January 24, 2008


The War of Ideas (Joe Klein, 1/24/08, TIME)

"I think it is fair to say the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time," Barack Obama recently told a Nevada editorial board. The Senator took some notable, if not quite accurate, grief from Hillary Clinton over that: she said he was expressing support for Republican ideas (clearly, he wasn't). But what did he actually mean? People—and not just Republicans—have been calling the gop the party of ideas for nearly 30 years, since Ronald Reagan transformed the mushy, defensive conservatism of his party into a sleek ideological message celebrating individual freedom, military strength and traditional moral values. [...]

In 2008, a fresh, maybe even exciting federal response to the interlocking national economic, energy and security crises should be front and center of the debate, but none of the Democrats running for President seems to have the courage or sagacity to make the offer.

This is, of course, largely a function of the fact that they are the reactionary party and they're reacting to Reagan and Bush--and even, to a considerable extent, to Bill Clinton. Were they just to return to the successful Clinton/Blair/Rudd model they could easily present the big interlocking set of Third Way ideas they need in order to appeal to an Anglospheric electorate: personal SS accounts; universal HSAs; school vouchers; and gas consumption taxes to offset the costs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 24, 2008 8:58 AM

Which of those "Third Way" ideas was Bill Clinton going to offer to Congress?

Any of them?

Any at all?

Next lesson.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 24, 2008 10:35 PM

Clinton passed Welfare Reform and Free Trade. W did HSAs and vouchers, though not universal. The next president gets to do SS and universalization.

Posted by: oj at January 25, 2008 6:53 AM

Clinton vetoed welfare reform twice. 7 months into his presidency, advised by the financial powers in the Democratic party, he pushed NAFTA over the line (with Republican votes). Did Bill work any other deals while in office? Even one? W. keeps churning them out, no?

"Save Social Security First!"


And it takes all of Hillary's self-control to ignore the issue of free trade.

The Third Way is an enticing metaphor, but without some First Way backbone, all government devolves into the Second Way (if I follow your analogy correctly).

Bill Clinton wasn't a totalitarian socialist (as many conservatives want to believe), but he wasn't a closet conservative, either. He was just an ambitious, muddled egoist who became President. He tried some feeble lefty moves early on, and then had to live with an angry Republican Congress for 6 years. So he governed through his ego, by conducting a 'permanent' campaign. He couldn't legislate any change, so he spent 6 years trying to 'be' relevant, to be ubiquitous. What he is turning into now (Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, Senator Bilbo, or even Tartuffe) remains to be seen.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 25, 2008 8:56 AM

Bill ran on Welfare Reform and by using the veto got a bill that he gets credit for, not Republicans.

No, that was the tragedy of his presidency.

Posted by: oj at January 25, 2008 1:47 PM

He mentioned it during the '92 campaign, but did nothing when he had a Democratic Congress, now did he? Just like the middle-class tax cut.

Nobody credits Clinton with welfare reform. Republicans know it was Newt and the House that passed it, and most Dems blame him for inflicting it on the "poor" (even today, when its success is manifest).

Why he didn't go for more trade deals is a mystery. Rubin certainly would have backed them, and on a crass level, Clinton could have lined his own pockets with additional foreign money if he had pushed. The GOP Congress would have gone along.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 25, 2008 2:51 PM

Because Democrats oppose entitlement reform. Bill Clinton was, as he conceded, an Eisenhower Republican.

Posted by: oj at January 25, 2008 7:18 PM