Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"Obama Might Bring Hillary Into the Light"

E.J. Dionne Jr.:
The most curious thing about the coming contest, if it happens, is that in certain respects the Obama candidacy of 2008 would bear an uncanny resemblance to Bill Clinton’s candidacy in 1992. Youth is part of it. Clinton was 46 on Election Day in 1992. Obama will be 47 on Nov. 4, 2008. So are their parallel promises to break with the past and create a new kind of politics.

In 1991, Gov. Bill Clinton railed against politicians who “have divided us against each other, pitting rich against poor, playing for the emotions of the middle class, white against black, women against men, creating a country in which we no longer recognize that we are all in this together.”

In his New Hampshire debut over the weekend, Obama said that we had “come to be consumed by” the “24-hour, slash-and-burn, negative-ad bickering, small-minded politics that doesn’t move us forward. ... There’s no sense that they are coming together in a common-sense, practical, non-ideological way to solve the problems that we face.’’

The most important passage in Obama’s New Hampshire speech was this one: “America is ready to turn the page. America is ready for a new set of challenges. This is our time. A new generation is prepared to lead.” In other words: Goodbye to both the Clinton era and the Bush years.

A discussion about who is best positioned to turn the page of history is precisely the one Hillary Clinton most needs to engage. Joining that dialogue will be essential for the other candidates, notably John Edwards and Evan Bayh, who cannot simply run as anti-Hillarys and will have to challenge the notion that this is a two-person battle.

However the contest turns out, the debate about the future that Obama is encouraging would be very good for Clinton because, most of all, she needs to put the past behind her. Paradoxically, it might also help Democrats recover the best, most forward-looking aspects of Bill Clinton’s legacy.

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