Torn Between Two Presidents
There’s no perfect answer; eight years of policymaking and appointments provide ample fodder for almost any argument you want to make. But for all the time liberals have spent criticizing Obama for compromises and missed opportunities, a fair accounting seems to put Clinton far behind Obama when it comes to accomplishing liberal goals.
In many significant areas, Obama has already succeeded where Clinton failed. Clinton’s health care reform never even got to a vote in Congress; Obama passed his. Clinton tried to allow gays to serve in the military, and the result of the ensuing firestorm was the abominable “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, not to mention the Defense of Marriage Act, which Clinton signed. Obama undid DADT and stopped defending DOMA, which was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court. Was that because times had changed, and the space was open for Obama to make the moves Clinton wished he could have? Of course. But the fact remains that the Clinton presidency was regressive on gay rights in many ways, while the Obama presidency saw unprecedented progress.