I doubt many people detested the Bill Clinton years more than me. I hated his phoniness. I hated his lies. I hated that he was unrepentant about lying. I hated that everyone could see right through him but not enough people seemed to care. I hated all the hedging and moral ambiguity. I hated the example he set. I hated that he won. I hated that nothing we Republicans did could wipe that sardonic smirk off his face. I hated that he treated women like inflatable dolls. I hated that his official presidential portrait depicted him with his jacket open, but not his fly. I hated that he represented an America that saw people in terms of their groups instead of as individuals. I hated that his presidency represented a transition away from a culture that recognized the family as the building block of civilization, to one that insisted it was the government, often pitting the two against one another in a zero sum power struggle. I hated that the very term “family values” came to be spoken with derision. I hated that he pretended to be a Christian while openly cheating on his wife and supporting the abortion industry. I spent the last years of his presidency studying at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, for God’s sake! Believe me when I say I hated the Bill Clinton years!
But man, I’d take him over Barack Obama in a heartbeat.
And not because of the economy. I don’t really give him credit for the Internet boom, which his administration had little to do with (well, other than his Vice President inventing the Internet), and which proved to be an overinflated bubble that wound up busting anyway. And I’m not saying I’d prefer Clinton or any other Democrat to a conservative Republican, though most of us could certainly stand to learn a lot from him as far as managerial skills and consensus building.
All I’m saying is that compared to this present administration, Bill Clinton practically belongs on Mt. Rushmore.
At least Clinton never endeavored to redefine the entire concept of America into one that vilified accomplishment. I can’t ever remember a time when Clinton was President and I felt like he was out to get me. I don’t just mean that he wasn’t spying on me by reading all of my emails and recording my phone conversations like the current administration. (Strange how national security can make us all feel so insecure). I mean that I never felt like there was an open hostility to success, like I was an oppressor for trying to get ahead, like if I made money I had to hide it and apologize for it and just understand why it was a “social injustice” for me to have it, and not wrong if someone wanted to take it from me, by force if necessary. Even when Clinton raised taxes on the top earners the sense was that it was part of a compromise necessary to balance a budget, rather than retribution for the sin of succeeding.
Contrast that with today, as we’re being asked to understand that riotous rage and looting and random acts of violence on innocent people are legitimate expressions of grievances caused not by cultural backwardness, but by inequalities in wealth. It is therefore the achievers who are causing the problems, so goes the logic, not the troublemakers. Creating wealth through hard work, investment, and industry is no longer seen as the solution to America’s problems, but rather the cause of them.
And because personal gain and comfort is the enemy, then so much more so are the police who are the guardians of those gains, these “militarized” (insert eye roll here) storm troopers of Imperialist America. I never felt when Clinton was president that law enforcement was the bad guy, but now every time an officer uses force he’s presumed guilty and can never prove his innocence, since his sin was not so much what he did, but that he was on the wrong side. Even our own Attorney General, who is himself supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer in the land, seems forever under the assumption that law enforcement is always in the wrong, while his boss, the President, can barely restrain himself from putting his “thumb on the scales” of justice in the matter of the Ferguson police shooting, as though there’s any doubt on which side of the scale he would place it.
These are not Clinton Democrats in the White House. Clinton Democrats were 1960’s draft dodging, pot smoking, acid tripping, free-loving, Great Society hippies who, believe it or not, desired to improve America by opposing what they believed was a misguided war (were they so wrong?), and by advancing social works programs, counter-productive though those programs mostly proved to be. But I’ll take those people over the 60’s anti-American radical revolutionary vanguard, who cringed at the very mention of “Amerikkka,” and desire nothing more than to tear her down, irredeemably racist and capitalist as she is. And those are the people we’re dealing with now. Clinton Democrats fought to bring Americans home from the war. Obama’s people fought to bring the war home to Americans. These are not the JFK and LBJ and George McGovern Democrats. These are the Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Kathy Boudin, Frank Marshall Davis, Jeremiah Wright, Van Jones, and Valerie Jarret crypto-Marxists, each with a well-documented anti-American antipathy, and/or ties to communist organizations.
Clinton Democrats were a mix of moderates and liberals, but even the liberals were only liberal within the mainstream of the American political spectrum. What we have now are Neo-French Jacobins who see chaos as a necessary agent of change, and destruction of existing social orders as a perverse form of justice.
You are known by the company you keep, so it cannot come as any surprise that Obama’s policies have proven to be so disastrous. He never understood how to build, only how to tear down. What is surprising, though, is how distant he has become. When this summer started it seemed Obama was almost daring Republicans to remove him from office. Now he’s removed himself from office and onto the golf course. This President, who in days gone by had to be part of every news story, now doesn’t even seem to follow the news. Who could have predicted that the man who displayed such boundless energy on two campaign trails would turn out to be so detached?
Even the liberal press can no longer pretend not to notice that Obama has played nearly as many rounds of golf during his Presidency (180) as Tiger Woods! When Maureen Dowd at the New York Times calls you out for it, you’ve got a problem. And these can’t even be classified as working outings, because, as the Times reported in a separate article: “Only twice in more than 180 rounds has the president invited members of Congress to play with him, and only one Democratic official — Senator Mark Udall of Colorado — has joined a presidential foursome.”
In fairness, congressmen rarely joined President Clinton in any of his foursomes either, but those were limited to female interns.
Anyway, the point is that the turmoil we see in the world today and the dysfunction at home, in everything from the economy to urban unrest to cultural rot, are not simply happening during Obama’s term. They are happening because of Obama’s term.
They are happening because Obama either causes problems directly, or never addresses them to the point of resolution, if he addresses them at all. We’ve heard of no progress on the V.A. scandal. He released three high ranking terrorists in exchange for a deserter, and that without giving the necessary notice to Congress, in blatant violation of a law that he signed, and with cavalier disregard of how many lives that would imperil, or even pausing to consider that negotiating with terrorists for the release of a hostage would lead to more hostage taking, as with James Foley. And when that happens then you have to give a speech, and that has the potential to interfere with golf!
He encouraged the world’s most impoverished to come here illegally, even using American tax dollars to advertise in Mexico about American welfare benefits, and now complains that we suddenly need immigration reform to accommodate his scheme and purposeful neglect.
While Ferguson tries to resume normalcy, Obama, America’s first post-racial President, wouldn’t step foot near the place, preferring instead the comforts of the country club lifestyle, while giving tacit approval to the discord, just as he did with the Occupy Wall Street malcontents, exhorting them to rise up against “fat cats, millionaires, and billionaires.”
Sooner or later we’re headed for another government shutdown over the debt ceiling, because all we’ve ever done is kick that can down the road past whatever election it happened to be interfering with at the moment.
On top of all that, his administration has been close to non-responsive, if not outright uncooperative and obstructionist, with the congressional investigation into the I.R.S.’s flagrant destruction of evidence concerning the illegal targeting of conservatives, though in fairness, it makes sense that conservatives would be targeted by the I.R.S., since we’re pretty much the only ones who actually pay taxes.
And after years of cutting America down to size, and apologizing to the rest of the world for America’s dominant role in it, he is surprised to see Russia suddenly sufficiently emboldened to annex the Ukraine. He supports groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Libya, and then wonders why Islamofascists in Palestine, Iraq, and Syria suddenly seem so revitalized.
But none of these problems undoes the man, because Obama’s greatest skill is an ability to pile up so many failures in such short order that none are ever able to gain any traction before the next one hits.
Of course, the common complaint is that the Republicans simply refuse to work with President Obama, and it’s implied that this is due to more than the usual animus reserved for other presidents (hint hint). But I defy you to find one issue on which he’s moved to the center. The problem is not that Republicans won’t meet him in the middle, which is basically where John Boehner and the recently deposed Eric Cantor start, both of whom operate with a “go along for the sake of getting along” mentality. The problem is that Obama doesn’t understand the concepts of compromise or incremental gains. Everything about the guy is an all or nothing push at transformative change, so he takes absolutist positions and demands total capitulation to his will.
Or else he’ll pout.
Hey, Bill Clinton had to deal with a Republican majority as well. Does anybody really believe that the conflict-averse pantywaists who make up the Republican leadership today are more formidable and committed and politically motivated opponents than Newt Gingrich was to Bill Clinton? Newt Gingrich! That guy was the most nakedly ambitious and partisan character of the 20th century!
But Clinton understood that a country as diverse as our own needed to be governed through compromise, and with small movements rather than grand leaps. Clinton knew how to govern because Clinton had been a governor. Obama was a lecturer. So while Obama wants to hand down laws like Moses descending from Mt. Ararat, as though Congress’s function is simply to act as ceremonial scribes, Clinton simply let the lawmakers make the laws, and decided which he could live with, and which he could compromise on, always with an eye toward finding common ground.
For that reason his greatest achievements in office read almost like a moderate Republican platform, and that’s largely what it was because that’s what the country wanted. He signed NAFTA, despite vigorous opposition from labor unions. He signed welfare reform, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which was the law that Hobby Lobby cited, successfully, in its anti-Obamacare lawsuit). He abandoned a universal overhaul of healthcare, he compromised on gays in the military, he refused to admit Haitian immigrants claiming refugee status, he agreed to a Federal Death Penalty Act (which resulted in the execution of Timothy McVeigh), and eventually compromised on tax cuts.
And lest we forget, he left office with a budget that was balanced, and only half the size of what it is today. Unlike the Obama Democrats, who believe that profligate spending leads to a successful economy (or the destruction of capitalism), Clinton understood that fiscal responsibility was the key. It wasn’t until Republicans, under George W. Bush, refused to renew Clinton’s pay-as-you-go program — requiring that all spending increases be met with revenue increases, and tax cuts be met with spending cuts — that we once again found ourselves with ever increasing deficits and a debt problem that this administration has exploded.
It was Bill Clinton who declared (undoubtedly to the disdain of his own party) that “the era of big government is over.” It was Bush and the Republicans who took exception to that, and began growing it to its outsized proportions.
Yes, Clinton nominated a couple of ultra-Leftists to the Supreme Court, and those people continue to be problematic, but that was more the Republicans’ fault for giving him carte blanche than his fault for taking advantage of it. Is there any doubt that he would have compromised on those too had the Republicans resisted?
Clinton was capable of bridging gaps because he could understand the other side of the argument, he having been raised in and governor of a relatively conservative state, one that has been reliably Republican ever since he left the presidency. At least until the Lewinsky scandal Clinton never seemed to see policy differences as resulting from the other side being inherently evil (that was more his nominal wife), or beholden to a small group of especially powerful special interests who force them to act in a way their constituents oppose. Clinton understood that congressional opposition represented authentic opposition among the people to many facets of the liberal agenda (especially after the Republican rout of 1994), and that those beliefs had merit.
This is quite a contrast with Obama, who came to the political spotlight having only had a self-affirming life experience, his worldview having been formed almost exclusively by liberal institutions and radical mentors and influences. Clinton valued different perspectives and sought to reconcile them, perhaps even to a fault. Obama is forever surprised to learn there are different perspectives, and, convinced as he is of his own inerrancy and righteousness, treats them with open disdain and hostility. And because he can’t comprehend any legitimate opposition to his agenda, having never met anyone not like him until he reached Washington, he reflexively says he’s basically being picked on for some mysterious reason, implying it is because of race, while his Attorney General, without correction, says so explicitly.
But the message that all this self-pity and blame sends is that he’s just not up to the job. It has often been said that the modern American Presidency has grown too big for one man. That may be true, but it doesn’t always have to be so obvious.
Soon enough Americans will have the chance to vote for another Clinton presidency. I don’t recommend it. Madame Secretary Clinton is not her husband. She has never given any indication that she’s a fiscal conservative or that she understands how wealth is created (her highly improbable and suspect profits from trading cattle futures notwithstanding), and she’s given every indication that she will appoint the same sort of reflexively liberal judges that her husband did to advance a liberal social agenda. Combine that with her lack of managerial experience, and you have the makings not of a third Clinton term, but a third Obama term. Considering our debt situation, and the razor thing balance on the Supreme Court, that could prove to be even more disastrous than these last five have been.
So no, this article is not an endorsement of Hillary, far from it. And it’s not an attempt to re-write the Clinton years as more moderate than they were. An honest assessment would be that they were a mixed bag. It was certainly not a fun time to be a conservative Republican, that’s for sure. It’s never fun to be the opposition party. But for as much as Clinton was a reprobate, at least he wasn’t a radical.