“Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” – Winston Churchill
“Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it again next year.” – Beulah Limekiller, History Teacher, Elmore Blight Junior High
There’s a whole lotta misinformation about the Big Dawg floating around the progressive blogosphere these days. If you believed even half of it you would think the Clinton administration was a disaster for the nation. Here’s Ted Rall for example:
Because of Clintonian triangulation, the liberal base of the Democratic Party saw the 1990s as a squandered opportunity: eight years of unprecedented economic expansion with not one new social program, not even national healthcare, to show for it. They got the message: voting Democratic doesn’t guarantee Democratic policies. Unenthused, liberals stayed home or voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. Liberal disgust for triangulation (they called it “selling out”) sufficiently reduced Al Gore’s margin of victory to allow George W. Bush to steal Florida and the national election. It took the Democrats six years to begin to recover.
Let’s jump in the Wayback machine and see what REALLY happened.
At the beginning of 1992 the reelection of George H.W. Bush seemed to be just a formality. The GOP had won five of the previous six presidential elections, four of them by electoral blow-outs. The sole loss was the 1976 election of Jimmy Carter which was mostly a reaction to Watergate and Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon.
Poppy Bush had beaten Michael Dukakis like an ugly step-child in 1988, then saw his approval rating soar to 90% during the first Gulf War. The Democratic “heavy-weights” like Dick Gephardt and Mario Cuomo declined to run, so the primaries started with no clear front-runner.
Enter Bill Clinton, the “boy governor” of Arkansas, a historically red state. Clinton ran as a “New Democrat,” a centrist coalition within the Democratic party. He was also the head of the Democratic Leadership Council in 1990-91.
Clinton ran as a centrist, with Jerry Brown running to his left as his main competition. It was a long campaign that didn’t end until Clinton won the California primary in June, 1992. But by the time Clinton secured the nomination he was running in third place in polling for the general election, trailing Bush and billionaire Ross Perot.
Between June and November Perot officially declared his candidacy, dropped out, then re-entered the race. He financed his own campaign and before he imploded he spent most of his time criticizing Bush, who was the front runner.
Bush, on the other hand, went from hero to zero in public approval ratings. Besides the attacks coming from Perot he was hurt by a struggling economy, his reneging on his original “read my lips, no new taxes” campaign pledge and by the failure of the military to depose Saddam Hussein.
In a three-way race Clinton won with a plurality of 43%, garnering 370 electoral votes. Bush got 37.5% of the popular vote and 168 electoral votes, while Perot got 18.9% of the popular vote but no electoral votes. Even though Perot spent $60 million of his own money on the campaign, his net worth increased during that same period.
If you think “Boo-Hoo Barack” has had it rough, check out what the Big Dawg had to deal with when he took office. Republicans immediately seized on the fact that Clinton had not won a majority of the popular vote to claim he lacked “legitimacy.” Some GOPers were talking about impeachment before he was even inaugurated.
During Bill’s first year in office he had to deal with Whitewater, “Travelgate” the Waco/Branch Davidian raid/stand-off, the battle of Mogadishu and the death of Vince Foster. That was in addition to the controversies over some of his nominees and the cold shoulder Bill and Hillary received from Sally Quinn and the rest of the Village idiots.
Molly Ivins reported in May 1993 that a Republican consultant told a network newscaster that his job was to ensure that Hillary Clinton was discredited before the 1996 campaign. Each day he would send out talking points to radio talk show hosts with bogus stories about her.
Although FOX News didn’t go on the air until October 1996, by 1992 the Republican Noise Machine was already in operation. This included talk radio, the right-wing punditocracy (print and television), conservative “think tanks” and coordinated “messaging” directed by the leadership of the Republican party.
The “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” began to take shape. GOP congresscritters used used their “oversight” power to scrutinize every burp and fart at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, then they screamed for the appointment of special prosecutors. Richard Mellon Scaife spent $2 million dollars on the Arkansas Project, funding investigations of the Clintons with the intent of damaging and/or ending Bill’s presidency. Everything, including gossip, rumor and innuendo ended up in the media.
The Clintons were investigated again and again for over eight years. There were THREE separate investigations of Whitewater and every one of them concluded that there was no wrongdoing by Bill and Hillary. Not one investigation concluded that Hillary had ever broken the law, but Ken Starr was able to prove (after spending $70 million) that Bill lied about getting a blow-job.
During Bill’s first two years in office Congress was controlled by the Democrats. Despite this fact he was unable to get health care reform passed and when he tried to keep his promise to lift the ban on gays in the military Congress threatened to codify the policy into law, so Bill settled for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which was an improvement over the original policy.
But the “centrist” Clinton signed into law the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Brady Bill and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, which passed Congress without a single Republican vote. It cut taxes for fifteen million low-income families and raised taxes on the wealthiest 1.2% of taxpayers. He also expanded the Earned Income Credit.
Bill supported ratification of the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) even though Hillary privately disagreed. The treaty had been negotiated by the Poppy Bush administration but had not been finalized. Prior to sending it to Congress, Clinton introduced clauses to protect American workers and to require Mexico and Canada to adhere to environmental practices and regulations similar to the United States. The treaty was ratified and took effect on January 1, 1994.
The Obots like to claim that Clinton “lost Congress” but this is complete bullshit. The Democrats had controlled the House of Representatives for over 40 years and the Senate for most of that same time. But during that period there had been a political realignment that had seen the South turn “red.” In the late eighties and early nineties there had been a number of scandals in Congress, most of them involving Democrats.
In 1994 the Republican party and the Conservative Movement were on the rise. They were well organized and well funded, with media, messaging and candidate recruitment operations. Led by Newt Gingrich, the Republicans ran a nationally based campaign centered on the “Contract With America.” Their campaign worked, and the GOP took control of both houses of Congress.
There’s an old saying in football – “Offense wins games, defense wins championships.” Bill Clinton spent the last six years of his time in office playing defense against a high-powered Republican offense determined to repeal the New Deal and the Great Society. The Big Dawg stuffed them, beating them over and over.
Many proggers (most of them born with silver spoons in their mouths) whinge about “welfare reform” as if Clinton criminalized poverty. I’ll let the Big Dawg explain hisself:
On Aug. 22, 1996, after vetoing two earlier versions, I signed welfare reform into law. At the time, I was widely criticized by liberals who thought the work requirements too harsh and conservatives who thought the work incentives too generous. Three members of my administration ultimately resigned in protest. Thankfully, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans voted for the bill because they thought we shouldn’t be satisfied with a system that had led to intergenerational dependency.
The last 10 years have shown that we did in fact end welfare as we knew it, creating a new beginning for millions of Americans.
In the past decade, welfare rolls have dropped substantially, from 12.2 million in 1996 to 4.5 million today. At the same time, caseloads declined by 54 percent. Sixty percent of mothers who left welfare found work, far surpassing predictions of experts. Through the Welfare to Work Partnership, which my administration started to speed the transition to employment, more than 20,000 businesses hired 1.1 million former welfare recipients. Welfare reform has proved a great success, and I am grateful to the Democrats and Republicans who had the courage to work together to take bold action.
The success of welfare reform was bolstered by other anti-poverty initiatives, including the doubling of the earned-income tax credit in 1993 for lower-income workers; the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, which included $3 billion to move long-term welfare recipients and low-income, noncustodial fathers into jobs; the Access to Jobs initiative, which helped communities create innovative transportation services to enable former welfare recipients and other low-income workers to get to their new jobs; and the welfare-to-work tax credit, which provided tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire long-term welfare recipients.
I also signed into law the toughest child-support enforcement in history, doubling collections; an increase in the minimum wage in 1997; a doubling of federal financing for child care, helping parents look after 1.5 million children in 1998; and a near doubling of financing for Head Start programs.
The results: child poverty dropped to 16.2 percent in 2000, the lowest rate since 1979, and in 2000, the percentage of Americans on welfare reached its lowest level in four decades. Overall, 100 times as many people moved out of poverty and into the middle class during our eight years as in the previous 12. Of course the booming economy helped, but the empowerment policies made a big difference.
Ted Rall and the Obots like to blame Clinton for Gore’s “loss” in 2000, but that’s not what happened. From Wikipedia:
Clinton’s job approval rating ranged from 36% in mid-1993 to 64% in late 1993 and early 1994. In his second term, his rating consistently ranged from the high-50s to the high-60s. After his impeachment proceedings in 1998 and 1999, Clinton’s rating reached its highest point at 73% approval. He finished with an approval rating of 68%, which matched those of Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt as the highest ratings for departing presidents in the modern era.
Gore ran a terrible campaign, distancing himself from the popular Big Dawg and selecting Clinton critic Holy Joe Lieberman as his VP nominee. Meanwhile George Bush was the “media darling” while they transformed Al Gore into a serial liar. If you want a good description of what took place in the 2000 election, check out Bob Somerby’s “How He Got There.”
The Clinton years were a period of peace and prosperity. We saw the longest period of economic expansion in modern history, while the gap between rich and poor shrank as most of the prosperity went to the bottom third of the socio-economic ladder. Clinton turned the federal budget deficit into a surplus. But some morons call that period a “squandered opportunity.”