What Bill Clinton Can Teach Obama and His Challengers

In his Daily Show interview, the former president showed why he is a better communicator than anyone presently seeking the White House

In the clip above, Bill Clinton does two things: he makes the point, widely derided on today's right, that compromise is a necessary feature of our political system; and more importantly, he proceeds to explain why he agreed to execute a policy that he and his supporters considered suboptimal, making the case that what he got in return was well worth the price of what he gave up.

I make no claims here about the substantive wisdom or lack thereof of his policy choices. But being an effective negotiator, who strategically gives up some things to get other more important things in return, is essential if a president is going to be considered successful (or to in fact succeed). An ability to explain compromises to the public is a part of this competency. Boy, does Clinton have it. He comes off as knowledgeable, and adeptly walks the line between detail and comprehensibility to the average listener. I'd rather hear Obama, or better yet Reagan, give a soaring campaign speech about first principles. But communicating specific policy tradeoffs?

Clinton is the best.

The problem Republicans face is an electorate so averse to the concept of compromise that they don't treat negotiating prowess as a plus. Of course, if elected, each of the GOP candidates would make tradeoffs. But for campaign purposes, none can acknowledge that fact.