You're forgiven if sometimes you think "is she serious?" But then you remember that Hillary Clinton (in all likelihood) is running for President, and it begins to make sense. Sort of. The Wall Street Journal online edition notes that, at "an event in Colorado" last week.
Partisanship in the 1990s was as grave as it is today, she suggested at the Colorado event. Nevertheless, Mr. Clinton made inroads with hostile Republican lawmakers, Mrs. Clinton said.
"My husband had some really serious problems with the Congress when he was in office," she said. "They shut down the government twice. They impeached him once. So it was not the most pleasant of atmospheres. But I will say this: Bill never stopped reaching out to them."
Building those relationships on Capitol Hill "is something there is no rest from," she added.
Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Obama has "worked so hard and reached out so often, and it gets discouraging because you don't feel like you're getting much back." She added: "I don't think you can ever stop. And I think that's part of whoever the next president is just has to be ready to do."
While at the State Department, she found money in the budget to offer visiting diplomats tea, cookies and coffee in hopes of forging personal ties, she added in her remarks in Colorado.
There is little likelihood that John Boehner, who has announced his intention of getting the U.S. House of Representatives to sue President Obama, would have been satisfied with tea and cookies. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who once maintained "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," can get all the coffee he needs or wants from any Starbucks store in the District, or even in Kentucky.
Even President Obama now indirectly concedes he had been a little naive, stating at a campaign event in May "I hear folks saying, 'Oh, you know, if you just play golf with [House Speaker] John Boehner more and we're just trying harder to be more bipartisan, then we'd get more stuff done,' That's not the problem."
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Or as the nearly-elected President Bush might have put it, "fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again." (Perhaps he was thinking about The Who's conservative song, way below. Shameless visual addition.)
On Inauguration Day 2008, author Robert Draper (according to The Huffington Post) revealed that at a private dinner in Washington, D.C.
the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) -- who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.
For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama's legislative platform.
"If you act like you're the minority, you're going to stay in the minority," Draper quotes McCarthy as saying. "We've gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign."
Let it not be said that politicians never keep their promises. Still, Mrs. Clinton suggests that the relentless effort to block all things Obama has fostered an atmosphere no worse than that faced by President Clinton who, she neglects to mention, may have committed high crimes and misdemeanors by lying to a grand jury about periodically being involved in sex acts in the Oval Office.
But yes, Bill Clinton did enjoy "reaching out" to Republicans (video of remarks of 11-12-99 at signing of Gramm-Leach-Bliley, below). Last October, Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, explained
Clinton installed Robert Rubin and Larry Summers in the Treasury, which resulted in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which officially did in Glass-Steagall and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which left the derivatives market a laissez-faire Wild West (not to mention a disastrous strong dollar policy that was a critical and underrated factor in the bubble). He also reappointed Ayn Rand-acolyte Alan Greenspan, who has as much responsibility as anyone for creating the crisis, as Fed chairman—twice.
Now it’s true that Clinton faced an extremely hostile Republican Congress for the last six years of his presidency. But his administration actively encouraged the big deregulatory legislation, and squashed its own dissenters, like Brooksley Born, who saw disaster ahead.
Clinton would have you believe that he signed those bills because his administration was forced to by a GOP that was beholden as usual to Big Business, but then what about the deregulatory legislation he signed in 1994, before Gingrich & Co. took Congress?
Riegle-Neal hasn’t got a tenth of the press that the CMFA and Gramm-Leach-Bliley have, but it was a milestone in the creation of Too Big to Fail, allowing banks to cross state lines, effectively gutting state regulation of banking. The Christian Science Monitor that year quoted a Wall Street analyst saying that, “‘It also didn’t hurt that NationsBank president Hugh McColl has a working relationship with President Clinton or that the comptroller of the currency, Eugene Ludwig, was a successful lawyer at Covington & Burling and NationsBank had been a major client.’” Hugh McColl gave us Bank of America.
From across the pond, The Independent wrote in a piece that was prescient in more ways than one:
“In effect, Congress has said let the merger mania begin. There is virtual consensus that the legislation will allow both the big US banks and their foreign rivals in America - British banks among them - to grow much bigger.
Nor was that the only thing the banks got that year. The American Banking Association wrote about Riegle-Neal, the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994, and the Community Banking Development Act that “the 103rd will be remembered as the first Congress in recent memory to pass “clean” pro-banking legislation.”
Clinton, on signing Riegle-Neal, praised McColl and the head of Chase Manhattan, and said, ” It represents another example of our intent to reinvent Government by making it less regulatory and less overreaching and by shrinking it where it ought to be shrunk and reshaping it where it ought to be reshaped.”
Again, this was before the Republicans took over Congress.
In 1999, on signing Gramm-Leach-Bliley into law, Clinton said, “This is a day we can celebrate as an American day” and that ” the Glass-Steagall law is no longer appropriate for the economy in which we live” and “today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down these antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority” and “This is a very good day for the United States.”
The past five-and-a-half years have been marked by a President collaborating with the opposition in ways unimaginable in a Repub administration. But at least he understands the pitfalls, and the problems his efforts have fostered. But even with the benefit of hindsight, Hillary Clinton says "bring it on," as the "Ready for Hillary" movement rolls on.