Friday, September 17, 2010

Maddow vs. Clinton

Rachel Maddow started it.

The MSNBC host on March 31, 2010 referred (video, from Crooks and Liars, below; though comment is at approximately 7:40, entire video is worth viewing due to Hayes' insight) to Bill Clinton as "probably the best Republican president the country ever had, if you look at the policies that he passed." Appearing with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on September 13, Clinton, according to Politico's James Hohmann, gave "a mostly subdued and statesman-like performance (and) vigorously defended his pursuit of pragmatism."

The former President struck back against Maddow's criticism, remarking that "one of the leading television commentators on one of our liberal cable channels"

meant by that was I didn’t necessarily follow their ‘conventional wisdom.' I said ‘What do you mean?!’....

We had 100 times as many people move out of poverty during those eight years [I was president] than the previous 12 years because we had an earned income tax credit, not because we had another traditional anti-poverty program hiring people....

What gave birth to the Third Way in America was that the Democrats kept getting beat because people saw us as the party of big government, and our own political base very often was more concerned with means than ends,” he said. “I think the people on the right that say that, ‘government is the enemy, we don’t need it,’ are wrong, particularly in this economic time. And I think people on the left that say, ‘the only way to deliver services or solve problems is with a bigger state,’ are not always right and are more often wrong than not.

Lanny Davis, the lawyer, pundit, and lobbyist who served as White House Counsel for President Clinton, piled on, remarking

We [Democrats] have our Tea Party side, and Rachel Maddow is typical...she's sanctimonious and intolerant of anyone who disagrees with her. So, if it's Bill Clinton, she calls him a Republican because he doesn't meet Rachel Maddow's test. So, the worst element of our party are people who call themselves liberal who are actually illiberal because they are intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them...

Put aside the obscenity (and illogic) of comparing Rachel Maddow and the tea parties. You might think this is an internecine argument, Democrat vs. Democrat. Actually, it is Democrat vs. Eisenhower Republican.

Writing in Salon on September 14, Alex Pareene pointed out "President Clinton's financial deregulation led inexorably to the financial crisis." No hyperbole there; in May of 2009 (well into the financial crisis) The Huffington Post's Sam Stein explained

When the Senate voted to pass Gramm-Leach-Bliley by a vote of 90-8, it reversed what was, for more than six decades, a framework that had governed the functions and reach of the nation's largest banks. No longer limited by laws and regulations commercial and investment banks could now merge. Many had already begun the process, including, among others, J.P. Morgan and Citicorp. The new law allowed it to be permanent. The updated ground rules were low on oversight and heavy on risky ventures. Historically in the business of mortgages and credit cards, banks now would sell insurance and stock.

Nevertheless, the bill did not lack champions, many of whom declared that the original legislation -- forged during the Great Depression -- was both antiquated and cumbersome for the banking industry. Congress had tried 11 times to repeal Glass-Steagall. The twelfth was the charm.

That new law was the Financial Services Modernization Act (video of one of the prescient eight, way below) and its "champions" several individuals in the White House. Those individuals served President William Jefferson Clinton, who signed the bill in 1999.

Pareene recognizes

It is kind of weird that Clinton still gets offended by this kind of talk, considering that the entire point of third-way politics was that if Democrats just became a little bit more like Republicans, voters would like them. But he and Blair bonded over the idiotic political idea that if both sides hate you, you're doing something right. The liberals thought he was a sellout, and the Republicans called him a communist -- that means he was juuuussst right.

Clinton, for some reason, does not take from this the obvious lesson: That no matter how far right you go, the Republicans will still call you a socialist -- and so moving further rightward to head off those attacks is entirely pointless.

Arguably the boldest- and wisest- actions taken by President Clinton was the boost in income tax rates in 2001, passed with zero Republican votes, which set the economy soaring. The primary objective was to strive toward a balanced budget which, as Pareene notes, is "an admirable Republican goal."

Of course, that used to be a Republican goal, now one of their objectives in the same way as it is an objective of a football team to surrender as many touchdowns as possible. Accordingly, Clinton in Philadelphia noted the charge that he is a Republican "would come as quite a surprise to the Republicans, half of whom still think I'm a closet communist." But Ronald Reagan sold arms to a hostile regime in Teheran, raised taxes several times (including enacting what was then the biggest tax cut in American history), increased the federal bureaucracy, and openly dreamt of a nuclear-free world. If he were a United States Senator today, he would be attacked by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity, and would be challenged in a GOP primary by a true believer. Being called a "communst" by Republicans today merely means one isn't being labeled a full-fledged fascist Marxist.

While Bill Clinton is "going around crowing about dissatisfaction from liberals," the least he can do is refrain from complaining about being told he is the "best" anything.

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