Bubba’s Revenge

He looked great. He sounded great. And with a smile on his face he stuck a dagger in the heart of that monster we know as Tea Party Republicanism.

Bill Clinton’s speech was extraordinary and had to be seen to be fully appreciated. As Steve Schmidt, who essentially ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign, said:

I wish to God, as a Republican, we had someone on our side who had the ability to do that. We don’t. It would be great if we did. Just an amazing performance.

Anyone who lived through the wounded Clinton presidency—some of those wounds self-inflicted—who watched Republicans try to destroy him through slander and impeachment, had to marvel at this early part of Wednesday night’s speech:

Now, there’s something I’ve noticed lately. You probably have too. And it’s this. Maybe just because I grew up in a different time, but though I often disagree with Republicans, I actually never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate our president and a lot of other Democrats.

If there ever was a Democratic president who was hated with the same ridiculous hatred that characterizes Republican opposition to President Obama, it was Bill Clinton. I mean, Republicans seriously suggested that Clinton had someone murdered for God’s sake, and a fundamentalist creep and popular Republican preacher named Jerry Falwell heavily promoted a film alleging other murderous crimes.

Yet in that one remarkable sentence—”I actually never learned to hate them“— Clinton managed to put himself up above all their hate and by extension lifted Mr. Obama above it too.

Early in the speech, Clinton cited his history of cooperating with Republicans, like Reagan and both Bushes, to get things done, and then he pulled out his Clintonian dagger and began stabbing at the cause of our political ills:

Why does cooperation work better than constant conflict?

Because nobody’s right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day.

And every one of us — every one of us and every one of them—we’re compelled to spend our fleeting lives between those two extremes, knowing we’re never going to be right all the time and hoping we’re right more than twice a day.

Unfortunately, the faction that now dominates the Republican Party doesn’t see it that way. They think government is always the enemy, they’re always right, and compromise is weakness. Just in the last couple of elections, they defeated two distinguished Republican senators because they dared to cooperate with Democrats on issues important to the future of the country, even national security.

They beat a Republican congressman with almost a hundred percent voting record on every conservative score, because he said he realized he did not have to hate the president to disagree with him. Boy, that was a nonstarter, and they threw him out.

And after that dagger hit its Tea Party target, he wiggled it around with this appeal to independent voters:

One of the main reasons we ought to re-elect President Obama is that he is still committed to constructive cooperation.

Still committed.” After all the hate thrown his way, Mr. Obama is still willing to work with Republicans who are willing to work with him. Clinton said that President Obama “tried to work with congressional Republicans on health care, debt reduction, and new jobs,” but “that didn’t work out so well.” Why? The other side’s “number one priority was not to put America back to work; it was to put the president out of work.”

David Corn remarked that no one can “merge passion and policy” like the “master” Bill Clinton. In a mere 48 minutes he managed to tell Americans, in plain language and with great detail, why Barack Obama’s first term was remarkably productive, why folks should give him another one, and, knife in hand, why Republicans are offering nothing new:

In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s re-election was actually pretty simple — pretty snappy. It went something like this: We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough. So fire him and put us back in.

He continued:

…they want to the same old policies that got us in trouble in the first place. They want to cut taxes for high- income Americans, even more than President Bush did. They want to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts. They want to actually increase defense spending over a decade $2 trillion more than the Pentagon has requested without saying what they’ll spend it on. And they want to make enormous cuts in the rest of the budget, especially programs that help the middle class and poor children.

And later he twisted the knife even more:

We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double down on trickle down.

He attacked Republicans for their poor “arithmetic“; their past and future deficits; their additional “$5 trillion in tax cuts heavily weighted to upper-income people“; their lack of budget specificity; their lies about Medicare cuts and welfare to work waivers; their desire to repeal “ObamaCare”; their voter suppression efforts; and, most important because it is most neglected, he attacked them for their proposed Medicaid cuts:

Now, folks, this is serious, because it gets worse. (Laughter.) And you won’t be laughing when I finish telling you this. They also want to block-grant Medicaid, and cut it by a third over the coming 10 years.

Of course, that’s going to really hurt a lot of poor kids. But that’s not all. Lot of folks don’t know it, but nearly two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for Medicare seniors — (applause) — who are eligible for Medicaid.

(Cheers, applause.) It’s going to end Medicare as we know it. And a lot of that money is also spent to help people with disabilities, including — (cheers, applause) — a lot of middle-class families whose kids have Down’s syndrome or autism or other severe conditions. (Applause.) And honestly, let’s think about it, if that happens, I don’t know what those families are going to do.

How often have you heard the Romney-Ryan Medicaid cuts even discussed, let alone discussed in such personal terms?

Clinton raved about Obama’s “recovery program,” which “saved or created millions of jobs” and “cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people.” He noted the 29 months of job creation and the 4 1/2 million private sector jobs produced and couldn’t help twisting the dagger again:

We could have done better, but last year the Republicans blocked the president’s job plan, costing the economy more than a million new jobs.

He touted the “500,000 manufacturing jobs” created since the recovery began and praised the “auto industry restructuring” which “saved more than a million jobs.” And he added:

There are now 250,000 more people working in the auto industry than on the day the companies were restructured.

And another knife twist:

…we all know that Governor Romney opposed the plan to save GM and Chrysler. (Boos.) So here’s another job score. Are you listening in Michigan and Ohio and across the country? (Cheers.) Here, here’s another job score: Obama, 250,000; Romney, zero.

Clinton also praised Obama for something I haven’t often heard Obama take credit for himself:

Now, the agreement the administration made with the management, labor and environmental groups to double car mileage, that was a good deal too. It will cut your gas prices in half, your gas bill. No matter what the price is, if you double the mileage of your car, your bill will be half what it would have been. It will make us more energy independent. It will cut greenhouse gas emissions. And according to several analyses, over the next 20 years, it’ll bring us another half a million good new jobs into the American economy.

He extolled the President’s energy policies. He lauded his education policies—particularly the student loan overhaul, which “means no one will ever have to drop out of college again for fear they can’t repay their debt,” and,

it means that if someone wants to take a job with a modest income, a teacher, a police officer, if they want to be a small-town doctor in a little rural area, they won’t have to turn those jobs down because they don’t pay enough to repay they debt. Their debt obligation will be determined by their salary. This will change the future for young America.

Wow. Why haven’t we heard much about that before now?

Clinton took on Republicans on health care reform, defending ObamaCare robustly. He talked about the billion-dollar-plus in refunds to individuals and businesses because insurance companies didn’t spend enough on health care after taking our premiums. He talked about how the law is pressuring insurance companies to “lower their rates” to comply with the law’s health care spending requirement.

He talked about the “3 million young people between 19 and 25” getting insurance on their parents’ policies and the “millions of seniors” receiving preventive care and “millions of new customers” for insurance companies, many of those customers “middle-class people with pre-existing conditions who never could get insurance before.”

He also mentioned something I didn’t know:

Now, finally, listen to this. For the last two years — after going up at three times the rate of inflation for a decade, for the last two years health care costs have been under 4 percent in both years for the first time in 50 years.

Why haven’t I heard that?

With the audience fully and energetically his, Clinton ended with a plea to vote and re-elect President Obama, which began this way:

Look, I love our country so much. And I know we’re coming back. For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we’ve always come back. (Cheers.) People have predicted our demise ever since George Washington was criticized for being a mediocre surveyor with a bad set of wooden false teeth. (Laughter.) And so far, every single person that’s bet against America has lost money because we always come back. (Cheers, applause.) We come through every fire a little stronger and a little better.

And we do it because in the end we decide to champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor — the cause of forming a more perfect union.

Ah. That is the Democratic Party’s raison d’etre, its reason for being. I have never heard a contemporary Republican emphasize “the cause of forming a more perfect union.” Rather than working on a better national union these days, they are trying like hell to disturb what unity we have.

Finally, I want to end with something Bill Clinton said early on in his speech that illustrates, I think, the morality and practicality of continuing to find ways to perfect our union:

It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty, and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.

It will be the realization of this Democratic vision, a vision of equality and empowerment, of combating discrimination, poverty, and ignorance, that will not only bring new wealth to all, but it will bring us closer together as a people, that elusive cause the Founders championed.

(Getty Images)
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  1. Yellow Dog

     /  September 6, 2012

    Not a whole lot left to say. I’ve been a lifelong Democrat and beaten up and persecuted for it most of my life.

    Unlike President Clinton, while I may not hate Republicans, I have absolutely no use for any of them. Oh, that’s not true, I could use them for door stops. Hood ornaments. Plant stands. But never as legislators. They are way too selfish and greedy.

    President Clinton summed up why I’m a Democrat. He does every four years. I need my Clinton fix and will post his speech for those rainy days……to remind me why I fight the fight.

    My dad would say, “He put it down their shirt collars….”. Let the Republicans deal with their truth, let them mend their ways and heal their collective evil souls.


    • Yellow Dog,

      As a former conservative, I can tell you that I am tempted to feel the way you do about Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans. But every time I get that way, I think of a conservative Republican friend of mine, a guy who I like very much despite his politics, a guy who is as good as gold. He is one of the few Republicans I would drink a beer with because life is too short to drink with folks you don’t like. I think of him because I don’t want to get too caught up in the game of hate (which you are avoiding, too). It’s a lose-lose game.

      Also, along with you I hope Republicans “mend their ways” and moderate their extremism. I have been reading about the progressive Republicans of the 1950s and 60s and they contributed much to the great things that happened in terms of civil rights and Medicare. But they are an extinct species these days. The party has transformed itself into the ugliest brand of conservatism imaginable, a conservatism that began to assert it self through Barry Goldwater in 1964 and rose to power via Ronald Reagan, who, as many have pointed out, seems reasonable compared to the crop in charge now.

      And I love your dad’s expression. Never heard that one before.


  2. ansonburlingame

     /  September 6, 2012

    About a year ago I suggested that Bill Clinton should be the Dem candidate for President. Sadly he cannot do so, but if he was I would in all likelihood vote for him.

    The reason is simple. Clinton is the ONLY man around in this campaign that has actually governed effectively in a divided government, achieving AMERICAN goals, not just Dem or GOP goals that helped the whole country.

    Clinton is also a consumate politician able to sway both sides, not just his own side. We can only imagine how Clinton and Gingrich worked together privately back in the mid 90s to achieve “good things” for America.

    Consider this. Take Reagan and Clinton with both at the very “top of their game” and hold a debate today. Unfortunately we do not have such a debate before us now. But you know as well as I do that when Clinton would start his statement of lofty goals, Reagan would “one-line him” with “How are you going to do that?”.

    Then if Clinton had the “Obama record” on his back, Reagan would “one line him to death” with “THAT did not work for the last four years now did it?”

    The last time I checked Clinton thought raising taxes on the rich was a very bad idea and I have yet to hear him change his tune today. Yet “each one (the rich only) should give a little more” will still be an Obama theme and a theme in this blog as well, as only an example, today. Actually this blog wants the rich to give a lot more, to pour down shovel ready holes I assume.



  3. ansonburlingame

     /  September 6, 2012

    I offer a heads up to all progressives in particular.

    Note the release date, Sept 11, 2012. It is for a new Woodward book entitled “The Price of Politics” and will be a critique of the how the administration and Congress failed to work effectively on debt ceiling issues in 2011.

    I am sure we can all anticipate the style of the book, revealing all sorts of private meetings and discussions, under the table attempts to negotiate, the various elements of advice given to the President from inside his circle, etc.

    One revealed “clip” thus far is when Reid asked the President to leave the room so he could continue to negotiate with the GOP!!!! The implication is the “pro’s” wanted to get the rookie out of the room so a deal could be made!!!!

    I have pre-ordered the book for delivery on my Kindle next Tues and will probably devour it in a day or so. Frankly I can’t wait to read it and then hear Obama say, essentially over the next two months that “there is nothing wrong with our strategy” in economic terms!!!



  4. It was indeed “classic Clinton”, Duane, and you gave a fine precis of it. His ability to explain economics and government policy in terms average people can understand is unexcelled. But there is more to his appeal than that – his statements are often surprising and I come away from them convinced of his honesty and candor.

    One example of this was in his pre-speech interview with NBC’s Brian Williams in which he admitted that he and Barack Obama have not been “friends”. He quickly went on to insist that they do have a strong mutual respect and that he is truly convinced that Obama deserves another term. He also mentioned the mutual respect and cooperation between his wife and the president. Candor, cooperation, compromise. Clinton is the ultimate politician – the good kind.


    • I have my own problems with Clinton, even though I respect him for being about as fine a politician as there is or has been in my lifetime. There simply isn’t anyone like him in either party, in the context of what he did at that convention.

      I have a strange view of him because when he served I was a rabid conservative and, like all conservatives, disliked him feverishly. As a liberal, I appreciate some of the stuff he did in office (other stuff is much too conservative for me), especially the responsible tax hike in 1993 (which he expressed some regret for a bit later), but the Juanita Broaddrick episode I never got over, even after becoming a liberal Democrat. I watched her appearance on NBC those many years ago and became convinced she was telling the truth, something I have never forgotten.

      While I have no idea whether she was truthful, I can only tell you that if she were lying, she was as convincing a liar as I have ever seen. And Christopher Hitchens, in his anti-Clinton book, found her story believable also. When I read that book, as a liberal, I realized I wasn’t the only one who had mixed feelings about not only Bill, but Hillary also.

      Fortunately for them, time has been kind to the Clintons and they seem to have righted themselves, if indeed they had reason to.



      • Yep, I agree, Duane. That heart problem probably took some of the vinegar out of him though. As I argued a few posts ago, we need to be careful when anyone is lionized, especially when they are still alive and history’s jury is still out. For now though, Bill definitely has his uses.


  5. RDG,

    The Big Dog, arguably the best retail politician ever, was
    dynamite. He delivered a devastating critique of “trickle down economics.” Just for fun, I switched over to Faux News after the tour de force. For weeks the Prejudiced and Unbalanced have been cynically building up Clinton, trying to paint him as closer to Romney/Ryan in ideological temperament than the radical, socialist colored guy. All Bret Hume could do was mutter something about Monica Lewinsky. Maybe karma does exit. If so, the Faux News pundits found themselves in a living Naraka. It’s been a while since they’ve been exposed to prescient arithmetic.

    It must be a shock to federal budget deficit hysterics to hear that the Ryan Ruse unloads five trillion dollars in debt from the get-go. Then again, perhaps the hysterics are using a mathematical system that places whole numbers in a dimension paranormal accountants call Just Plain Kooky.


    • John,

      Your point about how the right attempted to drive a wedge between Clinton and Obama is right on. From Romney to Hannity, they were contrasting him with Big O and they look mighty foollish now that he has so enthusiastically endorsed O’s way forward.

      Regretfully, the Associated Press also managed to bring up Monica Lewinsky in its “fact checking” article. That was bleeping unbelievable. A real low for a once-proud news organization. Read all about this pitiful, Fox-like decision here.


  6. ansonburlingame

     /  September 8, 2012

    As you progressives ponder over Clinton, here is one to address, not ignore, in my view. Last May Bill Clinton said that raising taxes on anyone (May 2012) was the WRONG thing to do. As far as I know he has NOT retracted that statement.

    Now WHY are we about to go over a “fiscal cliff” in Jan 2013 (according to “many”)? The biggest reason I hear so far is the unwillingness by Obama to give up on raising taxes on the rich.

    Make the Bush tax cuts permanent, now and I bet there would be lots of “compromise” on the part of the GOP. This whole debt ceiling stalemate has been driven by Dem insistence to RAISE taxes AND government spending countered by GOP insistence to LOWER TAXES AND GOVERNMENT SPENDING.

    Now given such impasse, what do you think Bill Clinton would do, while working with Newt Gingrich as a Speaker of the House and ultimate GOP leader at the time? The last time I checked when those two did something together we balanced the federal buget and continued our economic boom times for some six or seven years until bubbles started busting, beginning with the dot.com one and followed rather quickly with the housing bubble!!!

    And WHY did those bubbles start busting? PEOPLE, govenment and private spent too damn much money, far more money than the real value of the goods and services received!!!

    In its simple form the economy went South rather fast once bubbles started busting. That meant that SCARCITY took over which in simple terms meant that WANTS (including needs) went up MUCH faster than resources for both govenment and individuals!!!

    And what did progressives do. INCREASED THE WANTS and BORROWED resources from “China”!!!!

    Now tell me again why America is fact is in decline!!!



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