Sunday, January 27, 2008

Remember the Clintons

I've been bemused over the past two weeks as people have expressed outrage over the Clintons' tactics. From using race against Barack Obama to trying to steal the Michigan primary, Hillary and Bill Clinton have dismayed progressives.

And people are surprised by this?

I've read many Democratic bloggers, usually of the semi-moderate persuasion, usually in their mid-30s or older, who look back on the Clinton years as good years. They can't believe this is what they are seeing.

But their romanticized view of the Clinton years is off base. Sure, compared to George W. Bush, Clinton looks good. But that's like remembering back to the Millard Fillmore presidency as pretty good while dealing with James Buchanan. Clinton and Fillmore weren't the disasters that Bush and Buchanan are/were. But they sure weren't good.

It's too early for historians to have really looked at the Clinton years. But many commentators blame the lack of progressive legislation on the rise of the Republicans and the 1994 election. That is certainly part of it. But Clinton didn't exactly try very hard either. Between his personal behavior that gave the media and the Republicans more than enough ammo to avoid talking about substantive policy to his policy of triangulation (and the loathsome hiring of Dick Morris as an advisor) to the way Clinton could only seem to function if he was under attack, he sucked. After the summer of 1993, almost nothing good came out of the Clinton White House. When the health care reforms failed and Clinton caved on the gays in the military issue, it was all over. Clinton was fighting for nothing more than personal power.

Thus, a widespread dismay over Clinton and the search for an alternative. Unfortunately, that alternative was Nader.

I am reminded now why I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. There's no question--it was a colossal mistake to support Nader. But I can again understand what drove me to that--the political choices and priorities of Bill Clinton. Hillary doesn't seem different in any meaningful way on this front.

I'll vote for her this time because I am afraid of Roe being overturned after John Paul Stevens dies. But I sure hope to heavens that I don't have to do that.