Bill Clinton: Driving the GOP to Extremes

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Bill Clinton didn't set out to swipe the Republicans' traditional agenda and send the GOP down the road to radicalization. Nor did the 42nd president set out to polarize the country. But these were the unintended effects of his political strategies—as brilliant as they were in getting him elected.

Clinton's preferred course would have been to govern as a warm-hearted Democratic populist like his hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, uniting the country behind an agenda of "bold, persistent experimentation" (an FDR phrase Clinton used in his first inaugural speech), long-time Clinton acquaintances have said. Soon after taking office Clinton laid a wreath at Hyde Park, placed an iconic bust of FDR in the Oval Office and, in policy terms, one White House official later recalled, "talked far more about Roosevelt than JFK" (the president with whom, during the 1992 campaign, he'd hoped voters would identify him).

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