Former President Bill Clinton has some advice for President Barack Obama, and it would be wise for Obama to take it.
In his new book, Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy, to be published tomorrow, the former president says Obama and fellow Democrats made a big mistake by failing to develop an effective national message during the midterm election campaign of 2010. The Republicans came up with a compelling narrative--that Obama and the Democrats were over-spending and over-regulating the nation into an economic crisis--and they recaptured the House and made serous inroads in the Senate.
"The Democrats did not counter the national Republican message with one of their own," Clinton writes. "There was no national advertising campaign to explain and defend what they had done and to compare their agenda for the next two years with the GOP proposals." Clinton admits that he and the Democratic Party made similar mistakes in the 1994 midterm campaign when the GOP also made huge gains. He says it would be folly to let this happen again.
Clinton also implies that President Obama is off base with his attacks on Wall Street and its executives. "Many of them supported me when I raised their taxes in 1993, because I didn't attack them for their success," Clinton writes.
Clinton, however, directs most of the criticism in his book at the Republicans, arguing that the GOP has developed an "antigovernment ideology" that has generated high unemployment and a decline America's ability to compete globally.
"The antigovernment movement's most cherished conviction is that we can't raise taxes on the 'job creators,'" he writes. "We tried it their way for twenty of the last thirty years, and their strategy of using blanket tax cuts for high-income individuals didn't work." He also faults the GOP for trying to privatize Medicare and Medicaid.
Clinton's arguments are, as usual, clear, practical, and aimed at Middle America. His book demonstrates anew why he retains the reputation of being the master politician of his generation.