The Myth of "Pragmatic" Clinton vs. "Incurious" George

Presenting Bill Clinton, the "pragmatic" president who pushed for overseas abortion funding and gays in the military.

In "Economic Crisis Offers Hints of Executive Style," a Sunday "News Analysis" pondering how Obama will play his role as president, reporter Jackie Calmes contrasted the idea of Bill Clinton the centrist "pragmatist" with the ideological, incurious George W. Bush. But just how centrist was Clinton?

The hints of Mr. Obama's leadership style are, of course, limited by the self-imposed constraints reflected in his mantra that the nation has one president at a time. After he takes office, it will be clearer where Mr. Obama fits on the presidential spectrum between the wonkish and pragmatic but less disciplined style of Bill Clinton, and the crisper but less curious and more ideological decision-making of Mr. Bush.

The idea of Clinton the centrist has gained currency,but the picture is marred by the facts of his early days in office in 1993, when Clinton pushed the issues of gays in the military and abortion, left-wing issues far from the mainstream.

In his first weeks in office Clinton stated gays should serve openly in the military and symbolically signed, on the 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, memoranda reversing the Reagan administration's policy on abortion funding, allowingtaxpayer money to once againflow to international "family planning programs"providing abortions, a boon to Planned Parenthood. Hardly the moves of a pragmatist.