In Retrospect

Reading Ed Kilgore's post on Hillary Clinton and the question of "change" I was a bit taken aback to see an Official New Democrat seem to characterize the view "that the Republican Congresses Clinton faced made it impossible for him to pursue a truly progressive course" as some kind of slam on Clinton perpetuated by reactionary paleoliberals. I would think that something along those lines would be part of the case for Clinton; it's unfair to criticize him for not delivering results that it wasn't possible to deliver.

Indeed, this is what I find a bit distressing about Hillary Clinton framing her campaign in terms of nineties nostalgia -- the goal of restoring the policy status quo circa summer 2000 seems weirdly timid and not especially true to the actual spirit of the Clinton administration. There is, however, a psychological problem here. I have no doubt that if you took a time machine to January 1993 and showed Bill Clinton what he would have accomplished by January 2001, he would have been a bit disappointed. This is, after all, someone who came into office promising to transform the health care system and make it so that if you work hard and play by the rules, you won't be poor. But by the time Clinton left office, he doubtless wanted to convince himself not just that he'd done a good of coping with a difficult situation, but that he was actually a world-historically brilliant political leader. Which would be fine if it were purely a question of individual ego (one doubts that non-egomaniacs get elected president), but it becomes problematic as a forward-looking political agenda. Imagine what kind of Senator Ted Kennedy would be if his worldview was centered around the idea that congress frustrating JFK's legislative agenda was actually the height of sound government and he had to protect the party from the grips of these LBJ-style radicals who wanted to pass Civil Rights laws.