 PM EST
    I'm honestly shocked that I favor Hillary as strongly as I do.  I started out leaning towards Obama, then considered Edwards, and got to Hillary largely by elimination.  She's not the perfect candidate, by any means, but she's convinced me she's the best of the lot and it's not that bad a lot.

    1992 campaign (none / 0) (#28)
    by diogenes on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 06:13:12 PM EST
    You forget--Clinton's 1992 campaign WORKED AND HE WON!
    Moving beyond the 1990's means moving beyond the Clintonian lost presidency during which he made half the people hate him, starting with Hillary's health care plan which led to the loss of the Democratic congressional majority.

    Dionne misses the point (none / 0) (#29)
    by Alien Abductee on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 06:36:41 PM EST
    Bill Clinton didn't just run on new ideas, he ran on fighting for his new ideas because they could carry Democratic values forward into a new era. Look at those  New Covenant speeches. The themes are like Obama's - change, pragmatism over ideology, anti Washington establishment, broken government, an eclectic mix of conservative and progressive policy, bashing "the stale orthodoxies of left and right" - but it's Lincoln 1860 and Politics of Contrast all the way in terms of Democrats vs Republicans in a death match for the soul of America. Clinton does bash Dems, but for not being true enough to core Democratic values and getting sidetracked into failed approaches. The change he talks about is on unabashedly Democratic terms for Democratic values.

    It's the campaign we only wish Obama were running.