I’m putting off my own next political/social sally, in order to present (with some gloss commentary) the latest highly entertaining and devastating riff from Russ Daggatt:
Sayeth Russ: ... I'm picking up on a sort of anti-Clinton nostalgia among the wingnuts these days. Ah, for those innocent times! ("He is shameless about taking mulligans when golfing!") Peace and prosperity. It was too horrible to even describe. Imagine, a president actually impeached over... whatever.
The point is, I'm picking up on this resurgence of anti-Clinton rage among Republicans. You can't really blame them. It's all they have left. It's what holds them together during these times when right-wing ideologues controlling the executive branch and both Houses of Congress have made a God-awful mess of pretty much everything.
(Brin note: Alas, even Russ doesn't use the weapon that I've pushed -- pointing out the embarassing dearth of indictments and convictions (zero) to arise out of all those years and close to a billion dollars of Clinton-bashing. Zero? Really? Could the "most corrupt" administration have actually been... the least?)
So, as a public service, if you are subjected to an anti-Clinton rant (and you will -- believe me), just cut and paste the following:
Sigh. My dear tenacious GOP-supporting and Clinton-bashing (relative/co-worker/pal) You are a great (brother-in-law or....) and I love you, but you've got to move on with this Clinton thing.
Putting aside the emotion, let's look at some metrics. Let's start with the economy since it lends itself easily to objective analysis of quantitative data.
Annual GDP growth has averaged 2.6% a year under Bush. It averaged 3.6% under Clinton .
Under Clinton , the US economy expanded non-farm employment by 22.7 million jobs (237,000/month). Under Bush, the economy has added only 3 million jobs (45,000/month – the worst record of any US president in 70 years). Clinton inherited an unemployment rate of 7.3% from Bush’s dad. It was 4.2% when Clinton left office. Under Bush, it is now 4.7%.
Real median household income has fallen by $1,273 during the Bush Administration, whereas it grew by $5,825 under President Clinton. The poverty rate fell by 3.5 percentage points under President Clinton and the number of people in poverty declined by 6.4 million. Under President Bush, the poverty rate has risen by 1.3 percentage points and 5.4 million more people are poor.
Under Clinton , the S&P 500 went up 308% (from 435.49 to 1342.54). Under Bush, it has gone down 2.1% (to 1314.78 on 9/22/06). The contrast with the NASDAQ is even greater: Under Clinton, up 395% (from 700.77 to 2770.38). Under Bush, down 20% (to 2218.93 on 9/22/06).
On the assumption we are all "small government" types, let's compare the presidents on that basis.
Under Clinton , federal spending went down as a percentage of GDP from 22.1% in fiscal 1992 to 18.4% in 2000. Under Bush, it has gone back UP to 20.8% in fiscal 2006.
Under Clinton , total executive branch employment went down by almost 450,000 (from 2.225 million to 1.778 million). Under Bush it has gone UP by almost 100,000 (to 1.872 million). (These comparisons certainly understate the growth of government under Bush because the federal employment statistics don't include classified numbers for the CIA, DIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies. It also doesn't include all the "outsourcing" of government functions to favored Republican cronies.)
Under Bush, the federal debt has increased by almost $3 trillion (in only six years) despite inheriting a budget surplus from Clinton . Public debt as a percentage of GDP has increased by 4.4 percentage points under President Bush, compared with a reduction of 16.4 percentage points under President Clinton.
Clinton inherited large budget deficits from Bush's dad, but still increased the federal debt by only about $1.6 billion (over eight years). Under Clinton the budget, went from a deficit of $290 billion in fiscal 1992 to a SURPLUS of $236 billion in fiscal 2000.
Under Bush, we're back up to deficits over $300 billion annually. (Bush had the highest deficit in history at $423 billion. In fact, including this year, he will have had 4 of the 5 largest deficits in US history -- his dad also snuck in there with one year in the top five.)
Yet, despite greatly increasing the size of the federal government, Bush has managed to make it less effective (as the response to Katrina demonstrated). As I've said before, you don't want to hire someone who hates ice cream to run Ben & Jerry's (or someone who hates kids as a babysitter, etc.).
Foreign policy is more subjective, but there are a few things we can look at in forming rational judgments about these things.
Pretty clearly Bush squandered the unity and goodwill enjoyed by this country in the immediate aftermath of 9-11. Never in our lives was this country more unified than it was on September 12, 2001. Instead of building on that unity. Bush decided to turn national security into a partisan wedge issue for the 2002 and 2004 (and now 2006) elections.
Same thing overseas... even the Muslim World! The US enjoyed tremendous support from the rest of the world (e.g., Le Monde ran the famous headline “We Are All Americans Now”; NATO for the first time in its history declared an attack on a member state prompting collective action; etc.). Countless surveys of public opinion worldwide attest to the fact that the US is now MUCH less respected and liked than it was when Bush took office.
(Brin note: Indeed, ask your GOP-lover friend how he feels about the blatantly obvious unpopularity of America, today. Watch for the shrug... the snarl of “Who cares!” A reflexive disdain for foreign opinion. Now, mind you, I even share a little of that attitude, believing that some of that unpopularity arises (especially from the French) out of a petty jealousy that disqualifies good judgement. Still, I reserve that reflex for normal times. Not an era when America has actively earned world disgust.
(Ask your brother-in-law if this is how to stay “leader of the world”? Under Clinton, whenever Russia and France held conferences about "What to do about Pax Americana"... nobody came. Today, those conferences are packed. And busy plans are being made. Anyone who reacts to that with a shrug is simply stupid.)
Whereas Clinton used traditional law enforcement methods to capture and punish the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing and the first World Trade Center bombing, Bush instead used 9-11 as a pretext to launch a pre-9-11 war plan against a country that had nothing to do with 9-11, making the country less safe in the process. (The torture, secret prisons and warrantless surveillance didn't help our imagine either.) Meanwhile, the actual guy behind 9-11, Osama bin Laden is still out there dictating our foreign policy. ("Osama says if we don't stay bogged down in Iraq we are wusses!
How can we "cut and run" from that quagmire if Osama is just gonna gloat about it?")
Just this weekend it was reported that a National Intelligence Estimate (the consensus of all 16 intelligence agencies) completed in April (but kept secret by the Bush administration, of course) concluded that the Iraq war has actually increased the terrorist threat.
Counter-terrorism was the #1 priority of the Clinton justice department. Under Ashcroft, before 9-11 it was among the department’s priorities.
(Brin note: I am still pushing for some news group to investigate how many FBI and other agents were diverted from counter-terror tasks by the early GWB administration, as part of the frenetic 9/11 witch hunt, seeking that elusive “smoking gun” to prove that at least ONE Clintonian could be indicted for actual malfeasance in office. Their failure to ever indict even one was a huge embarassment that 9/11 distracted from. But a worse scandal tould be to see the actual number of FBI agents who were not doing counter-terror work, because they were busy seeking political vendetta.)
Bush is also destroying our military. The Army's top officer withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding.
(Brin note: I think I put this better. Try asking about America’s “state of readiness” to face some surprise crisis. Under Clinton, critics doubted that we were really ready to face two major surprise wars at the same time (his stated goal). Today, nobody in the (horribly abused) US officer Corps will say that we can face even one surprise situation, even on a medium or small scale.)
The Army, with an active-duty force of 504,000, has been stretched by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. About 400,000 have done at least one tour of combat duty, and more than a third of those have been deployed twice. Commanders have increasingly complained of the strain, saying last week that sustaining current levels will require more help from the National Guard and Reserve or an increase in the active-duty force.
(Brin note: Let's reprise an earlier note, relevant to the preceding facts. Can you guess what crazy, America-hating "Defeatocrat" made the following statement?
"When presidents fail to make hard choices, those who serve must make them instead. Soldiers must choose whether to stay with their families or to stay in the armed forces at all. Sending our military on vague, aimless, and endless missions rapidly saps morale. Even the highest morale is eventually undermined by back-to-back deployments, poor pay, shortages of spare parts and equipment, inadequate training, and rapidly declining readiness."
If you guessed The Republican National Platform you get an extra beer tonight.)
Daggatt concludes, speaking to his hypothetical tenacious GOP supporter:
But I can see why you would like to retreat to a time of anti-Clinton nostalgia. Everything just made sense then. Republicans were for fiscal responsibility and were against "nation-building." Rush Limbaugh wanted to lock up drug abusers and throw away the key. Dennis Miller was funny. But those days are gone. A company named "Google" is worth more than six times as much as General Motors. Get used to it.
p.s., Oh, how the right wing cried foul when Clinton attacked bin Laden! Calling it just a distraction from the Republican partisan witchhunt.
(Brin final note: Oh, there are tons of other points one could add. Comparing the (competent) Balkans Intervention (in which not a single US soldier died and all objectives were achieved in months) to the bleeding attrition of a Vietnam-style land war in Asia... seehttp://www.davidbrin.com/neocons.html) for example. In fact, I believe this whole campaign should be waged on “conservative” issues like these! After all, we are fighting for civilization now. Let the liberals pose their arguments once democracy is restored.)