Monday, September 10, 2012

Clinton, The Corpse at the Convention

Former President Bill Clinton’s hour upon the stage at the Democratic National Convention – actually, it was 48 minutes – was mostly a 5,896 word defense of Obamacare. Following his speech, the fact-check vultures at the Washington Post dampened some of his fanciful political rhetoric.

Mr. Clinton is sometimes lovingly remembered by both moderate Democrats and Republicans as a president who was willing to reach across party lines to slay ungovernable deficits. During his first term, Mr. Clinton cut spending and raised taxes on upper income taxpayers. Because the economy of his day had been revved up by traditional methods employed by his predecessors – tax reductions and moderate regulatory reform – Mr. Clinton was able to use additional revenues pouring into the treasury to offset an alarming deficit. The budgets offered by Mr. Clinton and affirmed by the U.S. Congress were in balance – indeed, they contained surpluses -- unlike the current the non-budget offered by President Barack Obama. The last time Congress passed a budget, weighing in at $3.53 trillion, was in 2009. Although Democrats commanded the White House and both houses of Congress following the elevation to the presidency of Mr. Obama, no budget was passed.

Had Mr. Obama during his first two years in office focused the bulk of his attention on solving the continuing mortgage crisis and restoring a flagging economy through means adopted in the past by Camelot President John Kennedy, he would not have needed Mr. Clinton to pump up his present reelection campaign. To be sure, settling the mortgage crisis would have been very painful, because the housing crisis could not have been remedied without flushing toxic assets from the market; people who could not afford mortgage payments under a sound lending policy very likely would have lost their homes. But with a restoration of sound banking processes and the repurchase of housing by creditable homeowners, the housing industry would have roared back. Prudent cuts in government spending would have left disposable cash in the pockets of taxpayers, money that might have been spent to stimulate the economy.

Mr. Obama, utopia gleaming in his eye, reached for the brass ring instead. He set the country on a path to universal healthcare through the Orwellian titled Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), more commonly known as Obamacare, though it might more accurately be called Pelosicare after then Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi.

By most accounts, Mr. Clinton’s nominating speech at the convention “did the job” expected of him. While Mr. Clinton came to praise not to bury Mr. Obama, Mr. Obama, who begins to resemble Eugene Debs during the transformative 1912 Democratic election, has long since buried Clintonism and Clinton, once the Great White Hope for moderation in the Democratic Party.

In a cover story appearing in Newsweek just prior to the Democratic convention, “Why Barack Needs Bill,” Peter Boyer got it right:

“So, Clinton will be in Charlotte, but Clintonism—that brand of centrist New Democrat politics that helped make him the first president of his party to win reelection since FDR—will be mostly missing. Conservative and centrist Democrats, so critical to Clinton’s efforts to reform welfare, balance the budget, and erase the image of the party as being reflexively anti-business, have nearly vanished.”

Extremism in the cause of liberty, Senator Barry Goldwater used to say, is no vice. For Mr. Obama, extremism in the cause of the progressive ideal is no vice, and caution in the face of conservatism is no virtue.

The kind of Democratic moderation associated with Mr. Clinton and the moderate Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) is nowhere to be seen in Mr. Obama’s record, his rhetoric or his politics. Mr. Obama is – what he and others have so often accused Republicans fighting a brave regard action against the progressive onslaught of being – a utopian extremist.

Mr. Clinton at the convention was as lively as the Clinton of yore. But  in the Obama era, he is a corpse at the table, now effectively buried under the progressive rubble.

History, and some Democratic and Republican moderates, will remember Mr. Clinton fondly as a not unpleasing cross between Hubert Humphrey, the “happy warrior,” and Huey Long, belching a fiery rhetoric from his nostrils and scorching Republicans.

But Democratic moderation, along with the moribund DLC, belongs to an age gone and forgotten. Just ask Senator Joe Lieberman, an Independent spurned by his party and perhaps the last moderate Democrat in a state filled with progressives with knives in their brains.

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