Bill Clinton first intruded upon my radar screen during the 1992 campaign for the Democratic nomination. That occurred when he made a quick flight home in the heat of the campaign specifically to sign the death warrant of a mentally defective inmate. That the condemned happened to be a black man made the situation all the more striking.
At the time I was not yet aware of the “searing” personal tragedy by which a youthful Clinton lost his first bid for re-election as Arkansas Governor by making the mistake of pursuing policies deemed too progressive for his constituents. From that near-death experience, Clinton fashioned the now-notorious tactic of “triangulation,” joining forces with the Democratic Leadership Council and its mantra that, in order for Democrats to be elected, they must position themselves as Rightwing Republicans with a Human Face.
Clinton’s unseemly haste to see a poor, brain-damaged and helpless black guy – experts testified that he posed no threat to anyone anymore – executed was just part of his strategy to convince independents, Republicans, and, I suppose, just plain ol’ racists that he wasn’t going to let little things like the inhumanity, cruelty, race- and income-based disparities of the death penalty stand between him and the White House. The foundation of Judeo-Christian ethics is something philosophers call The Principle of Self-Determination. It forbids us to treat human beings as objects, mere means to an end. Already, as he would so often in the coming years, Bill was demonstrating that his personal ambition would trump this and any other principle. His administration was a mediocre – and sometimes worse – parade of political cowardice, celebrity-worship, and tawdry personal scandals that also reflected a blatantly user mentality.
For the life of me, I can’t understand the nostalgia some of my Democratic friends proclaim for the Clinton Years. Yes, the economy boomed – at least during the second half of the 90s — fueled by rampant speculation kicked off by Clinton-led deregulation of the financial markets. By 2001, this Dot.Com Gold Rush led to Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco and has now bequeathed us the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
If FDR gave us the New Deal. Clinton gave us “the end of welfare as we know it,” including the elimination of AFDC, the only federal subsidy for children, and creation of Welfare to Work, a shell game that has left the poor in this country worse off than they were before.
If LBJ gave us the Civil Rights Act and the Great Society, Clinton gave us “Sister Soljah” and NAFTA and all its epigones. Promoted with claims that it would create millions of new jobs throughout the hemisphere, it has instead caused the flight of industrial jobs from this country while displacing millions of Mexican and Central Americans from their jobs and farms. Estimates are that the number of undocumented workers who have crossed our southern border over the last 15 years is exactly the same number who lost their livelihoods as a result of NAFTA. The nastiness of the immigration debate, therefore, is a direct legacy of the Clinton Years.
If JFK gave us the Apollo Project, Clinton gave us the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which, in the name of fostering competition, opened the doors to a wave of media consolidation that threatens our very right to be informed. Want a good measure of the Clinton legacy? In 1996, Clear Channel Communications, the scumbag Texas-based corporation with close ties to G.W. Bush, owned 45 radio stations in the southwest. Today, it owns 2,000 all over the country and is busy protecting us from the thought-crimes of The Dixie Chicks and other nemeses to our way of life.
Meanwhile, during Clinton’s time in office, the United States became even more dependent upon coal and foreign oil. He did nothing substantive to promote alternative energy or research and development of green technology. At the same time, CEO compensation continued to skyrocket, as did, ultimately, national income disparity. And let’s not forget that he came into office pledging to provide health care for all Americans and left office with some 40 million Americans without even basic heath care insurance.
Then there’s the Middle East. Clinton got off to a good start facilitating the 1993 Oslo Accords then sat by and did nothing until the last year of his term. Between 1993 and 2000, Clinton uttered not a single effective word of protest while Israel doubled the number of its illegal settlers in the Palestinian territories.
In 2000, when the Palestinians quite understandably rejected Ehud Barak’s “generous offer” of a two-state solution consisting of Bantustan statelets cut off from each other by huge Israeli security zones and covering less than 22 percent of historic Palestine – rather than the 51 percent guaranteed to them by the 1947 UN resolution that created the State of Israel – Clinton blamed the Palestinians for the summit’s failure, not Israel’s bad-faith.
Hastily convened in an effort to salvage some sort of legacy after the freakshow of the Lewinsky scandal, the summit accomplished nothing except to deepen the frustration and despair of the Palestinians, setting the stage for the second infatada and the successive rise first of Ariel Sharon, then Hamas. No, Bill Clinton was no FDR. Hell, he wasn’t even Jimmy Carter.
And now he’s back at it again, stumping for Hillary, smearing the “fairytale” of Barak Obama, unsuccessfully trying with her to prevent members of the Nevada culinary union from caucusing by backing a lawsuit filed by one of the campaign’s many surrogates, in this case the state’s teachers union. Was the Nevada Democratic Party’s decision to allow casino workers to caucus at their workplaces unfair? When it looked like Hillary would get their support, no. When the culinary union endorsed Barak, suddenly it was grossly unfair. Guess it depends on what the meaning of “is” is. Did you see him berating that poor local news reporter who had the temerity to question the timing and propriety of the teachers’ union lawsuit? I’m surprised the guy didn’t end up admitting complicity in the 9/11 atttacks! Bill is never more indignant than when he’s lying through his teeth, bullying the truth into silence.
If we elect Hillary, we’ve been promised (threatened?) that we’ll get Bill as an added bonus. But Hillary on her own, as evidenced by her vote to authorize Bush to go to war, her support for the disgraceful bankruptcy bill, her repeated votes for the occupation, her lowball campaign, and more, is bad enough on her own. Billary? No thanks. Been there, done that. Don’t know if the country can withstand stand another bout.