The Corner

‘Obama and the Clinton Legacy’

President Obama is no President Clinton. While I can think of a few areas where that’s a good thing (while entertaining, I am glad the presidency is not all consumed by stories about Monica, for instance), William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal makes a good case why that’s really a shame:

Think about it. It was Mr. Clinton who campaigned on the promise to “end welfare as we know it.” It was Mr. Clinton who signed the bill removing the Glass-Steagall barriers separating commercial from investment banking. Most famously, it was Mr. Clinton who assured us that “the era of Big Government is over.”

Today all the assumptions that once defined Bill Clinton’s “New Democrats” are being contested by the Obama White House. And nowhere is the contrast more stark than on the defining issue of trade.

On trade issues:

To begin with, Mr. Obama has yet to deliver a major address on trade — especially telling, given the global economic uncertainty. In sharp contrast, barely one month into office, Mr. Clinton heralded America’s global leadership on trade as one of the most important challenges of our day. To underscore the importance of his message, he chose for his venue American University, where his hero JFK had delivered a famous address on peace in a nuclear age. There Mr. Clinton called for American leadership to open up markets abroad, not just to boost opportunity for Americans but to advance freedom and democracy for all people.

Second, Mr. Obama has yet to even ask Congress for fast-track authority — legislation that gives a president greater flexibility to negotiate trade agreements. Again, in sharp contrast, at this same point in the Clinton presidency Congress was putting the final touches on fast-track legislation that Mr. Clinton would use to help complete the successful Uruguay Round of trade talks.

Finally, though Mr. Obama’s trade representative, Ron Kirk, recently announced that the administration planned to finish up outstanding trade agreements with key U.S. allies — Colombia, South Korea and Panama — he gave little but lip service for a forward agenda. On the White House Web site, trade isn’t even listed as an issue. By contrast, not only was Bill Clinton working to conclude the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) at this point in his presidency, he and his senior administration figures were already talking about expanding Nafta to other Latin America nations.

Read the whole thing here.

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