There’s plenty of speculation these days about whether, assuming the Democrats suffer big losses on election night, President Obama will respond as Bill Clinton did – by “triangulating,” which I think means moderating. Obama may be forced to moderate a bit, but I doubt he is capable of doing so as artfully as Clinton did. Any moderation on Obama’s part is likely to be visibly grudging, and thus unlikely to win him much credit.
Obama will also suffer by comparison to George W. Bush. Bush responded to major Republican losses in 2006 – losses that weren’t as large as the Dems’ losses probably will be this year – by proclaiming that he and his Party had experienced a thumpin’. He did not psychoanalyze those who had administered the thumpin’ nor did he wait around for someone with whom to triangulate.
Instead, recognizing that dissatisfaction with administration policy in Iraq was at the root of the election-day defeat, Bush promptly removed the Secretary of Defense, undertook a major review of his Iraq policy, and then formulated a new policy. That policy – known as the Iraq surge – helped turn the situation around in Iraq.
There’s a reason why, although Obama’s approval rating has never fallen anywhere near Bush’s rating at the time he left the White House, the current president and the ex-president “run” pretty close in hypothetical head-to-head polls. Bush comports himself with much more dignity and class than Obama, and displays much less arrogance.
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