Two of Obama's Democratic predecessors, Harry S. Truman and Bill Clinton, grappled with the question of whether to seek confrontation or compromise with an oppositionist Congress - and took different approaches.Howie P.S.: Rather than "a path between the two" I hope Obama chooses his battles selectively.
Truman chose confrontation. He proposed landmark legislation on civil rights and health care, "knowing that they were dead on arrival" in the Republican-controlled Congress, said Stanford historian David M. Kennedy. He then campaigned successfully against the "do-nothing" Congress.
"That is a strategy that I think is available to Obama," Kennedy said. "He can't overdo it, but he could bring forward one or two big legislative proposals, and he has a platform ready made for him then to blame Republican obstructionism."
Clinton, by contrast, worked with Republicans for more modest legislative measures that appealed to the middle class. This is the approach favored by Obama's departed chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, a veteran of the Clinton White House. "That may be more suited to his temperament and instincts given that he has largely proposed that over the past two years," Kennedy said.
Truman and Clinton both were returned to office. Administration officials said that Obama, whose time in office has revealed a tension between his big reform ambitions and his political pragmatism, will probably settle on a path between the two.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Obama 2.0: Confrontation or Compromise?
Scott Wilson (WaPo, page one):