Right now, the President is giving his post-election speech. In this speech and in the days that lie ahead, President Obama will show us whether he is more like President Clinton or President Bush.
President Clinton suffered a similar mid-term massacre in 1994. He saw that the American people did not like his politics and he changed with the times. He moved to the right. When the new Republican congress reformed welfare, he signed the bill. When the new Republican congress balanced the budget, he signed the budget and is credited (and has taken credit) as the budget-balancing president. He was a political pragmatist and let his governance be guided by popular opinion.
President Bush led America into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. Initially popular, these wars grew in unpopularity over time. But George Bush, politically tin-eared perhaps, continued to push his agenda to battle radical Islamic terrorism in the Post 9/11 world. He pushed it when it was popular. He pushed it when it became unpopular. And the Republican party paid the price in 2006 and 2008 for the President’s political convictions.
I supported the war and President Bush. I did not like Bill Clinton’s character or policies. But that is not the issue here. Bill Clinton saw the drift of political opinion and moved with it – to great political advantage. George Bush stood by his convictions at great political cost.
Today, and in the days ahead, President Obama will show us whether he is a Clinton or a Bush. Is he a pragmatist or an ideologue? Will he bow to public opinion, or will he continue to try to advance an agenda that has become increasingly unpopular with Americans?
Personally, I respect politicians who stand by their guns, by their convictions. Even though I have yet to agree with many of the positions of this president, I will respect him more if he stands by his beliefs and continues to try to convince the public that he is right and we are wrong. On the other hand, if he sticks to his guns on increasingly unpopular positions he passionately supports, he may find his popularity ratings down there where no one wants to go – George Bush country.
If I were a betting man, I would put my money on Barack Obama being more of an ideologue than a pragmatist. He seems like a convictional left-winger more than he does a pragmatist. He has shown very little evidence of a “go-along to get-along” tendency.
So, who is president today – Barack Clinton or Barack Bush? Time will tell.
Now, back to those rascally Baptists!