Bill Clinton & the Collective Amnesia

Bill Clinton is going to be the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. The leaders of the party have concluded that he is the man to inspire the minions. They believe he is popular enough in the country at large to draw significant numbers to their side. If that last assumption is true, we are a country that is suffering collective amnesia. Somehow we have forgotten this man’s arrogance, his attempt to radicalize policy (until he realized it wasn’t working), and his moral degeneracy that brought the presidency to a new low. The Clinton years, in the haze of our lack of historical scrutiny, now seem to be a time of peace and prosperity. A wave of nostalgia appears to have overtaken the reality of those years. It’s time for a reminder.

First, the only reason he won the highest office in the land was because of Ross Perot, who, as a third-party candidate in 1992, siphoned off 19% of the popular vote—most agree that the overwhelming percentage of his vote would have gone to the reelection of the first President Bush. Perot’s strength allowed Clinton to take the prize with only 43% of the overall vote.

Second, he ran as a flaming moderate, hiding well his true agenda. Many who voted for him believed they were getting a president who would ensure basic cultural values. They soon discovered they had been duped. On policy, he immediately reversed his moderate image with the following actions:

  • He attempted to repeal the ban on homosexuals in the military. This shocked most people at the time; the military itself protested and he had to settle for a compromised “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. This attempt to normalize homosexuality set the stage for Obama two decades later.
  • He tasked Hillary with overhauling the healthcare system in the nation. She set up a secret committee that unleashed upon the populace a massive government bureaucracy that threatened to stifle the private medical establishment. Again, he was rebuffed, and the plan was scrapped. However, this also prepared the way for Obamacare. Clinton dreamed the dream; Obama forced it into reality.
  • In the campaign, he said he would give the middle class a tax break. Two weeks into his first term, he “sadly” announced that even though he had never worked harder for anything in his life, it wasn’t going to happen. The financial mess he inherited was just too great. No tax break would occur; in fact, he pushed through a tax increase.

Actions like these led to this political cartoon:

Then, of course, there were the scandals and investigations that began in the first term and never let up throughout his presidency:

  • Whitewater—a land deal in Arkansas that bilked a lot of investors; a governor of Arkansas and others went to prison for their roles, but the Clintons escaped. Certain documents needed by the investigators mysteriously disappeared and then were just as mysteriously “discovered” after sufficient time had elapsed to “cleanse” them of any indication of Clintonian involvement.
  • The death of Vincent Foster, the personal lawyer for the Clintons. This was ruled a suicide. I’m not a conspiracy theorist by trade, but I’ve never understood how a man who committed suicide could be found lying flat on his back with both arms down at his side and the gun still in one hand. An amazingly neat trick.
  • The firing of the White House Travel Office staff and the prosecution of the head man on the staff. They brought in their Arkansas cronies to fill the spots. When the trial of the head man was over, the evidence of wrongdoing against him was so flimsy, the jury acquitted him with almost no discussion.
  • The presence of raw FBI files in the White House, contrary to the law. Strangely, all the files were on Republicans, and ripe for being used to carry out smear campaigns against them. The man whose job it was to rummage through these files was hired by Hillary.
  • Then there was the tackiness of using the Lincoln bedroom in the White House as a bed and breakfast for donors. All it cost them was $50,000, and they could spend a night in that famed room.
  • And of course the myriad tales of Bill Clinton’s sexual dalliances, which led to the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit and the revelations concerning his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. When the special prosecutor, Ken Starr, took his job seriously, he, not Bill Clinton, was the subject of ridicule and innuendo from the national press. He was made into the “heavy” in the court of public opinion.

To top it all off, his actions, particularly perjury and obstruction of justice, led to his impeachment by the House and a trial in the Senate for removal from office. Those were brave House Managers who pled the case for his removal, having to weather the disdain of the media and public opinion polls that showed 2/3 of the people didn’t want him forced out. In the Senate, not even one Democrat could bring himself or herself to vote in favor of removal, even though his own VP, Al Gore, would have taken over. And what was Clinton’s attitude during the hearings and trial?

Was there prosperity during the Clinton years? Yes, but keep in mind the voters threw out Democrat control of Congress in the 1994 elections and Republicans ruled both the House and Senate for the first time in forty years. The one signature piece of legislation from the Clinton years, the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, was a Republican measure—vetoed twice by Clinton until he signed it just prior to the 1996 election when he could take credit for it. It’s that very act that President Obama has moved to gut by liberalizing the work requirements to the point of silliness.

This is the man the Democrats have chosen to lead the charge this year. It’s time to rip away the fog of forgetfulness and come to grips with the folly and embarrassment of those years. I’m not nostalgic for Bill Clinton. Not one little bit.