I was and am still no fan of Bill Clinton. Or any of the major Democratic Party leaders of the last fifteen to twenty years, really. But I’m hard-pressed to think of any moment where Clinton pandered to his political base as shamelessly as George W. Bush has done on numerous occasions. When Clinton pandered, it was often in a kind of cost-free, purely symbolic manner, like complaining about Sister Souljah.
Not so Bush and the Republican Congressional leadership. When they pander, it’s expensive in one respect or another. They raised steel tariffs at a time when Washington needed to demonstrate a good faith commitment to free trade in order to sustain momentum towards reform in other countries. They casually advocate Constitutional amendments on social issues. They offer to give Americans $100.00 to buy them off on gas prices. Now the President is going to send off the National Guard to try and soothe his critics on the right, an expensive but also exquisitely ineffective gesture. Come on, dedicated partisans of this Administration: doesn’t this make you feel at least slightly embarassed? If they’re drunk on power, this stuff is the equivalent of being the guy with the lampshade on his head.
Update: I’m reminded that he’s also pandered to people outside his political base.