The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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Opinion

November 8, 2013

Building a better president

(Continued)

Clinton feels your pain — and the public knew it. Obama, with rare exceptions (think Sandy Hook), feels no pain, at least that he lets on. Obama surfs the Internet. Clinton worked the phones, gathering human intelligence, forging human connections. Yet Clinton also had his Slick Willie side, leaving voters and politicians alike convinced that he saw things their way, even if they ultimately ended up feeling disappointed and betrayed.

Clinton is the ultimate, bred-in-the-bone political animal. Although Obama is reported to have told his third-grade teacher in Indonesia that he wanted to be president, “The rest of his adolescence offered none of the signs of oversize yearning that were so readily apparent in some other boys who grew up to be president, most notably Billy Clinton,” David Maraniss writes in his biography of Obama. Clinton is the constant maneuverer who managed to score the handshake photo with John F. Kennedy; Obama is the laid-back observer.

Even in office, as the head of his party, Obama remains, for better and worse, remarkably removed from the political fray. Clinton was immersed in it, down to the precinct level. “Ready to start overnights right away” in the Lincoln Bedroom, Clinton eagerly scrawled on a memo about perks for mega-donors. Obama, according to “Double Down,” had to ask campaign manager Jim Messina who one of his top bundlers was.

So what would Dr. Frankenstein concoct out of these two presidents? One with the control and focus of Obama, who would have avoided the twin Clintonian scandals of personal misbehavior and fundraising excesses. One with Clinton’s relentless drive and remarkable capacity to connect with others, even political opponents, but without the smoked-but-didn’t-inhale, depends-what-the-meaning-of-is-is truth-trimming.

One with Clinton’s far greater experience in public policy and executive office — although it must be said that Clinton was the reform president who frittered away the chance to pass health care reform and Obama is the relative ingenue who accomplished that elusive task.

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