Last night, before what proved to be a disappointingly small audience in attendance and Americans watching in homes across the nation, President Bill Clinton took the stage at the Democratic National Convention to support the reelection of Barack Obama to the presidency for another four years. Whether the occasion marked a climax or anticlimax of relations between Obama and the Clintons, it makes ancient history of the hardball political gamesmanship played between them in 2008– far more than did Hillary’s appointment as Secretary of State which, as those familiar with the workings of campaign-year deal-brokering and administration politics will know, does not a personal affinity make.
The speech, however, was a somewhat incongruous one which, instead of displaying ideological unity between the two presidents, only provided a sharp contrast between the two men’s leaderships, highlighting their differences and how far the American Left has fallen since the days of the Great Moderation. In Clinton’s presidency, there was much to be criticized: aside from the apparent issue of his personal indiscretions having disgraced the office, there was his thwarted push for what would later become ObamaCare, his administration’s expansionary housing policy which (in conjunction with that of President Bush) would contribute greatly to the creation of the housing bubble, tax hikes, and military involvements in Somalia and Kosovo which subjected our troops to injury and loss of life without a demonstrable U.S. interest in the conflicts.
Nonetheless, Clinton’s indiscretions are paltry in relation to those of Obama. What’s more, their incomparable stature arises not simply from their being of a lesser degree, but of lesser natures as well. His advocacies of social welfare programs were, in the old Leftist tradition, rooted in an implicit acceptance of government force as a necessary evil in the achievement of an economic well-being that, they believed, could not be achieved in a free market. This is irrefutably both morally and practically wrong, but is quite a contrast to the premises of the Obama administration, which has demonstrated an utter failure to grasp basic economic principles, enshrined and idealized the preeminence of government over the individual and been a shining embodiment of the kind of movement that puts forth such bankrupt bromides as the president’s “You didn’t build that,” speech and the already infamous video which opened the DNC with the claim that “Government is the only thing we all belong to.”
Likewise, where Clinton did raise taxes in his time in office, they were still persistently lower that Obama’s in every major category (effective top marginal tax rate, capital gains, average federal tax revenue as a percentage of GDP). Again, though, what distinguishes the men most is not a matter of a few percentage points, but a difference in intention and ideology: where Clinton appeared to raise taxes to support existing entitlement programs and pay down the national debt, Obama has flown in the face of reason by affirming that he would raise capital gains taxes even if it meant decreasing the government’s revenue or, as he so sanctimoniously put it, “I would look at raising the capital gains tax for the purpose of fairness.” Spending policy under Clinton and Obama has differed as well, with the most striking instance being the presidents’ divergent approaches to welfare, which Clinton limited, applying work requirements and cutting food stamp rolls by 11 million, by contrast to Obama who, in an election year when he needs support from low-income households, has increased those rolls by 14 million and sought to make work requirements more optional on a state-by-state basis– in keeping with his stated intention to “spread the wealth around.” In military policy, as well, the two presidents err differently. Where Clinton placed American lives in jeopardy for causes which in no way affected the United States, Obama has inexplicably placed our troops in conflicts which not only do not benefit America, but may have promoted the further strengthening of our enemies and could, without correction, increase security risks to future generation of Americans.
For the unconvinced, a brief look at Clinton the candidate’s rhetoric in 1992 provides a window into the differences between the two men on economic growth:
“The most important family policy, urban policy, labor policy, minority policy, and foreign policy America can have is an expanding entrepreneurial economy of high-wage, high-skilled jobs”
– Bill Clinton
“[W]e need… a government that understands that jobs must come from growth in a vibrant and vital system of free enterprise.” – Bill Clinton
“The private sector is doing fine… [economic weakness is resulting from] governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government.” – Barack Obama
and American values:
“Soviet communism has collapsed and our values—freedom, democracy, individual rights, free enterprise—they have triumphed all around the world.” – Bill Clinton
“If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen… You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.” – Barack Obama
“As far as the left is concerned, its new line is a grotesque caricature of the old and, therefore, revealing, as caricatures often are. Hatred of reason leads to fear of reality; since fear has always been the intense motivational emotion of the leftists, it is fear that they have always used as their chief psychological tool of propaganda, apparently in the belief that it has as irresistible a power in the consciousnesses of other as it does in their own.”*
“There was a time when the necessity of industrialization was the crusade of Western liberals, which justified anything and whitewashed any atrocity, including the wholesale slaughter in Soviet Russia. We do not hear that slogan any longer. Confronted with the choice of an industrial civilization or collectivism, it is an industrial civilization that the liberals discarded. Confronted with the choice of technology or dictatorship, it is technology that they discarded. Confronted with the choice of reason or whims, it is reason that they discarded.”**