Mr. Linder said he fought and lost a battle with Mr. Gingrich over their strategy in the 1998 midterm elections, which Mr. Gingrich thought should be focused on assailing Mr. Clinton’s character.The analogy to 1998 isn't exact. Clinton was active in doing the things that got him into impeachment trouble, but those things weren't about the political ideology that he shared with the Democrats in Congress. Voters might want Congress to go after him more aggressively, but it made sense, if you agreed with Democratic Party ideology, to regard the sex-and-lies scandal as secondary to the overall legislative agenda when deciding who should represent your district in Congress.
“I didn’t want to talk about Clinton at all,” Mr. Linder recalled, saying the same logic should apply today. “Obama was not in the Justice Department. Obama was not working in the I.R.S.” His advice? “Don’t overreach,” he said.
Obama is — or looks — passive. You've got the difficulty of attaching him to the scandals. You have to argue that he should have known more, or he must have known more than we're seeing, or he's not rigorous enough in supervising his multitudinous underlings, or he's responsible for the "climate" within which everyone understands the sorts of things they ought to do to satisfy their superiors. Voters need to be convinced to blame Obama for the things that have gone wrong. But what has gone wrong is something that is wrong with governing.
In both cases — Clinton and Obama — there's room for the argument that we need stronger supervision from Congress. But going after Clinton over sex and lying was only loosely connected to the ongoing work of government. With Obama, the most central work of government has been compromised. It's not just a matter of letting the President off the hook and moving forward to deal with the real problems that affect Americans. Regardless of how directly Obama is implicated and how much any given voter wants to blame Obama, the scandals make a strong argument for opposite-party control of Congress.
That's all I'm going to write this morning about how 2014 is different from 1998 other than to say I have not made the argument that Republicans would do well to personalize the election.