Monday, February 15, 2010

WaPo's E.J. Dionne Says Obama Needs to Learn From Clinton

Washington Post columnist is happy that former President Bill Clinton has received a good prognosis from his doctor. Dionne believes that President Obama needs a healthy Clinton to advise him because, according to Dionne, the two have a lot in common and Obama could use some good advice.

Dionne observes that both men ran as "unifiers" but faced attacks from Republicans. Dionne also contends that both Obama and Clinton believe that they can use logic to convince their adversaries to shift positions.

Dionne argues that Clinton can help Obama navigate the challenges he now faces as president and to produce a winning "script" for his presidency:
I am pleased that after the scary tidings, Bill Clinton is doing well. And it may turn out to be providential that he burst into the news at precisely this point. It's hard to escape the sense that a young and promising Democratic president is too closely replaying the opening act of another young and promising Democratic president -- and that Republicans need only recite the same lines they came up with 16 years ago.
Obama needs to rewrite the script. And as a script doctor, Bill Clinton has no equal.
The substance of Dionne's essay is not groundbreaking. I have long argued that Obama shares a lot with the Clintons (both Hillary and Bill). What makes the essay extraordinary, however, is that many people in the media, including Dionne, parroted Obama's campaign rhetoric and portrayed him as the antithesis of the Clintons. The Clintons were divisive and insincere; Obama was the honest unifier.

Remember too that when Obama said that voters carry guns and cling to religion because they are "bitter," he singled out Bush and Clinton as the causes of voter frustration. Because he was running against Hillary Clinton, Obama avoided saying anything positive about the Clinton-era, and he marketed himself as an anti-Clinton Democrat.

During the presidential campaign, Dionne never challenged this script in his many articles on Obama, and in many ways he affirmed it. As Obama has moved from candidate to president, however, Dionne has begun portraying him in more complicated terms. In other words, he has approached Obama with the distance one would expect from a journalist.

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