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The Ideologue

Barack Obama’s no Bill Clinton.

Feb 8, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 20 • By FRED BARNES
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Obama is giving aid and comfort to the Republican counterstrategy. As in 1994, Republicans say they’re ready to cooperate with the president when they can, oppose him when they can’t. So McConnell, for one, is willing to go along with Obama’s puny budget freeze. But Obama hasn't offered Republicans much else that might be risky to oppose.

To salvage Obamacare, Democrats buttonholed several Republican senators last week with schemes for tweaking the bill. The senators declined to negotiate, telling the Democrats,  “Call McConnell.” Under McConnell’s leadership, Senate Republicans are united in preferring to start over, from scratch, on health care reform. So far, McConnell hasn’t gotten a call from the White House or any Democrat.

To boost his recovery after the Republican landslide of 1994, Clinton found a useful foil, the new House speaker, Newt Gingrich. When Gingrich overreached, Clinton was the beneficiary. Obama desperately needs a foil, but his attempts to turn McConnell and Republicans into one have failed. Instead, he’s become their foil.

Let’s give Obama credit for intellectual honesty. He believes in his agenda. Speaking at a House Republican retreat in Baltimore last week, Obama insisted, “I am not an ideologue.”  But he sure can pass for one. And despite his travails, Obama brims with self-confidence. He told Democrat Marion Berry of Arkansas, a seven-term House member, that Democrats today have a unique advantage they lacked in 1994—“me.” Berry doesn’t agree. He’s retiring.



Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.



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