15 Ways Bill Clinton’s White House Failed America and the World

Yves here. This post is a well-deserved attack on the modern Democratic party: all corporate all the time, with a few gestures to women and minority groups to distract them from their fallen economic standing. Clinton continued and institutionalized the assault on the workers and hence the middle class that started under Carter and really got rolling under Reagan.

I would have removed some items listed below to make room for how Clinton let ex Goldman co-chariman, later Citigroup vice chairman Bob Rubin to do a Wall Street takeover of the Democrats. Rubin and his acolytes are so well ensconced that one astute DC observer calls them “the Rubino crime family”. The Rubin connections were the big reason the effectively bankrupt bank was not resolved in 2008. Had that occurred, it would have chastened the rest of the banking industry (of course, prosecutions of senior executives would have had a similar salutary effect). I’d put the Rubin infiltration as one point, and perhaps his strong dollar policy, which helps Wall Street (a major financial center needs a perceived to be solid currency to hold its standing) at the expense of Main Street and workers.

NC readers no doubt will have other additions they’d make to this tally. Perhaps the botched health care reform plan under Hillary that made it impossible to broach the topic for a generation, allowing American health care costs to continue to escalate?

By AlterNet Staff. Originally published at Alternet

Bill Clinton remains one of America’s most popular presidents. A national poll last March by NBC and the Wall Street Journal found 56 percent of Americans had a clearly favorable view of Clinton. That’s long been true for African Americans—from novelist Toni Morrison famously calling him the “first black president” while in office, to books explaining his appeal after his presidency ended.

Clinton has used this popularity to build his enormously ambitious global foundation, collecting $2 billion in assets for many anti-poverty and health initiatives, as well as building a personal fortune from speechmaking estimated at $30 million or more. In recent years, most of the public has forgotten what Clinton did as president, even as he has steadily been in the news.

But for more than a year before Hillary Clinton launched her latest presidential campaign, Bill Clinton has been selectively telling media outlets that he made some mistakes as president and might have acted otherwise. He’s even tried to recast actual events and been taken to task by fact-checkers who recall his leading role in what became major crises, such as the 2008 global financial implosion.

What follows are 15 ways Bill Clinton’s presidency did not serve America or the world, and in many ways deepened and perpetuated the problems we face today. This article was prepared by AlterNet staff members Janet Allon, Michael Arria, Jan Frel, Tana Ganeva, Kali Holloway, Zaid Jilani, Adam Johnson, Steven Rosenfeld, Phillip Smith, Terrell Jermaine Starr and Carrie Weissman.

1. Prison-loving president. In May, on the heels of the unrest in Baltimore sparked by Freddie Gray’s death in police custody, Clinton apologized for locking too many people up. Thanks, Bill.

The 2.4 million people in prison and the 160,000 Americans serving life in prison largely because of his policies might be excused for not accepting Clinton’s apology. Tag-teaming with ex-President Ronald Reagan, Clinton is the president most responsible for the mass incarceration of Americans on an epic scale. The gung-ho crime fighter-in-chief passed the single most damaging law with his omnibus federal crime bill in 1994, which included the infamous “three strikes” law (three felony convictions means a life sentence) and ensured that mandatory minimum sentences imprisoned even low-level, non-violent offenders for a long, long time.

Clinton discussed his regrets about the crime bill with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “The problem is the way it was written and implemented is we cast too wide a net and we had too many people in prison,” he said. “And we wound up… putting so many people in prison that there wasn’t enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives.”

All true, except it was not just lack of funds that eliminated education and rehabilitation programs in prison, it was a deliberate choice. Sensing the political popularity of being tough on crime, Clinton fully embraced the lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key mentality, and gloated about three strikes. It strains credulity to think that this exceptionally intelligent man did not understand the dire consequences of what he was doing, as his wife now says.

Clinton’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 helped set the national mood. Dozens of states followed with their own mandatory minimum laws. While there is some talk today of criminal justice reform on a minor level (like for low-level drug offenses), no one is talking about the all-but-forgotten population doing hard time thanks in large part to Clinton.

2. Punitive welfare reform. The consequences of Bill Clinton’s welfare reform bill have been devastating for millions of American families. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 took a page directly from Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. In an atmosphere steeped in decades of conservative scaremongering around the specter of sexually reckless “welfare queens,” Clinton’s 1992 campaign promise to “end welfare as we know it” played directly to white voters’ fears of black crime and poverty. Twenty years after scrapping the longstanding Aid to Families with Dependent Children in favor of the right wing’s underfunded and more punitive vision, the number of poor American children has exploded and black welfare recipients are subject to the system’s most stringent rules.

In 2012, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that while “in 1996, for every 100 families with children living in poverty, TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] provided cash aid to 68 families,” that number plunged to 27 out of every 100 families living in poverty by 2010. Conservatives trumpet these numbers, often citing the fact that nationally, TANF enrollment fell 58 percent between 1995-2010. But they neglect to mention that the number of poor families with children rose 17 percent in the same period.

Sociologist Joe Soss, who has examined the long-term racial consequences of welfare reform, which allowed states to decide how funds were allotted and eligibility determined, also noted that, “all of the states with more African Americans on the welfare rolls chose tougher rules…[E]ven though the Civil Rights Act prevents the government from creating different programs for black and white recipients, when states choose according to this pattern, it ends up that large numbers of African Americans get concentrated in the states with the toughest rules, and large numbers of white recipients get concentrated in the states with the more lenient rules.”

3. Wall Street’s Deregulator-in-Chief.  As president, Clinton outdid the GOP when it came to unleashing Wall Street’s worst instincts, by supporting and signing into law more financial deregulation legislation than any other president, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.

He didn’t just push the Democrats controlling the House to pass a bill (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) that dissolved the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which barred investment banks from commercial banking activities. He deregulated the risky derivatives market (Commodity Futures Modernization Act), gutted state regulation of banks (Riegle-Neal) leading to a wave of banking mergers, and reappointed Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chair. In recent years, Clinton has ludicrously claimed that the GOP forced him to do this, which led in no small part to the global financial crisis of 2008 and the too-big-to-fail ethos, with the federal government obligated to bail out multinational banks while doing little for individual account holders.

“What happened?” he told CNN in 2013. “The American people gave the Congress to a group of very conservative Republicans. When they passed bills with veto-proof majority with a lot of Democrats voting for it, that I couldn’t stop, all of a sudden we turn out to be maniacal deregulators. I mean, come on.” As CJR put it, “This is, to be kind, bullshit,” reciting a list of Clinton deregulatory actions that began while Democrats were the majority, starting with appointing “Robert Rubin and Larry Summers in the Treasury, which officially did in Glass-Steagall and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which left the derivatives market a laissez-faire Wild West.”

CJR concludes, “The bottom line is: Bill Clinton was responsible for more damaging financial deregulation—and thus, for the [2008] financial crisis—than any other president.”

4. Gutted manufacturing via trade agreements. Bill Clinton helped gut America’s manufacturing base by promoting and passing the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, in 1993, when Democrats controlled Congress. That especially resonates today, when another Democratic president, Barack Obama, and Republicans in Congress, are allied against labor unions and liberal Democrats to pass its like-minded descendant, the Trans Pacific Partnership. “NAFTA signaled that the Democratic Party—the “progressive” side of the U.S. two-party system—had accepted the reactionary economic ideology of Ronald Reagan,” wrote Jeff Faux, on the Economic Policy Institute Working Economics Blog.

In 1979, then-candidate Reagan proposed a trade pact between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. But the Democrats who controlled the Congress would not approve it until Clinton pushed it in his first year in office. NAFTA has affected U.S. workers in four major ways, EPI said. It caused the permanent loss of 700,000 manufacturing jobs in industrial states such as California, Texas and Michigan. It gave corporate managers an excuse to cut wages and benefits, threatening otherwise to move to Mexico. Selling U.S. farm products in Mexico “dislocated millions of Mexican workers and their families,” which “was a major cause in the dramatic increase in undocumented workers flowing into the U.S. labor market.” And NAFTA became a “template for rules of the emerging global economy, in which the benefits would flow to capital and the costs to labor.”

The World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund all applied NAFTA’s principles, which gave corporations the power to challenge local laws protecting health and safety if they cut into profits—like labeling tobacco packaging. The NAFTA “doctrine of socialism for capital and free markets for labor” could also be seen in the way the U.S. government “organized the rescue of the world’s banks and corporate investors and let workers fend for themselves” in the Mexican peso crisis of 1994-’95, the Asian financial crash of 1997, and the global financial meltdown of 2008.

5. No LGBT equality: Defense of Marriage Act. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was one of conservatives’ biggest victories in the 1990s. Passed by Congress and signed into law by Clinton in 1996, the bill defined spouse as “heterosexual” and deprived legally wed same-sex couples of many significant benefits, from Social Security benefits to hospital visitation rights. It allowed states to refuse legal recognition of couples married in other states.

Writing in the New Yorker, Clinton’s former advisor on gay issues, Richard Socarides, addressed why he signed the wildly discriminatory legislation. For one thing, Socarides said that Clinton’s political opponents outmaneuvered him. He also chalks up the president’s decision as “a failure to imagine how quickly gay rights would evolve.” The former president was hardly an ardent supporter of the legislation. The New York Times noted, “Mr. Clinton considered it a gay-baiting measure, but was unwilling to risk re-election by vetoing it.”

But the damage was done. For almost a decade, same-sex couples suffered financial and emotional hardships. Gay couples weren’t allowed to make medical decisions for their partners, couldn’t get the major tax breaks afforded to heterosexual couples, and faced unequal treatment in many other areas of law. In 2013, Clinton stated his opposition to the law. That year, in a major gay rights victory, the Supreme Court declared DOMA’s Section 3 (which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman) unconstitutional. Today, 37 states have legalized same-sex marriage, and in coming days, the Supreme Court is expected to do so.

6. Expanded the war on drugs. Although Clinton called for treatment instead of prison for drug offenders during his 1992 campaign, once in office he reverted to the same drug war strategies of his Republican predecessors. He rejected the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s recommendation to eliminate the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences. He rejected lifting the federal ban on funding for needle exchange programs. He placed a permanent eligibility ban on food stamps for anyone convicted of a felony drug offense, even marijuana possession. And he prohibited felons from living in public housing.

He also championed the 1994 crime bill, a $30 effort that included more mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine, extra funds for states that severely punished convicts, limited judges’ discretion in sentencing, and allocated billions for federal prison construction and expansion. During Clinton’s tenure, federal prison spending jumped $19 billion (171%), while funding for public housing declined by $17 billion (61%). Under Clinton, nearly $1 billion in state spending shifted from education to prisons.

The U.S. prison population doubled from about 600,000 to about 1.2 million during the Clinton years, and the federal prison population swelled even more dramatically, driven almost entirely by drug war prosecutions. Yet a month before leaving office, Clinton said in a Rolling Stone interview that “we really need a re-examination of our entire policy on imprisonment” of drug users and that pot smoking “should be decriminalized.” If only he had acted on those sentiments when it mattered.

7. Expanded the death penalty. When running for president in 1992, then-Arkansas Gov. Clinton allowed his state to execute Ricky Ray Rector, a convicted murderer with severe mental impairments. Despite much criticism, Clinton’s decision not to commute the sentence not only established his tough-on-crime credentials as a national candidate, it also became a precedent to the expansion of the federal death penalty under his White House.

Clinton’s 1994 crime bill expanded the death penalty to 60 additional crimes including three that don’t involve murder: espionage, treason and drug trafficking in large amounts. Throughout his presidency he ignored calls for a national moratorium on federal executions. In April 1996, Clinton followed up and signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) into law. Introduced by Kansas Republican Sen. Bob Dole in response to the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995, it severely restricted the ability of federal judges to grant relief in cases, reduced trials for convicted criminals and sped up the sentencing process.

In 2011, Troy Davis, an African American convicted of killing an off-duty cop, was put to death in Georgia. Davis’ case sparked nationwide protests as many believed he was innocent. There was no evidence linking him to the crime and seven witnesses who helped put him on Death Row later recanted their testimony.

Many believe Bill Clinton helped seal Davis’ fate years before. Many of Davis’ appeals were denied for procedural reasons and his 2004 petition, which included the recanted testimony and the possible identity of the killer, was rejected by the federal judge since, under current regulations, such evidence has to be presented first in state court. Davis’ defense was unable to do that because, shortly before AEDPA became law, Congress slashed $20 million from post-conviction legal defense organizations. In a piece in Time, Brendan Lowe quoted Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender in Arizona: “The bottom line is that the AEDPA is very harsh and unforgiving.”

8. Returned to Cold War priorities. As the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S. under President George H.W. Bush forged ahead with the same imperialist stance toward Europe. As Bush’s successor, Clinton had an historic opportunity to attempt a cooperative, non-aggressive international model based on international law. While his administration frequently gave lip service to these ideals, a far-reaching economic and political agenda to bring Eastern Europe into the NATO-E.U.-U.S. orbit was in the works. As Clinton’s former national security advisor Anthony Lake summarized, “Throughout the cold war, we contained a global threat to market democracies: now we should seek to enlarge their reach.” And enlarge they did.

The Clinton administration intervened massively across the former Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe, with direct interventions in the Balkans through NATO, corporate buyouts of industry from Poland to the Czech Republic, and the notorious “shock doctrine” of neoliberal economic reforms in exchange for IMF loans: cutting wages and corporate taxes, increasing working hours and slashing social programs. Bringing the Baltic states and Eastern Bloc countries into military arrangements associated with NATO, and establishing a major military garrison in the Balkans, Bill Clinton set the stage for the clash on Russia’s border in Ukraine currently overseen by Obama, which could last for decades and undermine the process of integrating Russia into the industrialized world.

9. Joycelyn Elders and the culture war. At a 1994 U.N. Conference on AIDS, the U.S. Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders, was asked if “a more explicit discussion and promotion of masturbation” could help limit the spread of the virus. Elders said she was “a very strong advocate” of teaching sex education in schools “at a very early age.” She added, “As per your specific question in regard to masturbation, I think that it is something that is a part of human sexuality and it’s a part of something that perhaps should be taught. But we’ve not even taught our children the very basics.”

Less than a month later, Elders was asked for her resignation. She had spent just 15 month serving as Surgeon General of the Public Health Service under the Clinton administration. As Arkansas governor, Clinton had appointed her director of the state’s Health Department, the first African American to hold the title.

Elders later clarified that she’d suggested not to teach schoolchildren how to masturbate, but that masturbation is a natural part of human sexuality. “People have taken a lot of things I’ve said in a most unusual way,” she said. However, Clinton White House chief of staff Leon E. Panetta said her comment was, “just one too many,” and her remarks on masturbation were “not what a surgeon general should say.” Elders has also endorsed legalizing drugs and giving out birth control in high schools.

Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, “It’s good for the country and good for the president that she’s departed.” But as the New York Times reported, Elders’ dismissal was met with heavy criticism from gay rights organizations, abortion rights groups and liberal organizations like People for the American Way. The New York City chapter of Planned Parenthood commented, “Mr. Clinton will be making a serious political mistake if he continues to try to out-Newt Mr. Gingrich.”

10. Turning Lincoln Bedroom into fundraising condo. The Lincoln Bedroom is an historic bedroom on the second floor of the White House that was at one time Abraham Lincoln’s personal office. Under Clinton, it served another purpose: an overnight apartment for top political donors. Between 1995 and 1996, donors who gave a total of $5.4 million to the Democratic National Committee—including businessman William Rollnick, who gave $235,000 to the DNC, and investor Dirk Ziff, who gave $411,000—stayed overnight as White House guests.

Clinton had few doubts about the idea. When originally pitched to him in a note by deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes, the president responded, “Ready to start overnights right away.” Sadly, Clinton started a trend. On the campaign trail, George W. Bush criticized Clinton for “virtually renting out the Lincoln Bedroom to big campaign donors.” Yet when Bush took office he continued the practice, handing the location over to donors who had given him over $100,000 and personal friends, including Texas oilman Joe O’Neill and Republican National Committee fundraiser Brad Freeman.

11. Bombed Sudanese pharmaceutical plant. On Aug. 20, 1998 the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum North, Sudan was annihilated by a cruise missile strike launched by the Clinton administration. President Clinton claimed the plant was making a deadly nerve agent and maintained connections to Osama bin Laden, who was unknown to most Americans at the time. Sudan claimed it was a factory producing medicines that saved thousands.

The factory’s owner, Salah Idris, denied the allegations vehemently and unsuccessfully tried to sue the U.S. government. According to a U.K. Guardian story, the plant “provided 50 percent of Sudan’s medicines” and was the country’s main source of anti-malaria drugs. Germany’s ambassador to Sudan, Werner Daum, says the bombing led to “several tens of thousands of deaths” and Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to the president explaining how it had slowed down relief efforts in the region. In his book, Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, Jason Burke credits the bombing with bolstering terrorism: “[it] confirmed to [bin Laden and his cohorts], and others with similar views worldwide, that their conception of the world as a cosmic struggle between good and evil was the right one.” Noam Chomsky has written that the bombing’s consequences “may be comparable” to the attacks of September 11.

12. Doubled down on Iraq sanctions. Due to President George W. Bush’s disastrous war of choice in Iraq, people forget Bill Clinton’s Iraq humanitarian disaster: U.S. sanctions that decimated the Iraqi economy, crippled the civilian infrastructure, and according to a 1999 UNICEF survey, ultimately led to the deaths of more than 500,000 children. Though the sanctions began under President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Clinton expanded them, insisting a week before he took office in 1993, “There is no difference between my policy and the policy of the [Bush] administration” and squashing any subsequent effort to rein them in.

In 1996, Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright continued to defend the sanctions. By 2000, some members of Congress cited an increasing number of reports of the humanitarian crisis, calling for an end to sanctions. House Democratic Whip David Bonior referred to it as “infanticide masquerading as policy.” But Clinton refused to budge, defending the policy until the end of his presidency in 2001. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden cited the sanctions as one of his primary motives behind the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, DC later that year.

13. Political smears: Sistah Souljah. Clinton was highly regarded by African Americans during the 1992 election cycle for his ability to articulate how racism impacted their communities. However, when it mattered most, he dropped the ball on race when it was completely unnecessary. It started when he blasted hop-hop artist Sistah Souljah over her comments in a Washington Post article about the Los Angeles riots, which were sparked by the acquittal of several Los Angeles policemen who beat truck driver Rodney King. “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?” she said.

Souljah claims she was misquoted. However, a few weeks later, both she and Clinton spoke at Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition conference in Washington. Clinton used his appearance to criticize her statements, saying, “We can’t get anywhere in this country pointing the finger at one another across racial lines.” He compared her remarks to former KKK wizard David Duke.

As Matt Bai wrote for Yahoo, Clinton was not going to lose black votes by calling the rapper out. Black people were (and still are) hyper loyal to the Democratic Party. But since Clinton is being reflective about his presidency, perhaps he needs to go back to 1992 and rethink why he used his time at the Rainbow Coalition to appeal to a segment of white voters who may have wanted to see him distance himself from Rev. Jackson, still a key leader in the Democratic Party at the time.

If you read the full Washington Post coverage and listen to some of Sistah Souljah’s commentary on white supremacy, you’ll see she makes some valuable points about anti-blackness and structural racism that are worth considering. But Clinton chose not to delve into that. Instead, he preferred to sell a sistah out and play the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show.

14. Knew about coming Rwandan genocide. This might be Clinton’s worst foreign policy failure. Intelligence analysts knew in advance about the plans for the Hutu-led genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda, yet the White House did nothing to try to stop it. In 2013, Clinton told MSNBS that he could have sent some 10,000 U.S. troops to the Central African nation to support a U.N. peacekeeping force and perhaps saved 300,000 lives—about a third of those who perished.

In retrospect, Clinton said, “You can’t stop everything bad that’s happening.” He pointed to his success ending sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, the Bosnian war and the 1993 Oslo Accord between Israel and the Palestinians. The fact remains that the White House knew one of the worst genocides since World War II was coming, and did not try to halt it.

15. Escalated America’s foreign drug wars. In Clinton’s second term, he initiated Plan Colombia, a multibillion-dollar effort to reduce that country’s coca and cocaine production and end a decades-long war between Bogota and leftist FARC rebels. While Colombian President Andres Pastrana Arango originally envisioned the initiative as an economic development, roughly 80% of U.S. aid under Plan Colombia was military assistance, making Colombia the third largest recipient of foreign aid after Israel and Egypt.

Plan Colombia strengthened the Colombian military, which was allied with rightist paramilitary groups. It made gains against the drug trade and the FARC, but at a huge cost. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed and hundreds of thousands became internal refugees. Concern over human rights abuses in the Colombian security forces resulted in the passage of the Leahy Provision, which barred anti-drug aid to any military unit involved in human rights abuses.

And then there was Mexico. Early this year when in Mexico, Clinton apologized for the U.S. role in the war on drugs and also for NAFTA, both of which led to violence. “I wish you had no narco-trafficking, but it’s not really your fault,” he said. Clinton’s policies were a double blow for Mexico. He deepened the drug war’s efforts to reduce U.S. domestic drug use by interdicting flows from abroad, forever changing the nature of Mexico’s contraband economy from small-time mom-and-pop operations to the immensely wealthy, powerful and violent cartels of today. Meanwhile, NAFTA opened the floodgates to illegal drugs hidden in the massive flows of legitimate commerce across the border. Large corporations weren’t the only beneficiaries of free trade; so were Mexican drug traffickers.

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  1. Disturbed Voter

    Neoliberalism started with Kennedy, and got stronger with Nixon. Carter was not a classical liberal, he was a Trilateralist. Neoliberalism helped defeat the Soviet Union, but at a cost. But like a gift that can’t stop giving, we can’t figure out how to function without a hostile Russia, hence the need for a Ukraine. We even play at hostility with China … is this just ego … that our importance is defined by the size and power of our enemies? Is that why we went along with the start of the Cold War by that old devil, Churchill … because we got high on ourselves during WW II, and didn’t want to detox?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The U.S. had jack to do with the fall of the USSR. The basic problem was government workers and party apparatiks were retiring or dying in droves (there were hiring drives after World War I I and Stalin purges), and there was no one genuinely invested in the USSR between the ages of 35 and 55. In the end, Yeltsin and the other newly christened presidents could play to their own vanity because the only people left were the young who had time for crazy promises and very old. This also explains the oligarchs. There weren’t many Soviet administrators in their late 30 and 40’s, so the few around had access to resources with no one around to rat on them.

      1. Disturbed Voter

        Exactly true! Didn’t mean to imply … R/D ideology was … causative. John Mosier, the historian, would agree with you.

    2. C

      Please clarify for me how neoliberalism helped to defeat Russia. The USSR was structurally flawed by its lack of stable food reserves and by a centrally managed economy that was prone to unnecessary shortages. That had nothing to do with neoliberalism.

      Moreover our economy was stronger than theirs chiefly when we were more protectionist and, like China does now, focused our tariffs on guaranteeing domestic jobs with the goal of creating a truly expanding economy.

      I will grant you that some of this started under Kennedy. A review of the motivations for the Vietnam War lists a lot of discussion about Rubber and other raw materials but that doesn’t put him on par with Regan.

      1. Disturbed Voter

        There is a difference between what happened, and what Americans imagined what happened. Americans are legends in their own minds … one reason why we are so damn dangerous.

        There was a cultural shift, after classic modern liberalism of FDR thru Eisenhower. I don’t think Jack Kennedy was all that different from Richard Nixon. The over the top idealism starts with Kennedy.

        1. C

          That isn’t an answer to my question. Can you tell me what neoliberal policies were enacted that actually affected the USSR adversely and which gave us an advantage?

          I will grant you that the culture shifted. Attitudes such as those of the Birchers were once considered crazy and now power the tea party but that does not address the substantive question of whether neoliberalism was a factor in the USSR’s downfall.

          1. Disturbed Voter

            Leaning on John Mosier again … the loss of life and practical experience by the generation that had the Show Trials and the Great Fatherland War … was sufficient to create enough negative feedback to slow the Soviet train to the future to a complete stop. The Pope and the West had nothing to do with it, the Soviets did it to themselves, all by themselves (well of course Hitler helped, but much of the losses were solely due to Stalin’s incompetence).

            Now that is an interesting position. I think it is beyond confirmation or denial. In corollary, when the rubble of the US is sifted by archeologists … they will confirm that the US did this all by themselves … self destruction always is self-accomplished.

    3. roadrider

      Neoliberalism started with Kennedy,

      Really? Based on what – Noam Chomsky’s biased rantings?

      How do you square this with Kennedy’s stance against colonialism and support for self-determination for third-world nations which has been amply documented by historians if ignored by the media and the professional left in favor of the JFK as cold warrior mythology.

      And please don’t recycle the bullshit that was promulgated by some troll on this site last week about Kennedy sanctioning the assassinations of Diem (he wanted Diem replaced because of his failure to reign in the suppression of Buddhist dissidents by the Nhus and was sold out by the CIA, his ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and others in the State Department) and Lumumba (a Dulles/Eisenhower plot that the CIA rushed to complete before Kennedy took office and that, in fact took place days before his inauguration – documented in Ordeal in Africa by Richard Mahoney).

      And please don’t bother to bring up the Castro assassination plots which were another CIA/Eisenhower project that a CIA Inspector General’s report concluded was concealed from both JFK and RFK even as those efforts continued during the Kennedy administration despite Kennedy’s directives to end covert operations against Castro during and after the missile crisis.

  2. Nick

    This list of criticisms is pretty tame. Clinton oversaw the largest and most prolonged era of prosperity and technological development in American history. It gives me hope of the coming Hillary White House.

    1. vidimi

      for real? i see some of the most damaging laws ever passed in the united states. his administration were the prime architects of so much evil

      1. vidimi

        just to expand on just a bit of that, the prosperity you mention was borrowed against the future as the good times were fueled by an orgie of banking cannibalism leading to the financial crisis of 2008

    2. ambrit

      Clinton may have overseen that “era of prosperity,” but he did it like some plantation straw boss, whipping the field hands for “Ol Massa.” In the end, most of that “prosperity” ended up in “Ol Massas'” pockets, and the field hands got poorer. If Hillary Clinton is going to resurrect her husbands legacy policies, then I’d say let’s all vote for “None of the above.” (A Third Party candidate might do better to try and build some Congressional representation. Saunders for President is fine; Bernie plus some Green Congressmen and women is much better.)
      Also, haven’t you become sick and tired of fake ‘hope and change’ yet? She might be playing inside baseball right now, but Mz Clintons’ continued vagueness and obscurantism on major issues have already alienated many of the Democratic faithful.

    3. diptherio

      You’re right, killing and imprisoning hundreds of thousands (if not millions) is pretty tame. I can hardly wait to have Hillary carrying on Bill’s legacy: Locking up poor people, reducing social welfare benefits, handing the economy to Wall Street, bombing civilian infrastructure in Africa, helping multi-national industry strip our remaining manufacturing jobs/capacity and generally handing the country over to the .01% at every possible opportunity.

      You, my friend, are part of the problem.

    4. Romancing the Loan

      He wasn’t responsible for the tech bubble, he just benefited from the timing. That’s all it was.

    5. lord koos

      As the old saying goes, you can hope in one hand and crap in the other, and see which one fills up first.

    6. norcal

      Most credit is due to automatic stabilizers previously built into the economic system, not clinton’s policies. In fact his focus on federal deficit reduction continues to hurt us today….

  3. Eureka Springs

    Thanks for the reminder that this is who Democrats are and precisely what they do over and over again for decades on end. And that the Nick’s (whether a troll in this case or not) of the world are who you support when you vote lessor of two weasel parties whether for dog catcher or president.

    Liberals are murderers, thieves, liars, shock doctors with sink tanks and NPR voices, enriching a few whilst taming (starving, droning, incarcerating, surveilling, free trading meaning-denial of decent jobs with decent pay, denial of quality or even basic standards, universal tri-care health, education and welfare) the masses into submission in their never ending downward spiral.

    I’ll have none of it anymore… unless I see the opportunity to promote the concepts of delegitimization, general strikes, plan for what’s next and the like.

  4. Jim Young

    PSLRA and SLUSA Dot Com bubble – The corrupt Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) was a major reason I left the Republican Party (after 5 generations going back to the founders). The Newt Gingrich (Frank Luntz-speak assisted) 1995 GoPac memo, “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control” implementation was the straw that broke the camel’s back (along with the Democratic blunder in letting Republicans use gun control as a bludgeon to take control of more southern states), causing us to become fiercely Independent.

    That said, I believed Clinton always stepped ahead of the winning column to make it appear as he led them to victory (veto-proof used as a shield), but that fell apart for us when the 1998 SLUSA (Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act) rather quietly closed the States’ ability to stop the worst enabled by PSLRA. (Clinton-speak, sneakier than Luntz-speak?)

    This bill (S 1260, Conference Report) preempts state laws by establishing uniform national standards for class action suits involving nationally traded securities. Its purpose is to decrease the number of harassment suits brought in state courts that threaten the ability of companies — particularly high-tech Silicon Valley companies — to raise capital and disseminate information.

  5. JTMcPhee

    …so maybe what us mopes and servants are left with is the faint satisfaction of a religious hope that maybe these cancers, these tapeworms, will “get theirs,” in that other sense, since they patently “got ours, and theirs too” in the here-and-now, in the Afterlife, and we can content ourselves with the reassurance that the meek will inherit (what’s left of) the earth… Subject to payment in full of superior mortgages and other valid debt obligations, of course…

    And it’s not even a little bit clear that if we M&Ss do get to that pitchforks-and-burn-it-all-down stage, that the wiring and programming that led to the current crapification won’t just roll into another do-while loop.

    What’s the political-economic equivalent of biological homeostasis? What’s that you say, there ain’t one?

    What outcomes do we (whoever “we” are, and presuming “we” have a vote that counts) do we want? Hmmm?

  6. Ligurio

    What do you mean by “oversaw”? I mean, the dude wasn’t Pharaoh. He capitalized on the combination of neoliberal deregulation and the increasing reliance on the tech sector that had already been set in motion. He didn’t plan that shit. Clinton is clearly a criminal sociopath, just like most of the other presidents.

  7. Jay

    Nothing about relaxing underwriting standards for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in an attempt to make housing more affordable? Remember how that worked out?

  8. DJG

    This paragraph typifies the Clinton “legacy,” which is also the Obama problem:
    –Writing in the New Yorker, Clinton’s former advisor on gay issues, Richard Socarides, addressed why he signed the wildly discriminatory legislation. For one thing, Socarides said that Clinton’s political opponents outmaneuvered him. He also chalks up the president’s decision as “a failure to imagine how quickly gay rights would evolve.” The former president was hardly an ardent supporter of the legislation. The New York Times noted, “Mr. Clinton considered it a gay-baiting measure, but was unwilling to risk re-election by vetoing it.”

    So: Not as bright as liberals credit him with being. Yet: Too clever by half, but also somehow sleazy. Further, Clinton and Obama have taken “liberals” along with them into the realm of too-clever-by-half and sleaze. Many liberal writers and bloggists spend time nyuck-nyuck-nyucking about Monica Lewinsky, yet Bill Clinton was engaged in a highly dubious and deformed power relation–you know, the rule against taking advantage of the interns.

    So the economical and social damage was done, and now we are all supposed to fall in line with “inevitable” dynastic politics because liberals already have done so–and, oh, the Supreme Court scare mongering (too clever by half, plus more sleaze).

  9. stephen rhodes

    Am amazed Clinton’s signing of Republican tax bill (cutting rates on income from wealth) from 28% to 20% is passed over. Of course, the “Clinton tax hike” on wage income for the top earners gets all the exposure.

  10. 4th Amendment Suffered Terribly

    Great article. I would also add the erosion of the 4th Amendment under Clinton – the return of no-knock police tactics, the warrantless searches of poor people in housing projects.

  11. Ishmael

    Yup, I would have dumped a few of those minor issues (and I am not talking about those which incarcerate people for rather minor offenses especially drugs) and left out some major ones involving finance. It was under Clinton and Rubin that using a persons house as a trading vehicle really got started – remember the $250,000 income exemption on the gain of a house really encouraged flipping. The failure to prosecute stock fraud and allowing the major accounting firms to not be held accountable for fraud. The free trade agreement with China which through US manufacturing under the bus so US financial service firms could open offices in China are a few I can think of first hand. Also the culture of lying really got rolling under Clinton.

  12. Vatch

    It’s truly a shame about Clinton’s inaction on Rwanda. Although if he had done something effective against the genocide, inevitably, it would have involved killing some people. And some people would then have overreacted and criticized him for those deaths.

  13. Gottschee

    I am ambivalent about Clinton, but this article reinforces that part of my political thinking that regards him as a not- very-good President. My politics skew from moderate to old-fashioned New Deal, with an eye to how the working classes are doing. I recall that there was indeed a feeling of prosperity, in contrast to the austerity of the early 80’s, but now we know that this prosperity was built on easy credit, home-equity loans, and other short-sighted practices that produced a very wobbly and unstable financial universe. This was an era of the Rich and Famous, but the needle didn’t move much for the poor and middle classes, unless they had some hard earned equity already. This was aperitif when prosperity was premised on credit cards, and the house of cards was easily knocked over in the years following Clinton’s terms. That’s enough for me to dismiss both Clintons as pawns of the wealth power. He was no Harry Truman, that’s certain. Voted twice for him, and still feel sold out by him.

    1. Lambert Strether

      The key point, IMNSHO, which the left keeps missing — and the Democrat Party no longer cares about — is that even the perception of delivering concrete material benefits to voters is an electoral winner, and that the good will generated persists for years. Clinton was no FDR, of course, but still. (Before responding with the “the prosperity was built on sand” permathread, please reread my comment.)

      1. Z

        I tend to believe that “the perception of delivering concrete material benefits is an electoral winner” lesson was learned long, long before Bill Clinton came along (does any politician boldly claim to have made our lives worse!) and that it is still put in practice by the democrats today as the Obama Administration constantly makes bloated claims as to how their policies have helped rebuild the economy and create American jobs.


        1. Lambert Strether

          They haven’t been real good at creating the perception, though, have they? You can’t put perception on the kitchen table. (I added the “perception” qualifier to pre-empt the “But the Clinton economy was tej suxx0r” permathread, but perhaps my wording was inartful.)

          1. Z

            Clinton sold out the future for the present – that’s the bottom line. And there was a lot more to sell out back then than there is now.


            1. Lambert Strether

              Apparently when I write “(Before responding with the “the prosperity was built on sand” permathread, please reread my comment.)” that doesn’t do the trick. Sad.

              1. Z

                The saddest is you and your childishness … not to mention your incoherence.

                And as to a point in an earlier exchange with you regarding the health care bill: just because you don’t feel that something dealt is of value (the public option), does not mean that the participants did not do a deal; because obviously they thought of it as something of value and there was an exchange made. That shouldn’t have to be said, but when you are dealing with an immature moron …


    2. Katniss Everdeen

      You probably feel “sold out” by him because you were. Massively.

      And you should consider that before you pull the lever for hillary because they are two peas in a pod.

  14. JoeK

    To the list add the infamous (well not infamous enough, obviously) “salvage rider,” which allowed logging companies to “harvest” any tree “next to, near, or associated with” (IIRC the wording) a tree which was damaged by fire, etc. Suddenly there were all these strategically located just-big-enough fires sprouting up on National Forest land in the western US.
    More generally, again IIRC, under Clinton-Gore more clear-cutting was done than under Reagan and Bush 1. Clinton exemplified scumbag politico from day one, he was just better at hiding it than most.

      1. JoeK

        Not that Clinton or Gore had this in mind, but I wouldn’t be surprised to know the timber industry lobbyists who had a hand in, or completely wrote, the rider, didn’t know that this would happen. All aided and abetted by Dems. like Max Baucus.
        I regret using the term scumbag despite some evidence it’s accurate, point is neither he nor Gore were pro-environment.

  15. susan the other

    I’ve lived thru enough presidents to conclude that none of them know how to govern. Hypocrites like Clinton are the worst. If we can’t govern ourselves, how will we ever govern the environment? It is sobering to realize how long it takes to raise a generation of people who appreciate social values. It takes at least two generations. It won’t happen spontaneously. It has to be policy. None of our presidents has had a clue about what those policies should be. Instead, things are done over and over again that destroy social cohesion and cooperation. So that those negative things compound chaos down thru the generations instead of creating a stable society. Yet our political leaders all pat themselves on the back for these decisions. The destruction of society and destruction of the environment go together like hunger and desperation.

    1. Disturbed Voter

      Taoism. Let nature (including the human) govern itself, and the people will think that they made it all happen, while the dear leader did nothing. Just like .. the best war is the one that you don’t have.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      17. Declared, with a straight face, that the word “is” has more than one meaning. And got away with it, thereby polluting, forever, the very language that we speak with the non-biodegradable white trash that only the species “clinton” can produce.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Legally, it does; the Starr prosecutors — hold on to your hats, here, folks — were beyond stupid and incompetent. They asked a dumb question in a deposition that did in fact turn on the meaning of the word “is”, and Clinton, the lawyer, nailed them on it. That the winger Mighty Wurlitzer turned into Clinton’s statement into a super-excellent talking point has nothing to do with the legal question.

        And, “white trash”? In 2008, I saw Obots recycle every single talking point the Republicans developed in the Clinton wars into a Democratic primary, including the most vile of misogyny. Are we really going to do that again? It’s going to be a long primary if so.

        Now, if you want to say “Clinton owed a duty of care to Lewinsky, a subordinate,” I’d be with you. But you don’t make that argument, and the Republicans — perhaps due to their own abuses — didn’t make that argument at the time, either, and instead we got a tidal wave of prurient Junior High School-level snickering.

  16. Jerry Denim

    Not a bad list but there is one omission here even more glaring than failing to expound on the astounding rottenness of Bob Rubin.


    Clinton sold out the American people for straight Chinese cash funneled through various intermediaries. Sometimes it was about helping the Chinese gain trade advantages like when Clinton granted the Chinese ‘Most Favored Nation’ trade status, and later campaigned for the Chinese to receive ‘Permanent Normal Trade Relations’ status and full membership in the WTO. On other issues Clinton’s China allegiances were outright treasonous. The strange affair involving Clinton, Bernard Swartz of Loral Aerospace, campaign money from the PDR’s Red Army delivered via Johnny Chung, Ron Brown and the Commerce Department and several embarrassing /corrupt intelligence “failures” involving sensitive military technology/state secrets was the Clinton Iran-Contra but it never received any traction in the media. Perhaps Lewinski was more exciting and easier to explain, or perhaps it was the public’s Clinton scandal fatigue, but despite plenty of smoking guns and court convictions of supporting key Clinton co-conspirators the story was never able to make the leap from the back pages to the nightly news. The 1990’s right-wing media machine was tuned-in and plenty livid, but this was pre Faux News era mind you, so the right lacked the big effective bullhorn they have now.
    Although it is mostly forgotten Clinton’s massive sell-out of America to the Chinese should be at the top of any list of Clinton’s betrayals.

    1. Lambert Strether

      But let’s look on the bright side: Today, we have Foundations and Initiatives to launder the money. So let it never be said that civilization does not advance.

  17. Kim Kaufman

    Telecommunications Act of 1996. Why about 5 corporations own all the media now. My personal #1 of Clinton’s damages. Were it not for the total corporatization of almost all media the rest of the damages would be able to be discussed.

  18. tongorad

    In short, Clinton was the acme of more effective evil (aka the Democratic party). Obama one-upped him (and then some).

  19. Jerry Denim

    True enough, simply having your bribers cut a check to the DNC is far too déclassé for the Clintons in 2015. Still, even by today’s standards of corruption, having a sitting President meddle in State Department affairs and prerogatives to the extent where he transferred the power to oversee the sale of sensitive state secret technology to the Commerce Department where he had an amenable co-conspirator and blind eye in Ron Brown, all so an outsized donor- Bernard Swartz of Loral Aerospace, could jump into bed with the Chinese military and betray his country for cash is still tacky to say the least. Perhaps some of the documents from the National Archives Sandy Berger stuffed into his undergarments back in 2007 contained damning information linking this sordid affair to Hillary. Perhaps it was a far worse Clinton betrayal the American public has yet to find out about. We will never know since the incident like the destroyed documents have been deemed classified, but there is no doubt that there has never been a more corrupt Husband and Wife duo in American politics regardless of how the Clintons launder their bribe money these days.

  20. XRayD

    Clinton’s MOST damaging acts …

    NATO expansion contrary to former President Bush’s explicit promise not to do so, (see Ukraine, and calling for “regime change” in Iraq, exploited by Cheney/Bush) and – last but not least:
    Graham – Leach – Bliley, setting Wall Street predators free to destroy and loot the futures of millions of Americans. Continuing now with his appointee to the Fed, Yellen!

    1. Gentlemutt

      Now, that is a list! Add in Robert Rubin’s fast-track TPP via his boy Michael Froman and your list is up to date.

      Yves, how about a study of Rubin’s boy Froman, starting with his astonishing $10mm exit payout from Citibank in the midst of Citi’s 2008-9 collapse and government rescue — straight into a chair right behind the ear of Naive Obama ?

  21. SteveLaudig

    Ricky Ray Rector and Lani Guinier were tells about the Big Grift that leftists, not all of course, disregarded. I did.

    A fair question to Hillary would be her involvement in these decisions. You know she was in the room.

    Lani Guinier is probably best known as President Bill Clinton’s nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in April 1993.

    President Clinton withdrew his nomination in June 1993, following a wave of negative press, negative press which was brought on by her controversial writings, some of which even Clinton himself called “anti-democratic” and “very difficult to defend”.[8]


  22. michael wade

    In the “15 things about Clinton” article you left out one of his worst foreign policy horrors: the economic assault, subversion, and finally military attack on the different countries of the former Yugoslavia, especially Serbia. You could do a whole article on that horrible travesty. See Michael Parenti’s book on the subject.

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