The Clinton Index
"Lemme ask you, just out of curiosity: Is there enough space under your desk to hide, say, a buxom aide?"
I call it the Clinton Success Index or when competence is generally confused with political genius and/or greatness. I've named it after Slick Willie Clinton, a man whose political acumen peaked when, as with Barack Obama, he picked the exact perfect time to run for President.
Bill Clinton's administration, as I've pointed out before, is generally regarded as one of the most progressive and successful ever simply because it was propped up between the two Bush bookends, two juntas that were the most inept in recent history. That's the perception which, in politics, is everything.
Yet the Clinton agenda was more Graceland than Camelot and was far from the progressiveness of FDR, JFK or even Jimmy Carter. "America's First Black President" was actually closer to Michael Moore's description as "our most Republican Democratic president."
Clinton was pro-death penalty, anti-gay marriage (it was neither Bush who'd signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act), got the ball rolling for extraordinary rendition and the relaxation of rules against gays in the military was immediately compromised into the despicable and craven "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
For good measure, he also cozied up to right wing tyrants such as Suharto and it probably wouldn't be much of a stretch to suppose that Bill Clinton was a glorified tool in a gilded tool box belonging to the Bilderberg Group. And, as a coup de grace, can we spell N-A-F-T-A, niños y niñas?
Clinton set both the example and the gold standard for Democratic capitulation in which settling for something less extreme than pure neoconservatism is considered a shining triumph of bipartisanship.
So what was Clinton's most impressive progressive accomplishments?
Balancing the budget in three years and not lying us into needless wars.
Things you'd expect a responsible President of either party to aim for and accomplish. Big deal. Eisenhower did that, too.
But Slick Willie would be the first to reiterate that politics is a mere matter of timing and his '92 candidacy is the proof in the pudding. If the snarling, race- and press-baiting '08 edition of Clinton had appeared instead of the glib, young, personable and warm '92 edition, HW would be a two-term president. Unseating an incumbent, especially mere months after a resoundingly successful and quick military campaign such as Desert Storm, is no mean feat. Bill Clinton couldn't have possibly been elected President for the first time in any other year but 1992. He was the Big Lebowski of Presidents: A man relevant and trendy for only a brief period in history.
And Democrats on Capitol Hill are continuing that yellow-legged tradition of spineless capitulation even after two successive elections that gave them, then widened, a Congressional majority. One gets the impression that if the neocons shrank down to Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh, Democrats would still grab their ankles and look forward to lubrication.
As Glenn Greenwald stated recently, Democrats in this generation have made it almost a religious mantra to capitulate and appease a rabid right wing base that is plainly not interested in cooperating, even when real American jobs and homes are at stake, and brand it as compromise, "reaching across the aisle" and bipartisanship. Unfortunately, the "compromise" that still doesn't seem to get shit done involves leaving behind a continually disillusioned liberal voter bloc that cannot be reasonably expected to keep voting back into incumbency Democratic politicians that immediately forget them on Election Night. "Reaching across the aisle" has given us foul, corrupt, self-centered ogres such as Max Baucus, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, David Obey, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Lieberman. To exasperated liberals, "reaching across the aisle" is a synonym for "reacharound."
We're seeing the same thing happening before our increasingly jaundiced eyes with Barack Obama, who may go down in history as being "the whitest black president ever."
Think about the most vulnerable part of Obama's campaign, which was at the beginning when Hillary Clinton was crowned the inevitable President-Elect. Remember those dark days when it looked as if we'd have to settle for either Hillary the Goldwater Girl or John "Czech-mate" McCain? Now suppose Obama had said in his stump speeches,
"My fellow Americans, I vow to capitulate to the right wing by immediately diluting my message of tax breaks for poorer Americans, to reinstall the Republican seat warmer at the Pentagon appointed by President Bush, to keep us in Iraq for as long as it takes, to move further away from a single payer health care plan, to keep the Director of National Intelligence in place, to appoint a man with absolutely no intelligence experience whatsoever to head up the CIA and to otherwise capitulate to the crippled right wing in the interests of bipartisanship, impose a loyalty litmus test for anyone wishing to work in my administration..."
...do you honestly think he would've gotten almost 72,000,000 votes? No, we'd be looking at President-Elect Hillary, minus 18,000,000 cracks in the glass ceiling and plus 18,000,000 lobbyists in the government.
Yet ceaseless capitulation and Clintonian triangulation is what we're seeing from the President-Elect and, as Greenwald points out, is old, browned meat being sprayed red and repackaged as something fresh, new and exciting.
The problem with this is that appeasement to the rapidly shrinking right wing of Congress and wringing from it (minus a veto-proof majority in either chamber) watery concessions will look like a smashing success compared to the Hindenberg/Titanic administration of George W. Bush. Now imagine a Jeb Bush presidency in 2016 and before W's chowderheaded brother is sworn in masons will be blasting out Obama's spot on Mt. Rushmore.
But will it be in America's best interests? History has shown that, at the right moments, such as the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement, etc. liberalism and limited government intervention is the best form of government. The tapping of Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation is a mere symbolic one but one that nonetheless had a preamble and successors. A much more disturbing trend in the coalescing Obama administration is the fact that out of all the qualified gays and lesbians in America, Obama saw fit to name not one to his cabinet.
George Santayana, anyone?