Democrats on the skids
Fifteen years ago, Mr. Clinton dispatched Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, a former Arizona governor, to the Western hinterlands, where he championed reform of mining rules and livestock grazing, recovery of endangered species such as wolves, and cuts in the tree harvest from national forests. Those positions became yet another rallying cry for then-Rep. Newt Gingrich (R), who parlayed antigovernment sentiments into midterm-election victory, giving Republicans control of Capitol Hill that lasted for 12 years.
“I think Obama is well aware of what happened to Clinton,” says Brian Kuehl, managing partner of The Clark Group, a policy think tank, who was formerly the legislative director for US Sen. Max Baucus (D) of Montana. “Obama and those around him are smart enough not to repeat those mistakes, but more importantly, the West is different than it was in the early 1990s.”