Should an Obama Presidency Be Bill Clinton's Third Term?

I was on Fox News yesterday to discuss the state of the campaign. You can watch the clip here.
It telegraphs what I think could become a right-wing meme in the months
after the election, should Barack Obama win, and should Obama make his
administration merely an extension of the Clinton administration.

The first half of the interview is about the Obama informercial
(which I said was a great idea) and about John McCain's criticism of
Obama as a "socialist" (which I said was absurd, considering the Bush
years have redistributed wealth up the income ladder). But where it
really gets interesting is toward the end in a discussion about Bill

Fox showed a clip of Clinton allegedly "complimenting" Obama
for having called all of Clinton's economic advisers during the
financial crisis. Clinton also "complimented" Obama for supposedly
knowing nothing about the financial situation, but having the courage
to admit he didn't know much and the courage to tell Clintonites he
wanted to know more. This is problematic on a number of levels.

(as I told Fox) why does Bill Clinton always need to make everything
about Bill Clinton? We're five days from an election that is a
referendum not only on Bush-ism, but on incrementalist Clintonism. And
yet, Bill Clinton seems unable to realize that reality - and is
desperately trying to make sure the Obama presidency is, in part, about
Bill Clinton.

Second, why does Bill Clinton need to reinforce the right-wing
narrative that Obama's inexperience means he supposedly doesn't know
anything about major issues before the country? True, that's not
exactly what Clinton said - but it is what he implied. Not good.

Third - and perhaps most substantively concerning - Clinton's
entire narrative is the starting gun of what will be a very intense
effort by the larger pool of Clintonites to infiltrate an Obama
administration. If we can step back and look honestly at the economic
situation, then we have to admit (as I admitted on Fox) that Clinton
officials had a hand in the key deregulatory policies that led to the
financial meltdown, and the key free-market fundamentalist policies
(rigged trade deals, corporate tax loopholes, etc.) that are hollowing
out the economy. These same people are now going to try to use an Obama
presidency to reassume the posts they had in a Clinton administration.
And the fact that, according to Bill Clinton, Obama is already
potentially letting them - well, that's really disturbing (if

The hope is with a big enough election mandate, Obama will feel
more empowered to sweep out the Clintonites and start fresh - both in
terms of personnel, and in terms of ideology. Because if he doesn't,
not only could it stunt his policy agenda, it could also create
political problems for him. The media - and especially outlets like Fox
News - are going to be looking for weak points that allow them to tar
and feather an Obama presidency as just "more of the same."

To be sure, I told Fox that having Bill Clinton campaign for
Obama is a great thing. Bill Clinton is a great political asset to any
campaign (if he's not implying that the guy he's campaigning for is
uninformed). And while I don't love criticizing Democrats on Fox News,
I thought that under the circumstances, it's important for progressives
to start laying down markers about what we should and should not cheer
on - what we should and should not expect from an Obama adminstration.
In my opinion, it doesn't help Obama win the election, nor will it help
his administration, to be painted as a mere second act for the last
Democratic administration.

Making the Obama presidency the third term of Bill Clinton's
presidency is both substantively inappropriate to the times, and
politically dangerous/tone deaf. I hope that's not the path a President
Obama takes, should he win the White House.

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