Flashback: In 1996, Obama Dissed Bill Clinton’s Efforts At Bipartisanship

By Satyam Khanna

obamaAs Ali pointed out yesterday, the President is now giving mixed signals on his views on bipartisanship. But check out Obama commenting on President Clinton’s shift to the center after the 1994 elections, candidly asserting that progressives too often relinquish their core principles in favor of bipartisanship:

[I]n a 1996 interview with the school newspaper sounded skeptical of President Bill Clinton’s efforts to reach across the aisle. “On the national level, bipartisanship usually means Democrats ignore the needs of the poor and abandon the idea that government can play a role in issues of poverty, race discrimination, sex discrimination or environmental protection,” Mr. Obama said.

Sounds like a lefty blogger!

Obviously, that was criticism from a first-term state senator yet to encounter the wrath of Mitch McConnell and the filibuster. But Obama was rightly highlighting how an eagerness to compromise can get progressives short-term political yardage gains (i.e., getting something passed), but when it comes to long-term public policy-making, it leads to, well, bad public policy. And if we never shoot for a more robust federal role, then conservatives can all the more easily say it doesn’t work (or is un-American).