I favored Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries for a couple of reasons. A) He’d been smarter and more prescient about opposing the Iraq War, while Clinton had voted for invasion in what seemed a transparently political move. B) We’d already been through a round of Clinton-focused culture wars during the 1990s and it seemed like that stink would hang onto any Hillary Clinton presidency too tightly for her to be effective.
So what’s remarkable about the Barack Obama presidency is how Clintonian it’s turning out to be. Let’s see:
• Radical conservative opponents are spreading conspiracy theories about Obama’s hidden-but-true nature. What is the birther theory if not a 21st century version of the Vince Foster rumors?
• Bad vetting of prospective cabinet picks. Tom Daschle was the new Zoe Baird.
• The faltering effort at massive health reform.
• There’s the indications that Democrats in Congress will suffer as a result.
• There’s the resulting decision to focus more strongly on politics; David Plouffe is our generation’s Dick Morris or David Gergen in this example.
• And there’s a renewed focus on small-bore efforts to aid and woo the middle class in order to recover political bearings.
I still think that the Clinton Wars of the 1990s would’ve haunted a Hillary Clinton presidency. And it’s possible that Hillary Clinton would’ve made an entirely new set of mistakes, different from those her husband committed in his early going. (You can argue that some of Obama’s mistakes are the result of overlearning some lessons taught by the Clintons.) But the first year of the Obama presidency is turning out so Clintonian we might as well have gone with the real thing. It’s not like John McCain could’ve won either way.