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Clinton (and Bush)

Very interesting appraisal of Bill Clinton. I confess I loathe the man and his wife, who strike me as distilling the worst elements of their generation and of the New Ruling Class in America into two near-sociopathic personalities.

Also apropos Clinton and the current President, one of the mysteries of their terms:

The mystery of Clinton is that he was an essentially conservative president — perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the White House since Grover Cleveland — and yet he was loathed by conservatives… I’m not sure I can explain it either — any more than I can explain why George W. Bush has inspired such antipathy from the Al Franken wing of the Democratic Party even while so abjectly pandering to them with his Medicare expansion, No Child Left Behind Act, campaign finance reform and budget-busting spending increases. Here’s Dubya expanding the Great Society, and yet he gets accused of dismantling the New Deal. Go figure” — columnist Max Boot, writing in the Los Angeles Times. (link not provided due to odious registration process, which pissed me off).

Clinton (despite his tax increase and failed nationalization of health care) has a domestic policy legacy that most Republicans would be proud of, and Bush’s domestic policy has been largely scripted to satisfy his Democratic opponents. Yet both are vilified by the very people whose policy positions they advanced. Something to ponder.

Of course, neither has done much to increase liberty within the four corners of the US of A.

19 comments to Clinton (and Bush)

  • Jeremy Marshall

    What’s also odd is that both men come off as very agreeable people. I can easy imagine enjoying their company at a bar-b-que. Yet each man seems to inspire such hatred. Conservatives can’t stand Clinton’s casual treatment of the truth, and liberals can’t stand Bush’s spirituality and unsophisticated nature. Both realize that all people are flawed. But it’s as if both groups can’t see past party lines. This is truly sad as it will keep even more qualified people from ever running for office.

  • Actually what really got conservatives going against Clinton and will also work against Kerry is that both men were traitors by any reasonable definition of the term. They activly supported America’s enemy and helped the North Vietnamese to win.

    Think of Clinton as Pierre Laval , sleazy corrupt and opprtunistic. Think about Kerry as Phillipe Petain . once a hero, but a man who despises everything his country stands for and who will submit to whatever despotism is currently fashionable.

  • Amelia

    Actually and I cannot believe I am admitting this but in comparison to Kerry/Gore(latest incarnation)/Dean super liberal wing, lately I have found myself thinking Clinton was not so bad. But then I remembered him selling technology to Chinese for campaign donations, selling pardons, stealing the Whitehouse silverware and generally being asleep foreign policy wise and I once again decided that he sucked.

  • eoin

    Well, the right – left divide is mere partisanship in America. It is not like American conservatives have much intellectual heft: what they do have is tribalism. Note that Clinton stayed out if a war that he opposed. An honest decision. Bush defended Texas from the Vietcong; and by all accounts, not very well. However that would not matter to American conservatives, what matters is what party each draft dodger belongs. If Clinton’s war record had been Bush’s he would be attacked by the very forces defiantly not attacking Bush.( Nor Limbaugh, who had a mole on his ass which kept him out of service in Vietnam. As you can understand)

    This “conservatism” is mere chimera here. Dubya can increase the welfare state and warfare state as much as he wants, as long as he prays to Christ and stays in a certain party he will have dedicated support of Republican hacks.

  • toolkien

    Personally, as I have shorn the Republican from the self appointed moniker Libertarian-Republican I carried, I see this situation as rather 1984-ish. A mass in the middle who pick from column A or column B like there is a huge difference, and are at each others’ throats all the while, nit-picking small details, and trumpeting mediocrity. All the while federal budget grows, liberty is swallowed up by bureaucracy, and no one who expects to be elected pisses in the mass’ soup. Pony up the entitlements and keep the THEM (drug addicts, CEO’s, gun nuts, flag burners, whoever THEY are) in a box. I suppose there is a small part of me that hopes there is a difference, but as we have a Republican who has exploded the defecit, heaping entitlements at a dizzying pace, I can’t see a ‘conservative’ Dem being any worse. Kerry, on the other hand, IS worse in my opinion. So do I cast a negative-Kerry vote and vote for Bush (as I did 4 years ago) or do vote Libertarian (though the party is not exactly as I envision it to be) or not vote at all. I am starting the buy into the notion that “voting only encourages them”.

  • DSpears

    Clinton’s worse personal character flaw, his complete lack of any guiding principle, turned out to be his best political attribute.

    As somebody who thought Bill Clinton to be anti-Christ when he came in to office he initially didn’t disappoint. His national healthcare proposal was pure European socialism, his Keynsian economic theories of creating an “industrial policy” to compete with Japan (who ironically was about go into a decade long depression) and his tax increase which turned out to be more symbolism than substance. BUt his complete lack of a guiding set of principles allowed him to abandon all of this when the polls told him that the American people didn’t want any of those things, and ended up signing and getting credit for NAFTA, a capiltal gains tax cut and welfare reform.

    And that’s the rub with Republicans. They did all of teh heavy lifting and made all of the unpopular decision which lead to these things and a “balanced” budget, and Clinton swept in and took credit for it.

    The unfortunate lesson that the Republicans learned from Clinton is that if you give the people everything they want they will like you. So reducing the size and power of government is gone replaced by consumerist politics: Compassionate conservatism, i.e., Big Government Conservatism. In a way Bill Clinton was responsible for destroying the Reagan revolution, completely by accident.

    But I do think that it is fitting for somebody who is so obsessed with his legacy, history will most probably group him in the room with Millard Filmore and Franklin Peirce. Can you tell me what their major accomplishments were? Neither can I.

  • JK

    The thing I really dislike about Samizdata is the eternal pessimism that permeates every post here.

    I am a Libertarian and now US Citizen, but born in statist hell in Europe. (Luckily I was able to escape at a fairly young age)

    Life is great! I enjoy more freedom now than at any point in my life. I am happy and very optimistic for the future.

    I will of course vote for Bush in the upcoming election. I love what he has done while in office. Fighting Islamofacism and cutting my taxes more than any president in my lifetime.
    For that alone he deserve re-election more than any candidate I have ever voted for.

    And regarding Clinton: The guy was a nobody. No major achievements to speak of (all legislative achievements in the 90s can you thank Republicans in Congress for).
    He was (is) extremely dysfunctional in his personal life, and as Dick Morris so elequeontly stated: A real nasty bastard off-camera.
    He and his presidency will not be missed.

  • fnyser

    Clinton (Bill) was only interested in Clinton. Though corrupt to the core, all he really wanted was the free plane rides and xtra candies on his pillow – for these he’d kill his grandma. It’s the other Clinton that’s really scary.

    Clinton was NOT a conservative in office, just a populist poll-watcher. Remember that he failed to do anything really bad in office because he managed to lose the house after two years by pushing a few ultra-leftist programs in between haircuts and jet-setting.

    He repeatedly vetoed everything that came out of the R legislature but gave in when seen as a do-nothing president and then claimed credit.

    Hunter S Thompson has a very good description of Bill in
    “Better than Sex”…. something like “Bill Clinton would have played the Jew’s harp stark naked on 60 Minutes if he thought it would help him get elected. He is the Willy Loman of Generation X, a traveling salesman from Arkansas who has the loyalty of a lizard with its tail broken off and the midnight taste of a man who’d double-date with the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart.”

    Bush on the other hand… I just saw today he wants to get affordable broadband to all rural communities.
    Where in the Constitution is the federal gov given a mandate to meddle in such things? Is that an extention of the maintenance of postal roads? Why don’t we build a bullet train to Spray Oregon while we’re at it.

  • “Of course, neither has done much to increase liberty within the four corners of the US of A.”

    No politician advances liberty. You might argue that Saint Ronald did, but I even wonder about him sometimes.

    Ben Franklin’s warning is still true, and perhaps even prophetic.

  • Ben

    Listening to eion go on about conservatives and Republicans reminds me of what the Nazis used to say about Jews. The person clearly does not know what he is talking about.

    Bush is suffering with his base for his support of expansions of Medicare and not getting the budget in line. But we realize there is a war on, and we either win, or die. That is the choice the jihadis have handed us. Kerry ain’t going to do it, he does not believe in us any more, if he ever did. So that leaves us with Bush.

  • Howard Gray

    The mystery of Clinton is that he was an essentially conservative president has much to do with the Congress being Republican in majority, and that he had to “Blair” his way into office by simulating a conservative agenda in parts, much as the curate had to live with that egg.

  • Pete (Detroit)

    Toolkin – this is an EXCELLENT year for the Libertrian Party to make hay. Hopefully they will have qualified people running for many positions, from Dogcatcher all the way up.

  • MusselsfromBrussels

    Im surprised that many commenters seem to implicitly prefer Bush over Clinton. To me it seems that a “conservative” democrat, or at least a fiscally responsible one, would be preferable to the libertarian mindset than a socially ultraconservative, fiscally irresponsible republican. While I’m no big fan of Kerry, he will get my vote this fall because in my view (and in the view of most libertarians that I know) the alternative is much, much worse.

  • Clinton’s 1992 campaign consisted of nothing but the typical socialist class-warfare rhetoric. It was disgraceful. He gets elected because of that buffoon Ross Perot, and immediately tries to implement far-left policies [gays in the military, HillaryCare]. America’s not buying: Republicans gain control of the House for the first time since the 1950s. Afterwards, Clinton essentially becomes a figurehead president, and lets the House set the agenda.

    Additionally, one can argue that he his foreign policy was a disaster.

    The only credit Clinton should be given is that he was smart enough to realize that to hold on to power, he shouldn’t fight the House. Clinton was a centrist by necessity, not by conviction.

  • Dale Amon

    For me the election boils down to one issue. How long can we delay losing the city centre of a major Western (and probably American) city?

    I have little confidence Kerry will hold back the barbarians at the gate; the Libertarian party is in denial; Bush seems to have some backbone and understanding of what is at stake.

    I’ll vote for survival first. Then I’ll deal with the other issues.

  • DSpears

    “While I’m no big fan of Kerry, he will get my vote this fall because in my view (and in the view of most libertarians that I know) the alternative is much, much worse.”

    I’m curious about what Libertarian principles John Kerry appeals to. Kerry’s voting record (vs. what he says) shows a clear strain of statist-socialist ideology. His campaign motto should be “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you, unless you’re being oppressed by a torturous totalitarian dictator, then your on your own”.

    Certainly Bush has been a profligate spender, some justified a lot not justified, as his enormous increases of the budgets of Energy, Education, Agriculture and his massive give-away to the richest demographic in the country (senior citizens) demonstrates.

    But President Kerry would have done all of those and then some, and would raise taxes to try to pay for it, and when that didn’t raise enough revenue he’d raise them again. Hardly a Libertarian value.

    And if you’re of the militant pacifist wing of Libertarian thought, Kerry murdered people in Vietnam, voted for the war in Iraq (although he didn’t vote to additionally fund it) and was in favor of all of Clinton’s overseas adventures, including bombing Saddam Hussein because he had weapons of mass destruction. Like the French, he’s not anti-war, he’s just against the wars that Republican presidents are in charge of. In fact he wasn’t particulary upset about Iraq (he voted for it) until Howard Dean showed how worked up the extremists in his own party were about the issue. Hardly a proud Libertarian tradition.

    Kerry is also in favor turning over much of American foreign policy decision making and sovereignty to the United Nations and other world government schemes that most Libertarians see as thinly veiled attempts at global fascism.

    But the worst fault that John Kerry has, which Bush doesn’t is that he, like the various foreign leaders that want him to win the election, believes America is the number one problem in the world. If his foreign policy would be isolationist, it would be because he thinks the world is too good for America. I disagree.

  • Understanding conservative/libertarian antipathy toward Bill Clinton should be a piece of cake:

    1. Longtime association with the “Jane Fonda” wing of the Vietnam-era antiwar movement. Unlike the mainstream wing that merely regarded the war as bad policy, this radical wing branded every element of the US military from the Pentagon down to every last private as evil murderers. FYI, the stereotyping of soldiers as homicidal maniacs started years before My Lai – at least as far back as 1967, when Arlo Guthrie released Alice’s Restaurant:

    “Sargeant, you got a lot a damn gall to ask me if I’ve rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that just, I’m sittin’ here on the bench, I mean I’m sittin here on the Group W bench ’cause you want to know if I’m moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug.”

    2. Longtime association with other radicals (besides Hillary). Look at who he gave appointments to: Joycelin Elders (who served in the Arkansas government), Donna Shalala, Ira Magaziner (the real author of Hillarycare), Morton Halperin (unilateral disarmament whackball given a Pentagon post). Not to mention all those leftist organizations that support him. And all those constitutionally weak (and worse) judicial opponents. And Albert Gore, Jr.

    3. Arkansawyers in particular knew of the Clitnon scandals – including the rape allegations (about which Juanita Broaddrick never came forward until Ken Starr subpoenaed her) – before the rest of the country, and they were beginning to trickle past the state lines in 1992.

    4. The Chinese nuclear program’s Great Leap Forward. Clinton allowed the sale of supercomputers uniquely capable of guiding ICBM’s with exceedingly greater accuracy than previously possible. Nuclear weapons lab security dropped like a rock during his watch; at the very least Clinton put a bunch of buffoons and/or security risks in charge of that security. Also allowed the NorKs to acquire warhead-production-capable light water reactors.

    There might be a few whackballs who think Clinton is a Commie agent. The truth is something worse: Clinton – like Jimmy Carter (and M. Halperin) – trusts barbarian governments.

    5. Surpassed the bounds of the Dred Scot decision with regard to Elian Gonzalez.

    6. He’s not as doctrinaire as Hillary, but deep down he’s a statist. Gun control. Tax “redistribution.” Pleistocene Liberation Organization environmentalism. Trusts one-size-fits-all government schools to be competent and fair. Arkansawyer conservatives know that better than anyone, having lived under his thumb for many years.

    7. Blamed talk radio for creating the environment that created Tim McVeigh.

    8. During the 1992 election, he lied about the current state of the economy, saying that the US was in a recession when in fact it had ended.

    9. Unlike Dan Quayle and virtually all other so-called “chickenhawks,” Clinton provably BROKE THE LAW to stay out of Vietnam. (Received two induction notices.) He faced no legal jeaopardy, since Carter had already pardoned the draft dodgers. That makes Clinton the first recipient of a presidential pardon to become president.

  • Zevilyn

    I find it ironic that the same media who lionise Bill Clinton take great delight in portraying US troops as innept.

    Clinton, during his tenure, massively lowered the standards of US Army Training, pandering to feminists and gay rights lobbyists. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a policy guaranteed to cripple discipline.

    Co-ed Training, a policy that has spectacularly failed, was supported by Clinton. The pregnancy scandal in the US Army is being covered up the mianstream media.

    I find it interesting that Clinton’s feminist chums have avoided Jessica Lynch like the plague.

  • duffer dooker

    just look at all the facts coming out on the bush administration, his is the most corrupt from the start, and its not all been uncovered yet, wait and see