Bob Schwartz

Tag: Bill Clinton

James Carville says Hillary is the most qualified presidential candidate since George Washington—and that includes Bill

James Carville says Hillary is the most qualified presidential candidate since George Washington—and that includes Bill. And the likes of Thomas Jefferson. Here’s what Carville just wrote to potential Hillary donors:

I read the other day that more of Bernie’s supporters have donated to support his campaign than Hillary’s.

I don’t mean to be cranky, but what in the hell is that all about?! We’ve got the best chance we’ve ever had to put a woman in the White House, and oh, by the way, she just happens to be the most qualified candidate maybe since General George Washington himself!!

Aside from Carville’s crankiness, it does make you want to list the credentials of the more than one hundred people who have run for President, some who made it, many who didn’t.

Just looking at the successful candidates, we’ve got a bunch of pretty qualified people. A number of them had been Vice President. Some of those who were Vice President had also been Cabinet members. And some of those had also been governors. Thomas Jefferson, for just one, comes to mind: Governor of Virginia, Secretary of State, Vice President, President. (Also wrote the Declaration of Independence, founded a university, etc.) But I guess it depends on what the meaning of “qualified” is.

One thing is clear. If Carville meant what he said, then the list of people less qualified than Hillary includes her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Don’t worry, Bill. With Jefferson and so many other underqualified candidates, you’re in good company.

Bernie Sanders as John the Baptist

John the Baptist

The Democratic Party is in trouble. Politically, philosophically, spiritually, demographically. Bernie Sanders won’t save the party or win the presidency. But he is setting the scene for the party’s reform and renewal.

John the Baptist was a terrible candidate to lead a religious revolution. He was a wild-eyed radical who seemed to be crazy. His people skills needed work. But his cause found a much better spokesman and leader, who took it to the next level. And then some.

When you think carefully about the party and its recent Presidents and leaders, you look hard for real radical inspiration. Bill Clinton was affable and politically adept, but his was the politics of radical compromise, to the point of digging a rut in the middle of the road that invited neo-conservative disaster and greed. Barack Obama was genuinely inspirational, and has helped the cause of humane Americanism as much as politics would allow. But circumstances and inclination led him to solid pragmatism.

One problem with pragmatism is that it makes a terrible anthem and cause. Another is that it allows all sorts of accommodations that look to the would-be believer like nothing but surrender.

That’s where Bernie Sanders and John the Baptist come together. When the stakes are high, and the troubles are deep, that’s when you have to invoke big visions. That’s what gets people who have fallen into both practical and spiritual malaise to answer the call and start working for real change.

There are few in the Democratic Party willing or able to do this. Whether or not Hillary Clinton wins the nomination or the election, it is not her. If she wins the nomination but loses the election, the party will do some typical superficial soul searching. If she wins both, she may consolidate her power, and the power of the establishment, but the Congress will be even less effective than it is now.

Either way, it is possible that Bernie Sanders is unleashing something bigger than the Clintons or any tepid self-inquiry the party may pretend to engage in. He may not be heir to the spirit of Bobby Kennedy, but he might as well be saying this:

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

When Bernie Sanders is done with this election, another Democratic reformer and revolutionary will come along, and another. At that point, if we are lucky, millions of previously unengaged and disappointed people may come to the party dreaming and asking “why not?” And Bernie, like John the Baptist, will have prevailed.

Bill Is Houdini, Hillary Is Not

Bill Clinton is an escape artist. It is fact, not conjecture, that he has gotten away with things that would crush other politicians and public figures.

Hillary Clinton helped enable and engineer some of those escapes, some might say against her best interest and integrity. But doing that, she may have drawn a skewed conclusion. She may overvalue those escapes as feats of engineering and scheming, and undervalue the essential role of Bill being Bill.

Bill Clinton is sui generis in American political history, one of a kind, maybe more so even than Barack Obama. The qualities are hard to describe; charm and charisma fail to completely capture it. He is special, the bad boy who is not really bad, just a little naughty, and no matter what you discover or discover he has hidden, it is nearly always alright. At least alright enough to move on.

Hillary is absolutely sui generis too. But she is no Bill and she is no Houdini. And while it is true that Houdini’s escapes were technical wonders, meticulously planned, that is not what made him the star he was. It was the personality and drama he brought to the stage that enthralled people, so much so that audiences actually wanted him to get into big trouble because they wanted him to get out of it—they needed him to get out of it. In that respect, Hillary is no Houdini. Nor is she Bill.

August 17, 1998: Clinton Admits to Misleading People

Bill Clinton

Exactly seventeen years ago, on August 17, 1998, Bill Clinton admitted that, under oath, he had not told the truth about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Why mention this now, other than the anniversary? To understand that, you might check out the most famous quote from American philosopher George Santayana—one of the most often repeated quotes in modern times.

On that day in August, President Clinton gave a brief television address to admit: “While my answers were legally accurate, I did not volunteer information….I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people.”

Clinton was subsequently impeached by the House of Representatives on charges including perjury and obstruction of justice, but retained his office when the Senate failed to convict by a two-thirds majority.

Note in passing that his lead counsel in the impeachment trial was Cheryl Mills, who went on to become Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff at the Department of State. And that another Bill Clinton lawyer in the proceedings was David Kendall, who is currently one of Hillary Clinton’s lead attorneys in the matter of her e-mail server. For what it’s worth.

Here is an excerpt from Bill Clinton’s address to the nation:

This afternoon in this room, from this chair, I testified before the Office of Independent Counsel and the grand jury.

I answered their questions truthfully, including questions about my private life, questions no American citizen would ever want to answer.

Still, I must take complete responsibility for all my actions, both public and private. And that is why I am speaking to you tonight.

As you know, in a deposition in January, I was asked questions about my relationship with Monica Lewinsky. While my answers were legally accurate, I did not volunteer information.

Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.

But I told the grand jury today and I say to you now that at no time did I ask anyone to lie, to hide or destroy evidence or to take any other unlawful action.

I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that.

Another Fleetwood Mac Presidency?

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
That’s not Bill and Hillary Clinton on the cover of the Rumours album.

Pandora popped this album up and three things came to mind. The music is still pretty good, as well-crafted as any pop of its day, but it does sound  a bit dated. The second thought is about this now-iconic photo of Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks. What in the name of artsy pretentiousness is going on, and why does Mick have two balls hanging near his crotch?

The final thought was of the Clintons. If you were there, you will never, ever get the identity between Bill and the campaign theme song Don’t Stop out of your head, hard as you try.

Hillary’s presidential candidacy is a big topic that has to be dealt with in bite-size chunks. Among the sub-topics is whether she will run, whether she will win the nomination, whether she will win the presidency, and whether any of it is a good idea for the party or the country. All that is stuff for another day.

The subject here is what it means in terms of Fleetwood Mac. Does Hillary still like and listen to them, or did she never, instead just giving in to another of Bill’s peccadilloes? Did she think of herself more as a Stevie Nicks or as a Christine McVie? Did she think more of Stevie or Christine? Did Bill think more about Stevie or Christine?

(As a bonus, consider that the songs on Rumours are famously confessional about broken relationships and secret infidelities among band members. That’s why it’s called Rumours. Ironic, yes?)

The big question is whether a Hillary candidacy is a hark back to Mac, essentially a call for the better days of the mid-1970s or early-1990s, the decades that frame the Clinton Years. If it is, the question then is what kind of place, if any, there is for Fleetwood Mac in 2016. It’ll soon be here.

The Republican Health Care Plan Is Obamacare

National Health System for America - Heritage Foundation (1989)

Say something once, why say it again?
Talking Heads, Psycho Killer

Sometimes making a point means repeating yourself and not saying you’re sorry.

The current situation is that Newt Gingrich yesterday criticized attempts by some Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saying that the party had to offer alternative plans and unfortunately had not one idea.

He is of course wrong. As pointed out in an earlier post Heritagecare, the Republicans at one time did have a big idea about health care reform. It was developed at the conservative Heritage Foundation in 1989, as a market-based alternative to any sort of single-payer national health plan. The centerpiece of this reform was a national mandate requiring everybody to have insurance. With some refinement, this Heritage plan is at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare is a version of Heritagecare.

Following the development of the Heritage plan, this is what happened.

Bill Clinton was elected President. First Lady Hillary Clinton promoted the adoption of national single-payer universal health care. This proved to be a political disaster and embarrassment. Health care was taken off the table for years.

Mitt Romney was elected Governor of Massachusetts. He used the Heritage plan—a Republican idea— as the basis for a state health care program. By all accounts, it was a success.

Barack Obama was elected President. He made health care reform a priority, but with single-payer dead in the water—maybe forever—he promoted a program based on the Heritage plan. As proof of concept for the Affordable Care Act, he could point to Massachusetts, where such an idea had worked.

Republicans intent on eviscerating Obama and his presidency used what they called “Obamacare” as a prime example of totalitarian socialism in action. They ignored the conservative origins of the plan. These Republicans were aghast when the Supreme Court narrowly allowed the plan to proceed as constitutional, but continue to do whatever they can to thwart it, including the dozens of attempts to repeal it—the same useless attempts that Gingrich criticized.

Mitt Romney ran for President. He could no longer embrace Heritagecare/Romneycare/Obamacare. He explained that while the plan might be good for Massachusetts, it is no good for America. He was never directly confronted with a version of the question: Are you serious?

Newt Gingrich is a very complicated man and politician, but he should be given his due. He is joining a chorus of mostly old-school Republicans trying to tell the Young Turks to get real. In this case, getting real could actually work to the Republican advantage, though they seem to be too ideology-blinded (and Obama-hate blinded) to see it.

People really do have some serious and legitimate qualms about the Affordable Care Act, and its implementation is bound to be a rocky road. If the Republicans looked back to their own Heritage plan, and if they took seriously the lip service of “compassionate conservatism”, they might actually be able to offer some constructive, earnest and enlightened adjustments—all for the sake of the general welfare of the country. As it is, that won’t be happening now or anytime soon.

Clinton, DOMA and GLAAD

Bill Clinton
People—including some politicians—hate politics, for a thousand reasons. Every one of those reasons is valid.

The answer to these reasons is the often cited quote from Otto von Bismarck: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.”

Oh principles, oh pragmatism. We honor and admire the idealists, but in the end we support those who get things done—especially the things that we want done.

This is a timeline. The common thread is one of America’s current political dynasties.

  • 1996 – President Bill Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • 2003 – Hillary Clinton votes for the Iraq War Resolution.
  • 2008 – Hillary Clinton runs for President.
  • 2011 – Bill Clinton comes out in favor of marriage equality.
  • 2013 – The Iraq War ends.
  • 2013 – Bill Clinton calls DOMA unconstitutional.
  • 2013 – DOMA is argued before the United States Supreme Court.
  • 2013 – Hillary Clinton comes out in favor of marriage equality.
  • 2013 – Bill Clinton to receive the Advocate for Change Award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
  • 2016 – Hillary Clinton runs for President?

People who do things for political reasons, or support those who do, should never be ashamed of that. Otto von Bismarck, unifier of the German Empire in the nineteenth century, certainly wasn’t.

But the “art of the possible” does create some tight and twisted places that Houdini might have trouble escaping from. Unless, of course, he had help.

Bill Clinton’s statement before signing DOMA includes this: “I also want to make clear to all that the enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.”

Here is DOMA, which has been the law of the United States for the last seventeen years, and may or may not still be the law after the Supreme Court decision.

The statute reads:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

It also changed the definition of marriage in U.S. law:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

Evolution—political, philosophical, or most other kinds—can be a wonderful thing, particularly if it leads to freedom and fairness. But evolution presupposes a prior state, which might be called “less evolved” or “unevolved.”

Some people approach this by pretending that the pre-evolutionary state didn’t exist. They may also be unwilling to acknowledge that the pre-evolutionary state was politically motivated, or that the evolution itself may be. Remember, the art of the possible is only possible by paying no attention to the man, or woman, behind the curtain. Once in a while, they even apologize for it, or contort themselves as John Kerry did, well-meaningly, about his prior support for the Iraq War: “I was for it before I was against it.”

Still, this is America. We love second chances and second acts. Consider the late Senator Robert Byrd, who emerged from the depths of racism to become a champion of Constitutional rights. But while it may not be fitting to punish people for having once upon a time acted in a powerfully less enlightened way, this doesn’t always mean they have to be rewarded. Or awarded.