Problem solver: a case for Clinton

A Time magazine piece by Joe Klein offers an interesting rejoinder to the pro-Obama piece we linked to the other day. Klein quotes what he calls Hillary Clinton's "clearest statement of her own — and her husband's — philosophy that I've ever heard":

A retired dairy farmer complained about the deregulation of his industry and asked what she'd do about it. "During this campaign, you're going to hear me talk a lot about the importance of balance," she began, after acknowledging that the Bush Administration had gone too far toward deregulation in most areas. "You know, our politics can get a little imbalanced sometimes. We move off to the left or off to the right, but eventually we find our way back to the center because Americans are problem solvers. We are not ideologues. Most people are just looking for sensible, commonsense solutions."

It was classic Clinton. And having watched both Clintons for nearly 20 years now, I believe it is an honest summation of what they think they're about: "Getting stuff done," as Bill Clinton used to say. That means being flagrantly political, working the system, making the compromises necessary to get the best deal possible to enact their priorities. It is the domestic-policy equivalent of Realpolitik, and it drives partisans crazy on both sides of the political divide.

As sympathetic a treatment of Clinton as the piece is, it ends ominously. After praising Clinton's efforts "to know the issues, to become a more effective speaker on the stump, to be more personable, to loosen up a little" and "the sheer, pellucid quality of her intelligence," Klein quotes a former Democratic county chairman in Iowa who says: "I can't stand thinking about what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are going to do to her. People are just sick of that. They love Obama. He's very inspiring. But in the end, Iowans vote on electability. I hate to say it, but my guess is they'll vote for the white guy — Edwards — this time, just like they voted for the war hero last time."

Incidentally, one of the blog posts getting buzz this morning was this one, which quotes NBC/Wall Street Journal pollster Peter Hart saying: "Hillary Clinton is really Richard Nixon, circa 1968." (A possible slogan? "Hillary's the one!") The quote sounds worse than it is: Hart sees good news as well as bad for Clinton in his new data (plus, Nixon won). Anyway, Klein also brings up Nixon, recalling that Yale professor Stephen Skowronek once lumped Bill Clinton, Nixon and Woodrow Wilson into the category of presidents who inspire "a special frenzy in [their] opponents" because they co-opt "the more accessible parts of their agendas." Klein suggests Hillary Clinton the problem-solver would do the same.