Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Real Bill Clinton

One annoying fact of the Bush presidency is that it has many progressives look back wistfully on the Clinton years. We forget what a total bastard that guy is. This isn't a fair link really, since he seems to have taken it down, but Ari at The Edge of the American West, states:

I was one of the thousands of moronic progressives who lived through Bill Clinton’s presidency by gritting my teeth. I totally underestimated what an effective leader he was — at the time and given the givens. In retrospect, though, I think he was one of our better presidents*, perhaps even cracking the top five.

So, it has been with considerable anguish that I’ve watched him demeaning himself with his odious attacks on Barack Obama. And let me be clear: Bill should be stumping for Hillary. For more reasons than I have time to catalog. But I wish that he would campaign with more dignity. And I find his tendency to attack and then throw up his hands with a “What? Me?” expression on his face maddening. If he keeps this up, I think he’s going to end up doing Hillary more harm than good. And he’ll certainly damage the party’s reputation, as he remains, to a very great extent, the most visible and popular Democrat in the country.

But that IS Bill Clinton. This isn't an anomaly. This is what Bill Clinton has done his entire career. Clinton was not a particularly good president from my point of view, largely because he got a shockingly small amount of progressive legislation passed. He seems good now, but he was not good at the time. There is a reason many progressives voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. Really, there are many reasons. But one very important one is named Bill Clinton. We were wrong to go Nader, but we were not wrong in our sentiments about how terrible the Democratic Party had become.

Scott quotes Brian Beutler:

I don't know Bill Clinton, so I can't say why he does what he does, but it's hard not to conclude that--whether he became habituated to a way of politics in a bygone era or whether he just is this way--he's still disposed to some of the things that made liberals bristle when they were supporting him a decade ago. But the political realities in the 1990s were much different than the political realities today, and there's much, much less chance that people like Mike Tomasky will countenance the Ricky Ray Rectoring, welfare-reforming, Obama-smearing side of Bill Clinton now, when such behavior isn't really construable as an unfortunate side-effect of the historical moment.

Indeed, but who is going to do anything about it? Although the Democratic Party voters as a whole seem to want to distance themselves from this kind of distasteful politics, Clinton is doing things the way he always has--nasty and self-serving. And we are so desperate to end our long national nightmare that as bad as the Clintons might be, I have to think that nearly all progressives will hold their noses and vote them back in.

The thing about this incident is that it helps me believe that a Hillary Clinton presidency is going to be a lot like the Bill Clinton presidency. Triangulation, a lack of progressive policies, pandering in the worst way, throwing allies under the bus. In other ways, kind of bad. But still a zillion times better than George W. Bush.