Bill Clinton Was An Excellent President
There have been rumblings of dissatisfaction in some parts of the left regarding Bill Clinton. Some of our progressive friends are troubled by some of Clinton’s moderate policies and alleged sexual indiscretions. Meanwhile, the GOP is fanning these flames and would dearly love to see Bill Clinton torn down — after they failed to do so during his presidency.
The GOP had a pathological hatred for Bill (and Hillary) Clinton from the moment he announced for the presidency in 1991. The GOP will never forgive Bill Clinton for breaking the GOP lock on the presidency and ending the Nixon-Reagan coalition. The GOP used to think they were entitled to the White House.
The allegations of sexual misconduct originated with the radical right. A bogus “investigation” of Bill Clinton was funded by reactionary right wing billionaires with ties to the GOP. Many of the allegations made in far right wing publications during the 1990s were later proven to be false. (Many of those false allegations were picked up by a gullible mainstream media.)
The unhealthy hatred of the GOP for Clinton manifested itself in the Paula Jones lawsuit. This frivolous lawsuit was funded by Clinton’s most bitter political enemies and was eventually dismissed by the Federal District Court in Arkansas. It was subsequently revealed that the Starr investigation unethically and secretly cooperated with Jones’ lawyers in an attempt to bring down Clinton.
GOP special prosecutor Ken Starr spent millions of taxpayer dollars and five years investigating these allegations of sexual misconduct. At the end of the day, Starr concluded that Clinton’s accusers weren’t credible and didn’t file any charges over the alleged sexual misconduct.
Bill Clinton’s actual record as president was outstanding. That is why the radical right hates him so much. If a Republican president had a record anywhere near as good as Clinton’s, they would be naming airports after him.
When President Clinton took office, he inherited a slow growth economy emerging from a recession and a then record budget deficit. Once President Clinton took office, the Republicans suddenly became “concerned” about the deficit and demanded that Clinton reduce the deficits they ran up.
To clean up the mess he inherited, Clinton proposed to raise taxes on the wealthy and cut spending. Not one Republican voted for the 1993 Clinton budget. Instead, every Republican predicted that Clinton’s economic program would cause a recession and increase the deficit. For example, John Kasich (then a Republican congressman from Ohio) contended that: “I feel bad for the people who really are the working people in this country, people in my family, who are going to get the penalties from people who don’t want to invest more, take any more risks. They’re going to lose their jobs, and that’s the tragedy of this program. We’re going to come back here next year, there will be higher deficits, there will be more spending, we’ll continue to have a very slow economy, people aren’t going to go to work.”
Just how did those Republican predictions of doom and gloom play out? As we know, they were dead wrong. What followed the passage of the 1993 Clinton budget package was the greatest peacetime economic boom in U.S. history. During the Clinton Presidency, 22 million new jobs were created, unemployment declined from 7% to 4%, median family income rose, and poverty declined to its lowest rate in 20 years. The Clinton budget also converted what was then the largest budget deficit in American history to a projected surplus of $5.6 trillion over the next ten years.
While Clinton built up the biggest budget surplus in U.S. history, he also made significant investments in progressive priorities. Head Start spending increased from $2.8 billion in 1993 to $6.3 billion in 2000. The Earned Income Tax Credit grew from $12.4 billion in 1993 to $30.5 billion in 2000. Child care supports increased from $4.5 billion to $12.6 billion. AmeriCorps — which the Congressional Republicans tried to kill — grew from $373 million in 1993 to $473 million by the time Clinton left office.
Another progressive reform of the Clinton Administration was the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Hillary Clinton worked with Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch to provide insurance coverage to more than 8 million children. “The children’s health program wouldn’t be in existence today if we didn’t have Hillary pushing for it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Kennedy said.
Clinton is also hated by the radical right because he is the only president who has ever actually defeated the NRA. In 1994, a Democratic majority Congress passed a 10 year assault weapons ban. A study by Louis Klarevas, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, indicated that: “ Gun massacres fell significantly during the time the assault weapons ban was in place, and skyrocketed after the ban lapsed in 2004.” Bush and a GOP majority Congress refused to extend the assault weapons ban and allowed it to expire.
Clinton’s accomplishments on environmental issues were as impressive as his record on gun safety. The 42nd president designated more national monuments than any of his predecessors. Currently, the Trump Administration is trying to roll them back.
Bill Clinton was the first U.S. president who took action on global warming. In 1997, the U.S. entered into the Kyoto Protocol which was aimed at diminishing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the onset of global warming. In 2001, the Bush Administration repudiated the Kyoto Treaty.
On the foreign policy front, Clinton had an equally impressive record. Clinton helped end the Bosnian War in 1996 — after it was neglected by his predecessor. In 1999, Clinton led a NATO military action in Kosovo which prevented a massacre and allowed this small country to gain its freedom. No U.S. casualties were incurred in the Kosovo conflict.
In 1998, the Clinton Administration played an instrumental role in bringing about the Good Friday Agreement. This treaty restored peace to Northern Ireland and ended decades of sectarian bloodshed.
Unfortunately, all of this progress was allowed to go to waste at great cost to the country and the world by the Bush presidency. In 2000, many Democratic voters either stayed home or voted third party out of a sense of complacency or a misplaced belief that Gore was no different than Bush. As we all know, there was a huge difference between the Clinton-Gore Administration and the Bush Administration.
As Democrats and progressives, we can’t allow the GOP to misrepresent and trash the Clinton presidency. They have already tried to discredit Jimmy Carter. They will be coming for Barack Obama’s legacy next. The GOP can only win elections due to false charges about Democrats and voter amnesia. We can’t allow them to get away with it again.
Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman said it best: “Progressives are much too willing to cede history to the other side. Legends about the past matter. Really bad economics flourishes in part because Republicans constantly extol the Reagan record, while Democrats rarely mention how shabby that record was compared with the growth in jobs and incomes under Clinton. The combination of lies, incompetence, and corruption that made the Iraq venture the moral and policy disaster it was should not be allowed to slip into the mists.’..There’s a reason conservatives constantly publish books and articles glorifying Harding and Coolidge while sliming FDR; there’s a reason they’re still running against Jimmy Carter; and there’s a reason they’re doing their best to rehabilitate W. And progressives need to fight back.”