The old year has given way to the new, a time for people to look back and assess their accomplishments, savor their triumphs, regret their failures and anticipate tackling unfinished business. No one is more backward-looking than Hillary Clinton – only she’s dialed the Wayback Machine too far to the left and is re-living the ’90s, according to The Washington Post:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is closing out her Iowa and New Hampshire campaigns in a tight embrace of Bill Clinton’s record, helping fuel a debate about the 1990s with Sen. Barack Obama that she thinks she can win. â€¦
[T]he Clintons regard any discussion of the Nineties to be good for them, evoking memories of a booming economy and a time when the United States enjoyed greater popularity around the world. â€¦
On Thursday night in Holderness, N.H., the former president returned again and again in his hour-long speech to the achievements of his administration as proof that his wife would be able to bring results if she were elected. â€¦
For all his talk about the 1990s, though, the former president does not go into great detail about the role his wife played in his administration, instead simply leaving the impression that she was part of the team that brought about the decade’s gains. â€¦
At times, his pitch for his wife is focused so much on his own accomplishments as president that it almost sounds as if he himself is running for reelection. In a two-hour interview Thursday with the Concord Monitor, he referred to his having made a “terrible mistake” while president, an apparent reference to the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal, and then added: “The voters will have to make their own judgments about that. I’ve done everything I could, first of all, to try to be a good president and, secondly, to try to be a good after-president.”
Leaving aside all the tawdriness (donâ€™t worry, The Stiletto will get to it) New York Times political analyst Matt Bai recalls the cynicism underlying â€œClintonismâ€:
For a lot of liberals (those who now call themselves progressives), the â€™90s were a conflicted time. They never really bought the ideological premise of Clintonism, and they quietly seethed as the president moved his party to the center – enacting free-trade agreements over the objections of union leaders; embracing balanced budgets and telling Americans that â€œthe era of big government is overâ€; striking a deal to give Republicans a long-sought overhaul of the welfare system. â€¦ They felt embarrassed by the Lewinsky affair and the sordid controversy that devoured Clintonâ€™s second term like flesh-eating bacteria.
There were five syllables that for these Democrats summed up all the failures of Clintonism: â€œtriangulation.â€ The word was originally popularized by Dick Morris, who advised Clinton in the dark days of the mid-â€™90s (and who, not incidentally, was brought in to the White House by the first lady). Triangulation, as Morris intended it, is probably best described as the strategy of co-opting the issues that attract voters to your opponents by substituting centrist solutions for the ideological ones they propose, thus depriving them of victory. (In other words, if your opponents are getting traction with their demands to dismantle a broken welfare system, you acknowledge the problem but propose a middle-ground way of restructuring it instead.) To a lot of avid Democrats, however, triangulation became shorthand for gutless compromise, for saying and doing whatever you think you must in order to win.
Hillaryâ€™s troubles in IA has columnist Jonah Goldberg salivating over â€œthe prospect that Bill – and his cult of personality – will go down with the ship, too.â€ Goldberg cites this snippet from a speech Bill Clinton gave several months back that foreshadowed Hillaryâ€™s current retro strategy:
“I know some people say, ‘Look at them. They’re old. They’re sort of yesterday’s news.’…
“Well,” Slick Willie said, grinning, “yesterday’s news was pretty good.”
Depends on what voters think the meaning of â€œpretty goodâ€ is, writes Boston Globe Washington Bureau chief Peter S. Canellos:
Strictly by the poll numbers, none of the alleged scandals – from the Whitewater land deal to the travel office firings to the fund-raising in the Lincoln bedroom to the perjury claim at the heart of the Monica Lewinsky business – succeeded in the turning the public against the Clintons.
Bill Clinton’s favorability ratings were high during his impeachment and stayed high for the remainder of his presidency. Nor were the scandals an impediment to Hillary’s ability to pull off the difficult political maneuver of winning a Senate seat in a place where she hadn’t previously lived. â€¦
On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton takes credit for her husband’s achievements and makes clear that her own administration would mark a return to the same style of government: They may be a hard mix as husband and wife, but are inseparable political teammates. They will rise and fall together; so if voters harbor bad memories of Bill’s impeachment, Hillary will suffer.
Likewise, Bill and Hillary Clinton would rather be remembered for their political achievements, but the legacy of impeachment – and the scandals that came before it – constitute a stain that hasn’t quite been washed clean. The Clintons’ ability to move on in politics will depend on the public’s willingness to ignore the laundry of the past.
But there is always something there to remind us â€“ like Clinton fundraiser Norman Hsuâ€™s indictment earlier this month for fraud and violations of federal campaign finance laws, and Billaryâ€™s refusal to make public the names of donors who contributed more than $500 million to Bill Clintonâ€™s foundation over the past 10 years, including one who ponied up $31.3 million last year, reports The New York Times. Clintonâ€™s rivals are asking whether these donations are a sneaky way of getting around pesky campaign finance laws. And what about potential conflicts of interest, should Hillary capture the White House?
Itâ€™ll be dÃ©jÃ vu all over again … and again.
Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog.