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.

The Baneful Effects of a Third Party in Presidential Elections

Earlier this month, I spoke at the Winter Haven, Florida, 9-12 Project. Last night I was closer to home at the Lakeland 9-12 Project meeting. As with the Winter Haven group, these are sincere citizens who want to see substantive change, as opposed to a vague, dreamy “hope-and-change” mantra without meaning. They are committed to restoring the original intent of the Constitution and in helping educate the public on basic principles.

My topic was the effect of third parties on elections. Here are a few of my prime examples.

In 1844, the Liberty Party entered the presidential election as an alternative to the Democrats and Whigs. This party had one issue only—the abolition of slavery. James G. Birney, a man of principle and courage was its presidential candidate. He had put his life on the line many times for his beliefs. I admire him. But since this was a one-issue party, defeat was inevitable; you have to develop a broad agenda and distinct philosophy of government to attract more people to your side. However, this small party probably turned the election in a direction it wouldn’t have gone otherwise. The Democrats were the pro-slavery party, while the Whigs, though divided on the issue, at least had some reformers who wanted to take steps to eliminate slavery. If any progress were to be made for abolition of slavery, it would have been far better had the Whigs won. However, the Liberty Party, although it took only 2% of the popular vote, drained enough support from the Whigs that the Democrats carried New York, the state with the largest number of electoral votes. If the Whigs had won that state, their candidate, Henry Clay, would have been president. Instead, we got James Polk, who supported the slave system.

Then, in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt challenged sitting president William Howard Taft for the Republican nomination. Roosevelt was denied the nomination, and was so angered by it that he started his own third party known as the Progressives [with a nickname of Bull Moose]. Roosevelt effectively split the Republican vote in that election, putting Democrat Woodrow Wilson in the White House. Wilson, who was even more progressive than Roosevelt, championed the idea that the Constitution was a “living document,” and that original intent should be shelved. If Taft hadn’t been opposed by Roosevelt, he probably would have won reelection and Wilson never would have become president—he garnered only 42% of the popular vote.

Finally, in 1992, the entrance of Ross Perot into the race took away 19% of the vote that traditionally would have gone to the Republicans. The result? The presidency of Bill Clinton.

More often than not, third parties allow someone to win who normally wouldn’t. And the one who wins quite often is worse than the one from whom votes were drained. In an attempt to achieve the perfect, third parties usually end up providing us with a raw deal. As the cliché goes, the perfect can be the enemy of the good.

If I have one electoral fear right now, it’s that someone, whether it be Donald Trump or Ron Paul, will decide to run as a third-party candidate in 2012, thereby ensuring an Obama reelection. I hope history can come along and be a guide—don’t destroy our best chance of reversing what has occurred on Obama’s watch. Don’t allow disunity to give this man a second term. I’m not sure the country can survive another four years.

The Albatross & the Trump Card

Two businessmen are making noise as presidential contenders: Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. Both have serious flaws. I know my opinion of them will not sit well with everyone, but I always strive to be as open as possible about my views, realizing that I could be wrong, but believing that it is important to air legitimate concerns.

For Mitt Romney, this is a second time around; he fell short in 2008, but now feels the time is right for a comeback. I freely admit that his Mormonism is a stumbling block for me. From my perspective, Mormonism is a cult, and not a variant of the Christian faith. Yes, I know Mormons are moral, and I wish to work with them on policy issues where we have agreement, but it would be troublesome to me to have someone with Mormon theology as the chief executive in the land. Would that be worse than someone whose religion is false in other ways, such as radical liberation theology? Neither is desirable.

But beyond his religious beliefs, I have deep concerns about his policies. Is he really pro-life, or is this late conversion to that stance just a political ploy? That is a real issue, given his past pro-choice position. He also now claims to be opposed to Obamacare, but isn’t that simply a newer version of what he championed in Massachusetts when he was governor? Romney may be trying to run away from his past, but it’s going to weigh him down.

On to Trump, who is a surprise entry into the race. He’s certainly a celebrity, and he’s definitely made a mark in the business world. Anyone who is a billionaire has left his imprint.

But just who is Donald Trump? What does he believe? A few years ago, he was trumpeting [pardon the slight pun] his own plan for universal healthcare that mirrors both Romney’s and Obama’s. Are we to believe he is now totally opposed to what he formerly proposed?

He also recently taped an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network in which he espoused pro-life views that he never held previously, and in which he declared that he is a Christian—which will probably come as a shock to most who know him. Amazing, isn’t it, how born again someone can become when running for president in a party that includes the majority of politically active evangelicals. Please forgive me if I sound less than convinced that his conversion is genuine. Much as I hope it is the real thing, it will take more than one interview during a run for the top spot in the land to thrill my heart.

Political use of religion? Has anyone ever done that before? The better question is—when has this not been done? I worry about his character, and that he may stop at nothing to achieve his goal.

There’s already speculation—fueled by his own comments—that if he fails to win the Republican nomination, he will run as a third-party candidate. Putting his own ego first, he would doom the eventual Republican nominee to defeat by this scheme. He would be the ultimate spoiler, practically ensuring that Obama survives to take the nation down a disastrous path for another four years. Trump’s role would be similar to Perot’s in 1992, which gave us eight years of Bill Clinton.

Yes, he is a “trump card,” and he’s also just a celebrity out for his own advancement. He’s not a serious candidate, and it is astounding that some polls already show him ahead of the Republican pack. That’s not merely astounding—it’s nearly depressing.

If Republicans really want to lose in 2012, they can’t do better than nominating either Romney or Trump. But I’m still counting on the rank and file of the party to show more common sense.