Resurrecting the Clinton Ghost

I originally wrote this a few months back in response to a piece by Bob Burnette called Busting The Clinton Ghost.  But my rebuttal has been in my thoughts for several weeks now as I read the almost daily calls from the left blogosphere to purge centrists from the ranks of the Democratic party.  Make no mistake about it, the attempt to oust Lieberman is just a test case to see how much damage they can inflict.  I’m not even that big a fan of Lieberman, but I know a successful dismissal of him will embolden the KOSsacks to go after Hillary, Biden, Bayh, and other like them next.  That’s why I believe Democrats of many different stripes, even those further to the left of Lieberman like Barbara Boxer and John Lewis, have come out in support of him.  They know that one false move, one “impure” vote, one single word of faint praise for anything the current presidential administration has done, might turn the wrath of the “nutroots” on them.

But back to the rebuttal of the Burnette piece…

As we inch closer to the mid-term elections, rank-and-file Democrats have the ominous feeling that their Party does not have its act together.

Really, Bob Burnett? When did you do the research to arrive at that conclusion? In fact, when have you ever been, or even walked among, rank and file Democrats? I mean, I respect you for what you’ve done with your life, but being a Berkley activist and a Quaker does tend to leave one a bit out of the loop when it comes to everyday run-of-the-mill rank and file Democrats.

But all that aside, you are aware that in February, for the first time on Rasmussen a notoriously right-wing poll, the Democrats in Congress beat Bush on national security, right? You do know that in the latest FOX News poll, another rightwing outfit, the Democrats have a 14 point lead on the GOP for Congress this Fall, right? Most other polls on the topic give the same results.

So where is your evidence that “rank-and-file Democrats have the ominous feeling that their Party does not have its act together?”

Do you say the Democrats have done nothing to garner the lead in the polls? That the Republicans have shot themselves in the foot? Well, Mr. Burnett, I’m sure even you know that elections are typically about the party in power, NOT the opposition. That’s the way it works.

But I still will differ with anyone on that point. The Democrats stopped Bush’s Social Security reform cold. The Democrats have taken the lead on condemning the Dubai ports deal. And the Democrats have, again, taken the lead in National party affiliation.

They’ve retained the Governor’s mansion in VA and NJ, and have beaten back “intelligent design” legislation on the local level which had national coverage.

So, Mr. Burnett, your opening line – which sets up your entire piece – is at the least a fabrication.

It’s one of the ironies of American political life that the farther ex-Presidents recede into the past, the better they seem to look… Therefore, it’s understandable that after 5 years of a truly dreadful Bush Administration, many Democrats wax nostalgic for Bill Clinton. Yes, they acknowledge, Bubba had “issues,” but he was infinitely preferable to Dubya.

True enough. But Clinton’s issues have left a lasting mark on the Democratic Party. They’re responsible for many of the problems that currently plague the Dems. If FDR’s Party is going again to be the dominant voice in American politics, it will have to deal with these issues.

Mr. Burnett, do you see the irony of this statement? You build a case that Clinton isn’t “all that,” and that many Democrats merely “wax nostalgic” for him, then you do the same thing by invoking the ghost of FDR – a prime example of “waxing nostalgic” for a former President, and one who looks a bit better as time goes on himself.

But Bob, the Democratic party isn’t just the party of FDR. It’s the party of Wilson, Truman, and Kennedy, and Johnson, and Carter, and (yes) Clinton. They’ve all left their mark on the Party. And they’re all responsible for some problem’s plaguing the party. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that people from the wing of the left you seem to represent aren’t responsible for some of the Democrat’s image problems.  I believe it was the generation of Berkley activism and McGovernites that gave the Demacrats the image of being soft on crime, morally loose, and weak on national defense.

Regardless, it doesn’t surprise me that a Berkley “activist” is attempting to tear down an immensely popular ex-president and Democrat who had approval ratings near 70% when he left office and who would win again if he were allowed to run again. And it doesn’t surprise me that you’re using rightwing rhetoric to do so. After all, the only way those like you will ever ascend to power on the left is by convincing people that the current leaders on the left are no good. And since the right was so successful in demonizing Clinton, why not take their ball and run with it? All this talk from you about “ethics” and “values” has me reminiscing about Henry Hyde and Ken Starr.

You say Clinton and today’s party have abandoned the party’s historic principles? You list these as honesty, responsibility, equality, opportunity, and community.

Just a reminder about Clinton’s “principles:”

The Strongest Economy in a Generation. Longest Economic Expansion in U.S. History. In February 2000, the United States entered the 107th consecutive month of economic expansion — the longest economic expansion in history.

21.2 million new jobs were created since 1993, the most jobs ever created under a single Administration — and more new jobs than Presidents Reagan and Bush created during their three terms. 92 percent (19.4 million) of the new jobs were created in the private sector, the highest percentage in 50 years.

Fastest and Longest Real Wage Growth in Over Three Decades. In the last 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased 3.7 percent — faster than the rate of inflation. The United States has had five consecutive years of real wage growth — the longest consecutive increase since the 1960s. Since 1993, real wages are up 6.8 percent, after declining 4.3 percent during the Reagan and Bush years.

Unemployment was the lowest Nearly the Lowest in Three Decades.

Highest Homeownership Rate in History.

Lowest Poverty Rate in Two Decades. The poverty rate has fallen from 15.1 percent in 1993 to 12.7 percent in 1998. That’s the lowest poverty rate since 1979 and the largest five-year drop in poverty in nearly 30 years (1965-1970). The African-American poverty rate has dropped from 33.1 percent in 1993 to 26.1 percent in 1998 — the lowest level ever recorded and the largest five-year drop in African-American poverty in more than a quarter century (1967-1972). The poverty rate for Hispanics is at the lowest level since 1979, and dropped to 25.6 percent in 1998.

Largest Five-Year Drop in Child Poverty Rate Since the ‘60s. Under President Clinton and Vice President Gore, child poverty has declined from 22.7 percent in 1993 to 18.9 percent in 1998 — the biggest five-year drop in nearly 30 years. The poverty rate for African-American children has fallen from 46.1 percent in 1993 to 36.7 percent in 1998 — a level that is still too high, but is the lowest level in 20 years and the biggest five-year drop on record. The rate also fell for Hispanic children, from 36.8 percent to 34.4 percent – and is now 6.5 percentage points lower than it was in 1993.

Improved Access to Affordable, Quality Child Care and Early Childhood Programs.

Increased the Minimum Wage.

Enacted Single Largest Investment in Health Care for Children since 1965.

Extended Strong, Enforceable Patient Protections for Millions of Americans.

An environmental budget that included a record $1.4 billion for Lands Legacy — a 93 percent increase and the largest one-year investment ever requested for conserving America’s lands.

So much more on the environment, families, the economy, education, crime, etc.

And Bob? The first Democrat to be elected twice since FDR.

This “Republican lite” charge coming from the left are getting tedious, especially when it originates from someone with a rather skewed and limited knowledge of party history.

After 6 years of Bush, the Democrats should do exactly what you say they shouldn’t do. Invoke the ghost of Clinton. Remind people of the way it used to be. We should “wax nostalgic for Bill Clinton.”


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