What Year Did Bill Clinton Become President – Bill Clinton’s Disgusting Presidency: Thomas Frank Tells the True History of ’90s Welfare Reform. North American Free Trade Agreement. crime bill. prison. Aides wondered if Bill knew who he was. Sadly, his legacy is clear
Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton gives a thumbs up while speaking at a rally at the University of Toledo in 1992. (Associated Press)
What Year Did Bill Clinton Become President
Everyone remembers the years of Bill Clinton’s presidency as good times. The economy is booming, the stock market is rising, and sentiment is contagious. You can feel good even if you don’t own any shares.
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And yet: What did Clinton actually do during her eight years on Pennsylvania Avenue? During the writing of this book, I periodically asked my liberal friends if they remembered the progressive laws he passed, the noble policies he fought for — you know, Bill Clinton during his presidency Good job done. I wonder, why should we think so highly of him – I mean, other than his obvious charisma?
This proved to be difficult for my freedom. People mentioned the obvious: Clinton once raised the minimum wage and expanded the income tax credit. He balanced the budget. He ensured modest tax increases for the wealthy. He did propose a national health plan that, despite its lack of progress and the fact that it was so poorly designed, could serve as a model for not making major policy moves.
Other than that, not much. No one can think of any great but hopeless Clintonian positions of principle. After all, this is the man who used to poll to decide where to go on vacation. His presidency was all about campaign contributions, not personal bravery – he basically rented out the Lincoln bedroom, for God’s sake, and at the end of his term he even seemed to sell a presidential pardon.
It’s easy to remember the official consensus reasons why we should admire Bill Clinton – the inevitable Spielberg biopic will no doubt showcase his accomplishments with poignant and whimsical glimpses of the individual. The first is the economy, which has performed very well during his tenure. In fact, with the Dow hitting 10,000 and the Nasdaq skyrocketing, we’ve been near full employment for several years in a row — boom times that are almost impossible from our perspective today Imaginative. Yes, the bubble burst shortly after he left office, but so what? There is no doubt that the glory days of Wall Street trump all.
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Another big source of the Clinton myth is the insane vendetta waged against him by Republicans — what his former aide Sidney Blumenthal called the “Clinton War.” The attacks started not long after Clinton took office — the Whitewater pseudo-scandal actually made the front page of The New York Times in 1992 — and the Clinton War was so unfair that you couldn’t help but support victim. Clinton’s enemies spent millions searching for his former flame in Arkansas. Congress actually impeached this man for lying about oral sex.
For many authors who have studied the Clinton presidency, the Clinton War was overshadowed by all else. Take the famous journalist Carl Bernstein, who wrote a well-researched biography of Bill’s wife and “co-president” Hillary Clinton. Many of the pages Bernstein assigned to the couple’s White House years were filled with details about Vince Foster, the travel office, independent prosecutors and grand juries, as well as missing records of the billing that Bernstein would eventually put Bill • Clinton’s actual accomplishments as president were downgraded to a few credits. There are broken paragraphs here and there.
The Clinton wars are what politics are all about, and Bill Clinton won them. The pretentious, rude, Pharisee right wing lashed out at him, but he persevered. Although his party lost control of Congress, he defied the Republican Party and was re-elected. He outsmarted Republicans in the 1995 and ’96 budget battles and persuaded the public to blame his rivals for the government shutdown.
A good economy and a Clinton war victory: these two are enough to make him immortal. In fact, before the 2008 financial crisis, my fellow Washingtonians tended to view the Clinton administration as a clear victory. This is what a successful Democratic presidency looks like. This is the model. To do what Clinton did is to follow a clearly marked path of wisdom.
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Yet Clinton’s presidency is no longer taken for granted as heroic. After the dot-com bust in 2000, the corporate scandals of the Enron era, and the housing bust, our perception of the prosperous nineties has changed a lot. Now that we remember, it was the Bill Clinton administration that deregulated derivatives, deregulated telecommunications, and repealed our nation’s only strong banking law. He was the man who pushed NAFTA through Congress, and the man who told the world that the way to deal with a recession was to pay down the federal deficit. Mass incarceration and the repeal of welfare, two other major Clinton accomplishments, were the backbone of the disciplined state that made life so miserable for Americans at the bottom of society. If the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal doesn’t stop him, he’ll have a huge impact on Social Security, too. If we measure by inequality, the Clinton administration looks not a hero but an abomination.
Some felt it was unfair to criticize President Clinton for these actions. They recall that, at the time of his actions, nearly every initiative I just mentioned had general agreement. Almost everyone in his government and the small group of qualified professionals in the cities where they work agrees on these things. Each is clouded with a sense of inevitability, even palpability, as if they were undisputed policy demands of history itself. Globalization wants these things to happen. Technology wants them to happen. The future wants them to happen. Of course, the professional class wants them to happen too.
Clinton likes to use the word “change” to sum up this inevitability. Apparently, the term has long been a favorite of left-wing politicians. This means that we, the people, have the power to shape the world around us. It’s a word of hope. But when Clinton said in his 1993 speech on free trade
He enshrined the opposite idea as the credo of progressivism. Change is an external force that we cannot escape and cannot control; this reality limits what we can do politically, and in fact already makes most of our political choices for us. Our role as the people is not to make change, but to submit to its rule. Naturally, Clinton wanted to describe this grandiose thing, this “change,” by citing a force of nature: “The new global economy of constant innovation and instant communication is flowing through our world like a new river, powering the and destruction.” Peoples and countries living on this path. “
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Clinton talks about change like other politicians talk about God or Providence. He once declared, “We can succeed financially if we make change our friend.” Change is fickle and elusive, and an apathetic enabler does only what he sees fit. Our job — or, more accurately, your job, middle-class citizens — is to comply with its wishes and “adapt to change,” as the President put it when he talked about NAFTA.
I myself first heard and noticed some version of this inevitability rhetoric in 1993, during the NAFTA fight. The agreement was negotiated by outgoing President George H.W. Bush, but the Democratic majority in Congress balked at the original version of the treaty, forcing both sides to return to the negotiating table. As with many achievements of the Clinton era, it ultimately took a Democratic president working with Republican members of Congress to cross this neoliberal milestone.
According to the president himself, the content of the agreement is simple: “NAFTA will remove barriers to trade,” he said when he signed the agreement. “By 1995 alone, it will create the world’s largest trade zone and create 200,000 jobs in this country.” The letterhead of a group that lobbied for the treaty reads: “NAFTA Agreement – Exports. Better Jobs. Better Wages.”
But what sold NAFTA was not the reason, but the reason. It is the simulacra of reason, I mean the great divine necessity, invoked in the confident language of a professional. “We cannot prevent global change,” Clinton said in his signature speech.
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The phrase that best expresses this feeling is: “It’s a given.” Lee Iacocca uttered it in a pro-NAFTA TV ad, and before long everyone was so. This quote captures simplicity and obviousness just right. They believe that globalization is irresistible and that free trade is always a good thing in any case. so good,
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