[Ed. – Which of these things is not like the others?]
The unconstrained political warfare symbolized by House Speaker John Boehner’s pledge to sue President Obama for allegedly abusing his executive authority pushes this presidency farther down a rocky road that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush would painfully recognize.
In one key respect, each president’s tenure has followed a similar arc. Each initially sought the White House promising to bridge the nation’s widening partisan divide. Clinton pledged to transcend “brain-dead policies in both parties” with his “New Democrat” agenda. Bush declared himself a “compassionate conservative” who would govern as “a uniter, not a divider.” Obama emerged with his stirring 2004 Democratic convention speech, evoking the shared aspirations of red and blue America, and took office embodying convergence and reconciliation.
But by this point in their respective second terms, each man faced the stark reality that the country was more divided than it was when he took office. In 1996 and 1997, Clinton reached Washington’s most consequential bipartisan agreements (particularly to reform welfare and balance the budget) since the early 1970s. But by 1998, House Republicans were moving inexorably toward their vote to impeach him.
Bush enjoyed some bipartisan first-term successes, particularly on education reform. But by this point in his second term, he was fighting with Democrats over the Iraq War and restructuring Social Security, and with House Republicans over reforming immigration. Obama, from his first weeks, has faced unremitting Republican opposition. And, as his shift toward unilateral executive action underscores, he’s increasingly thrown up his hands at the possibility of finding any common ground with the GOP.