(This post was revised on September 7, 2012.)
In his speech last night at the Democratic National Convention, President Clinton repeatedly called for compromise and cooperation. Regarding the economy, compromise and cooperation are good when Democrats do it, because the Democrats are wrong. The best thing about Clinton’s presidency was that he did not merely compromise with Republicans; in some instances–such as welfare reform, fiscal responsibility, and other elements of the Republican “Contract with America—he followed them. After his first two years of following Hillary—recall HillaryCare—he gave up and followed Gingrich, Dole, and Republican governors and mayors. He saw where Republicans were going, and he ran to the front of the line and pretended to lead.
Ayn Rand, as I recall, used to note the irony that Republican presidents—such as Nixon, with his socialist/fascist, economy-wide wage and price controls—ruin the economy while Democratic presidents—such as Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy/Johnson—get us into wars. (Does anyone have a citation?) I think part of the reason is that Republican presidents appease Democrats, and Democratic presidents appease America’s enemies.
Ayn Rand explains another part of the reason here, anticipating the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush:
It used to be widely believed that the election of a semi-conservative (a “moderate”) is a way of gaining time and delaying the statist advance. President Eisenhower proved the opposite; President Nixon proved it conclusively. Their policies have not delayed, but helped and accelerated the march to statism. A major reason is the silencing and destruction of the opposition. If Mr. Nixon’s program had been proposed by a liberal Democrat, the Republicans would have screamed their heads off—either on some remnant of principle or, at least, on the grounds of narrow party interests. But when total economic controls are imposed by a Republican President—in the name of preserving free enterprise—who, among today’s politicians, is going to protest and in the name of what? (The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. 1, No. 2 October 25, 1971,”The Moratorium on Brains”, pp. 5-6.)
For a while, the combination of Gingrich and Dole–with their Contract with America—functioned somewhat like a de facto president. The result was that they became Nixonized: they backed off on their commitment to freedom and tried to show that they were as altruistic as the Democrats, and Clinton got much of his power back.
The result was a mish-mash of good and bad elements, but ultimately Clinton as President was a disaster that led to the worse disaster of George W. Bush. Clinton’s balanced budgets were frauds:
– Off-budget, government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac–very active under Clinton, who aggressively applied the Community Reinvestment Act–guaranteed loans that led to hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars in future losses.
– Off-budget, non-funded liabilities for Medicare and Social Security piled up in the trillions under Clinton. Clinton rode the ‘age wave’, benefiting from baby-boomers being in their most productive years, but making no provisions for future commitments to these individuals.
– Clinton cashed out the so-called ‘peace dividend’, financing increases in the welfare state by depleting military spending and fiddling while Russia, China, and Islamists became stronger. Before Clinton became President, the media routinely referred to the United States as the world’s lone superpower. We don’t hear that phrase anymore. We had a golden opportunity to de-fang Russia and China by demanding that they disarm and civilize in order to trade with us, and Clinton blew it. And we had a chance to destroy our Islamist enemies before they killed thousands more Americans, though Clinton was not the first president to blow that chance.
– Clinton broadcast to the world that America was a moral pushover when he sent Elian Gonzalez, a young boy, back to a life under tyranny in Cuba. That act is a crime never to be forgiven.
– Clinton’s administration cashed in on the absurd lawsuit against tobacco producers.
– Clinton inherited the renaissance of entrepreneurship, which probably came from Ayn Rand, and then crippled the high-tech industry with his anti-trust suit against Microsoft. That case set a ceiling on achievement, and the high-tech industry has never recovered.
Then G.W. Bush inherited Clinton’s disaster and made it even worse, with more spending (such as the prescription drug program and the debacle during and after New Orleans), more regulations (such as Sarbanes–Oxley), and more appeasement of our enemies.
Then Obama inherited the disasters of Clinton and Bush and made the situation far worse, by accelerating the descent into socialism/fascism—see here, here, and here—and by appeasing our enemies even more openly. Unlike Clinton, who ditched HillaryCare and compromised with Republicans, Obama stuck with ObamaCare and circumvents Republicans as well as, arguably, the law—for example, with EPA regulations, selective enforcement of laws, seizure of assets of owners of auto companies, and promises to leaders of Russia for after that pesky election.
There is a shrewdness to Clinton’s praise of Obama. Clinton praised Obama for the pragmatism of Clinton. Clinton seems more intent on making Hillary president in 2016 than Obama president in 2012. When Obama fails, Clinton can distance the Clintons from the Obama that did not follow Clinton’s implicit advice to compromise. And I have always thought that the dishonest, scheming, power-lusting Bill Clinton has his eye on a job above that of President, perhaps as leader of the world through the United Nations.