Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Confessions of former Clinton Supporters

During the 1990's the Republicans came to control both Houses of Congress. Their overly partisan behavior and single-minded pursuit of ways to discredit Bill Clinton made us rally behind the Clintons. Our Clinton defense intensified in response to the zealous and widely discredited actions of the special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr. During the last few years of the Clinton presidency, we Democrats spent more time and energy fighting for him rather than him fighting for us.

The support of the Clintons, in my family, translated into unquestioned votes—twice for Bill Clinton and twice for Hillary Clinton. We, husband and wife, are neither political operatives nor do we work in the political trade; we are ordinary citizens who consider ourselves politically aware solid Democrats. We have become, stunningly disappointed former Clinton supporters who have witnessed their perversion of, what we thought was, a lifetime of progressive activism.

The recent behavior of Hillary Clinton, her husband and her campaign tactics in general have made us look at other candidates. It has become clear that the Clinton’s will do anything to win. Not in our wildest dreams could we imagine that they would stoop so low as to pit one ethnic group against another; that challenges the very core of the Democratic party. Their cynical use of diverse groups within the party, their shifting position on the Iraq war and their propensity to misstate facts in typical Clinton doublespeak has led us to the conclusion that Anyone But Hillary would be a better choice for Democrats. We come to this conclusion with a dispassionate review of the Clinton presidency, Hillary’s wrong judgment on the seminal issue of our time, the Iraq war: in her own words ‘she voted for the war with conviction’ and now her tortuous explanations that the yes vote did not mean yes is too reminiscent of the “depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”. We also believe that ‘character’ matters for a Presidential candidate and unfortunately they do not exhibit many signs of that. Instead, their recent behavior shows a narcissistic power grab irrespective of the long term damage they can inflict on the party. In a recent televised debate, Mrs. Clinton herself suggested that a person’s past behavior and performance is a precursor as to how one would behave and perform in the future. Unfortunately, their recent and past behavior does not augur well for the party nor the country.

Now benefiting from a clear-eyed view of the Clintons, we are able to perform a more matter of fact assessment of President Clinton's performance which was not quite possible during his period in office. During the 1990s and beyond, our energy stayed focused on defending Bill Clinton against the Republicans and Ken Starr. Like the Republicans, we too developed a partisan zeal and none of us stepped back to scrutinize the performance of the Clinton presidency. Perhaps, we should have followed the advice of a historian from the Roman times who stated that ‘truth helps a story along’. We are now attempting to face the truth, as painful as it may be.

With the benefit of hindsight and by virtue of enough time having passed, it is now not only possible, but necessary to examine Mr. Clinton’s presidency (and Mrs. Clinton’s role during that period) in an analytical framework. Sadly, on close examination, the view of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton that emerges is not very flattering to either. In fact, the more we look at the period from 1992 onwards, the more it becomes evident that we, as Democrats, lulled ourselves into constructing, believing , lauding and propagating what can more aptly be described as a fairy tale, particularly with regard to the large issues confronting our society. Moreover, during the 8 years that Mr. Clinton was in power, the party spent more time and energy being apologists for the Clintons.

When Bill Clinton was inaugurated, the Democratic Party had held a majority in the House of Representatives since the New Deal. Given the then dominant election themes,
it can be stated that he was elected with a mandate from the Democrats to: 1) fix the
healthcare system as at the time 25 million Americans were without any health insurance, 2) fix the looming shortfall in Social Security, 3) see emerging global economic trends and prepare the work force against its adverse effects and 4) lead and govern in a way to enable Democrats to win control of the Senate so that meaningful and progressive reforms could be undertaken. It is with sadness we note that in three of the above four there was total failure. There were more Americans lacking health insurance when Bill Clinton left office than there were when he was inaugurated; the looming cris in Social Security remain unfixed and the Democrats lost control of Congress under his watch and the country paid a very heavy price for that loss. There was some partial success in recognizing emerging global trade trends, even though the administration failed to prepare or retrain the work force subjecting the work force to the vicisstiudes of globalization.

When all is said and done, in historical terms, Mr. Clinton did fight a good rearguard action against the Reaganite and Newt Gingrich onslaught. For this he should be lauded. However, this was too meager an achievement compared to the price that we paid in lost opportunities to address our major issues. Since then they had a chance to lead during the anti-war movement ; instead, both husband and wife chose to go with Mr. Bush as part of a political calculus. Now their political calculus requires race baiting, cynical use of ethnic minorities and gender. Their calculating style has certainly lost our votes.

Dayle and Shafqat