This weekend I was listening to Bill Clinton defending himself with that self-righteous wagging finger so characteristic of Bill assuming the “self-defense” defense. According to Bill, in relation to his pro-Hillary at-any-cost support, he had done and said nothing wrong. He had said things about Obama that were “factually accurate” whereas others had said things that were “factually inaccurate”.
This was a flashback to Bill and his use of language to exculpate his use of other language. What your meaning of “is is”, not having “sexual relations” with “that woman”, smoking but not inhaling are all sad reminders of how a talented politician can waste so much potential as he tangles himself in his own web of slim.
This got me to questioning the 1990s and what I had once perceived as very good years and, despite Clinton’s holier-than-thou liberal condescension, a relatively successful presidency. But when you really concentrate on those years, I think you’ll find that they were definitely not positive for the Democratic Party (of which I am not a member) and for the U.S. in the mid to long term.
From the Democrats’ standpoint, the Clinton years were horrible. Yes, they kept the White House for eight years, but at the cost of the rest of the Congress. I am supposed to be working right now, so I won’t look up the numbers, but we all know the outcome of state and federal elections from 1992 to 2000. The Democrats had lost their majorities in both houses of the U.S. Congress, and the Republicans won the majority of state governships.
After his first two highly unsuccessful years in office, President Clinton saw the great rise of the Republican Revolution’s Contract with America, political “ideas” that would transform both legislation and political vocabulary. When Bill Clinton told Congress and Americans at the 1996 State of the Union address that the “era of big government [had] come to an end” he was essentially granting the Republicans a victory. From that point on until 2004, an entire generation of Democratic party leaders were “missing in action”, and the Democrats had lost two consecutive presidential terms to the world’s worst executive ever, George W. (Clinton’s Vice President, Al Gore, was preceived to be weakened due to Clinton fatigue).
During a time of relative peace (with the exception of invading Haiti, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Sudan, and Afghanistan), what was Clinton’s biggest policy legacy? Yep, welfare reform — another Republican soundbyte. His most difficult moments in office? Explaining his behavior to his wife and daughter?
On foreign policy and defense, Bill Clinton made major efforts to broker peace in Israel, but eight years later, we’re not in a better place. George W. Bush, who without a doubt ruined any remaining U.S. good will, cannot be held responsible for any preemptive diplomatic, defense, or intelligence policies that led us to 9/11. During the Clinton years, we simply did not have a long term foreign policy.
So how were the 1990s? They were good for me. I was in my twenties, and those were probably some of my best years — a little innocent with very little to lose, kind of like the first tech boom. I have very fond memories of those years. That is at least until I start hearing Bill splitting hairs and defining terms after the fact.
Some things never change, but still, let’s move on. Don’t ruin my memories and the present at the same time.