Nice Try Bill (Updated)
Last night Bill Clinton made a valiant effort to equate his own style of governing with Barack Obama's. He portrayed the man who was supposed to be the first post-partisan president, who passed the most significant piece of social legislation in a generation without one Republican vote; the man who has blown up the national deficit and nationalized the auto companies and thoroughly demonized hard-working Americans, as a wonderful, bi-partisan, common-good politician who has simply been frustrated by angry right-wingers.
Clinton air-brushed the man who believes it was his calling to "fundamentally change America" into a politician who believes "we are all in this together." In his best Bubba style, Clinton bit his lip, paused, touted Hillary and himself and rocked the house the way only Bill Clinton can.
President Clinton also attempted to answer the question, "Are we better off now than we were four years ago," by saying "yes we are, but we're not satisfied yet." He told Democrats, "No one could have repaired the damage in just four years," and that President Obama is preparing us for a "new modern economy." How a new modern economy resembles a return to the "era of big government," he did not say. And in memorable Clintonesque style, he wagged his finger to the doubters of economic recovery and said "I believe it. And you will feel it." (In case you didn't know, Democrats invented "feelings.")
What he didn't explain is why the huge economic drain leading from the private economy to federal control, including the auto companies, healthcare, energy and finance will help America's long-term job picture. He couldn't because it won't. Instead of admitting how Obama has throttled the energy industry, Mr. Clinton touted the numbers of jobs created despite Mr. Obama, due solely to technology and the rising price of energy.
Now was the time for the newly invented "jobs saved" category, but since it was a negative number, Clinton did not mention it. He also continued to deny that the executive order removing the work requirement from welfare was really what many say it is; a reversal of Mr. Clintons own welfare reform policies.
On student loans, Clinton simply touted Obama's government takeover and "easy payment plan," which will do little to stem the coming sub-prime student loan crisis. On Obamacare, he omitted that most of the "benefits" of Obamacare, like having parent policies cover children until age 26 are front loaded, while the costs and liabilities hit down the road when Obama has either been re-elected or left office. He told the Democrats that the $716 Billion taken out of Medicare was not really a cut, attempting to deny the relationship between providers and consumers, telling Democrats that government can cut one without influencing the other. He criticized Paul Ryan's proposal to give seniors choice on Medicare (remember, you can still keep the status quo if you want), while incentivizing the private sector to cut costs. These Democrats are pro-choice on only one thing.
He did point out a problem the Republicans have on specificity. Romney and Ryan need to be more specific on their economic plan, though no doubt their political advisors are telling them not to be until negotiations with a new Congress take place.
All in all, though Clinton-mania was a fun evening for Democrats, the former president failed to close the gap between his own balanced budget-presidency and the sky-rocketing debt into which Mr. Obama has plunged the nation. Democrats will have a choice in the future, to either revive a more centrist Democratic Party, less dependent on government, or continue down the road of profligate spending and national ruin.
Bill Clinton may have inadvertently given them just enough memory of the way things used to be to stop their drive off the fiscal cliff. Ironically, simply his presence on the stage gave America a picture of a different Democrat than the current model. In the short term, this may hurt rather than help. The Clinton speech will and should be mocked by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as a trip into a fantasy land where the Clinton and Obama presidencies are laughably spun as one and the same.
This election will turn on where America is going, not where we have been. Everyone knows the country has walked through difficult times that would have challenged any president. This election, unlike most involving sitting presidents, is about the next four years, and it is why Democrats are vulnerable, They are leading the American economy headlong into a place we have never been, where the federal government becomes the major player in nearly every economic decision, creating regulatory drag, while the cost is added to our children's tab. Americans know this and it is why they hesitate to re-elect Obama. It is why Romney has an edge.
The truth is this: either Bill Clinton has abandoned the New Democrat philosophy that marked his administration and is telling us "The era of big government is back." Or he is doing what Barack Obama says he wished he would have done more of: "Telling stories."
Jay Haug is the author of Beyond the Flaming Sword, available from Amazon.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dexter Wright adds:
If Bill Clinton said the world was flat I would believe him, until I sobered up. The speech he gave at the Democrat National Convention was a great speech, only problem is that more than just a few things he said were just plain not true. I will say that he chooses his word so perfectly that it is hard to say that he was wrong or false. But let me just focus on three points in his speech.
Bill Clinton, in very convincing prose, said that the President had doubled fuel economy, or in government parlance, that means that the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard has now been raised to 54.5 miles per gallon. This is all very good and well on paper but not even a Harley Davison motorcycle can get that kind of mileage. So lie to me some more Bill, you do it so well.
Bill Clinton also took issue with the idea of the optimal tax rate. For centuries economist from William Stanley Javons to Arthur Laffer have demonstrated the idea that there is an optimal tax rate which yields the most revenue for a government. That if you raise taxes beyond a certain rate, revenues collected actually drop off. Although Javons did the first work in this it was Arthur Laffer that was able to show, with the Laffer Curve, that there is a "prohibitive tax rate" that actually decreases revenue to the treasury.
Bill Clinton also spoke about poverty. Well I wish the story he told was true, but the plain fact of the matter is that ranks of those that now live in poverty have swelled since President Obama took office. I truly wish that the bedtime story of the flat Earth was true, but Mr. Clinton, I've sobered up now and I see the coyote ugly truth next to me and I think I'll gnaw my arm off before I give it a second term.