Tag Archives: Bill Clinton

Ross Perot — R.I.P.

Goodbye, Weird Plutocrat Guy, one-third responsible for the first exciting presidential race of my lifetime. Empty the pockets of H. Ross Perot, called “H.” Ross Perot by Dave Barry, and the following aphorisms jingle like fresh dimes:

If someone is blessed as I am is not willing to clean out the barn, who will?


The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.

The shiniest:

If you see a snake, just kill it — don’t appoint a committee on snakes.

With ears like coffee mug handles and a twang as crinkled as old rattlesnake skin, Perot captured enough of the popular imagination to give Governor William Jefferson Clinton of Arkansas and President George H.W. Bush, called “Poppy” by Soto, a scare in the spring and early summer of 1992. His message was resentment applesauce, sweetened by the knowledge that Americans will trust a rich moron over a poor intellectual. Campaigning against a federal government in which many of his politician friends were very good to him, he convinced the newly elected Clinton to commission Al Gore into looking at “waste in government.” In reality, this cornpone charlatan loved playing Wise CEO at the — I use the word deliberately — expense of his brutalized employees. In a well-trod tradition, he became yet another billionaire who believed rules for the poor, as demonstrated by his paying for his own commando squad — an example of how dearly he loved his country, according to NRO’s Jim Geraghty, who thinks irony is what you use on a wrinkled shirt. This neat little idea no doubt inspired Oliver North  to contact him for payoff money, we learned. He endorsed the means testing of Social Security. What thanks did he get from the GOP establishment? Why, smearing his daughter with incriminating photos before her wedding! Perot said he dropped out of the race in July based on this nugget.

Entertaining crackpots are for Carl Hiassen or Thomas Pynchon novels.

Reflections of a Political Man, Part II

He had worse hair than any president since Nixon. “Worse” as in natural – a man with other things on his mind (John Updike, in his classist way, would go further: “closely modeled on the opossum fur of his beloved Arkansas”). He had a low rumbling laugh that suggested an acquaintance with mirth. Most impressively, he stank of sex; it was obvious to anyone with a cerebellum. Continue reading

‘But above all, try something’

At the height of the budget impasse of 2011 I wondered why the hell Barack Obama sought the imprimatur of bipartisanship for policy decisions for which the Democrats would become unloved if not loathed during midterm and presidential elections. In boardrooms, classrooms, playgrounds, department stores, we appreciate conviction, however rudderless and bat shit. Dahlia Lithwick and David Cohen say enough already. Toying with the realization that had Donald Trump lost the Electoral College but lost the popular vote as Hillary his vassals would have sicced Roger Stone, the mummy of James Baker, and several generations of Federalist Society lawyers at the Supreme Court, Lithwick and Cohen bemoan the Democrats’ penchant for playing nice:

Moreover, they didn’t cop to the possibility that their theories might lose or look foolish in retrospect. Take the theory that ultimately succeeded in the Supreme Court. There was no precedent for the idea that the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause required a uniform recount within a state. However, the Republicans pressed that theory and convinced a majority, even though the justices acknowledged that the argument was both unprecedented and not to be used again. It was a win for pure audacity.

Fast forward to 2016, and the Democrats are doing nothing of the sort. Instead, they are leaving the fight to academics and local organizers who seem more horrified by a Trump presidency than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. The Republicans in 2000 threw everything they could muster against the wall to see if it stuck, with no concern about potential blowback; the Democrats in 2016 are apparently too worried about being called sore losers. Instead of weathering the criticism that comes with fighting an uphill, yet historically important battle, the party is still trying to magic up a plan.

In other words, please present a bat shit theory. It may be laughed out of the court. Perhaps not out of federal courts in which Obama and Bill Clinton judges are majorities. “It is common sense to take a method and try it,” said the greatest Democratic president of the twentieth century. “If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” Don’t even admit it frankly. Try.

DNC, Day 2: I got Jeff Nichols out of the way

President Barack Obama and his family and Vice President Joe Biden and his family celebrate their nominations as the confetti falls at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

10:59. “You people have made history,” Meryl Streep said, like Joan Baez at Live Aid, making praise sound like admonishment.

10:54. Rachel Maddow: “For those who expected a feminist convention,” listen to the first half of the speech.

10:48. “One is real; the other is made up.” Well, he got one of those right.

10:37. …and he’s made Tom De Lay human, for god’s sake. He called him “House minority leader” though.

10:32. I suspect, as usual with this guy, that we’ll sneer and the crowd will love it. That’s how it was in the ’90s.

10:24. Checking states off a list, dropping references to her work with disabled citizens and children and starting a legal aid clinic in Arkansas, wagging that finger like a conductor’s baton, grandpa chuckles — he’s weaving cornball shit and political fictions into a narrative that many Democrats and pundits will sponge up.

10:16. Fact checkers: Mona Charen @monacharenEPPC Hillary did not have blond hair in her youth. She was a brunette.

10:16. It’s corny but his rhythms are unerring.

10:10. No Fleetwood Mac = blessing.

10:10. I don’t ahve the space or energy to refute the claims these video actors are making about Bill Clinton.

10:04. I’m feeling my usual ughhhs coming on when Bill Clinton’s on the teevee.

9:56. Ladies and gentleman…Madeline Albright (Meryl Streep)!

9:48. There’s probably no bar at the Wells Fargo Center.

9:45. Meryl Streep? After Bill Clinton? Has she been promised a fourth Oscar?

9:01. No need to mention foreign policy yet — not when the RNC defined “foreign policy” as “aim Death Star at Syria.” When 9-11 victims praise Clinton for securing aid, the symbolism is more potent: here are consequences of foreign policy.

8:32. Black lives matter, the arena chants. The differences between Clinton and Sanders disappear. These are the people whose lives will matter less during a Trump administration.

8:21. In the foul remnants of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s legacy called National Review Online, several posters early last week sniffed at liberal and Beltway pundits recoiling from Patricia Smith’s indictment of Hillary Clinton. Wait till those Black Lives Matter moms start talking, a couple said (I won’t link; you can Google). Watching the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Sandra Bland praise Clinton’s fealty to Black Lives Matter, I hear no rancor, no excoriation of Donald Trump — it’s a reminder of how the Democratic Party and an essential component of its base aligning. That’s the difference, NRO. We want our minority citizens to feel “safe and respected,” says a police chief.

8:07. Tony Goldwyn is speaking. Why do I care about the guy who killed Patrick Swayze in Ghost?

8:02. I heard that the senior senator from Vermont made a motion to nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton by acclamation.

8:01. Sturdy when examining the numinous in rural life in films like Take Shelter and Mud, Jeff Nichols falters when filming the numinous; his approach is too poky, like he’s in a Sundance lab. That’s Midnight Special. Back to the convention.

6:14. New Jersey delegation nominated Hillary Clinton. Gonna watch Midnight Special instead.

Welfare reform and its discontents

Twenty years after Bill Clinton signed a bill that promised to “end welfare as we know it,” he has kept his word:

Nationally, the number of people receiving cash assistance has fallen to 4.1 million, from 12.3 million in 1996. In Arizona, the number of cash assistance recipients has plummeted to 20,495, from a monthly average of 155,000 in 1996-97.

The 1996 law reversed six decades of social welfare policy, eliminating the individual entitlement to cash assistance for the nation’s poorest children and giving each state a lump sum of federal money with vast discretion over its use. The amount of the main federal block grant has remained at $16.5 billion annually since the law was adopted, but inflation has shrunk the value of that money about a third.

In addition, the reach of the program has been greatly reduced.

In 1996, for every 100 families in poverty, 68 received cash assistance. That fell to 23 for every 100 in 2014. And in a dozen states including Arizona, the number is fewer than 10 in 100.

In response, the very poor have devised what Kathryn J. Edin, a professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University, called survival strategies. Some, she said, sell plasma, a blood component. Some collect metal junk and aluminum cans and sell them to scrap dealers. Some move in temporarily with friends or relatives to save on rent.

“We’ve shredded our cash safety net,” said Ms. Edin, who examined those tactics in her book “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America,” written with H. Luke Shaefer.

From teens filling income gaps to the peripatetic schedules of service sector jobs eating up parenting time, the welfare reform bill looks like a textbook example of crooked intentions producing foul results. Shorter welfare rolls look more attractive during boom times.

Also, note how states “racialized” the policy, thanks to the transformation of welfare into block grants:

In other words, people had become so focused on racial issues that race really drove the patterning. They were not necessarily conscious of it; it was race-coded and below the radar for most people. But all of the states with more African-Americans on the welfare rolls chose tougher rules. And when you add those different rules up, what we found was that even 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.

Thanks, Bill Clinton.

Thirteen ways of looking at a Bill bird

This Vanity Fair profile of Bill Clinton proposes several ways in which the forty-second president can help or hinder his wife’s presidential campaign. His rhetorical powers, once considerable, look uneven:

He recalled his college roommate, a Marine who had been stationed nearby; but what seemed like a quick geographical touch point soon spun into a rambling tale about the man’s sister-in-law, who had a disabled daughter who now lives in Virginia. “I watched her grow up,” Clinton told the puzzled crowd. His attempts at eloquence—“We don’t need to build walls; we need to build ladders of opportunity”—weren’t his best, and when he delved into politically relevant topics, like terrorism, he sounded less like a man who used to receive daily intelligence briefings than like an elderly relative at the holiday table. “The people who did San Bernardino,” Clinton explained, “were converted over the social media.” All the while, his hands—those (with apologies to Donald Trump) truly giant instruments that he once used to punctuate his points—now shook with a tremor that he could control only by shoving them into his pants pockets or gripping the lectern as if riding a roller coaster. For more than half an hour, Clinton went on like this, losing more of the crowd’s attention as each minute passed, until a few people actually got up from their chairs and tiptoed toward the exits.

Until he was heckled, or, rather, Hillary was about Benghazi, after which he sprung like a mouse sniffing at a trap. The response was a “a tour de force,” according to the writer, but the heckler had already left the building.

The story quotes the usual vassals. I didn’t care for the innuendo about what monkey business might have happened on a certain plutocrat’s airplane in the early 2000s. A couple of paragraphs raise the Bernie Sanders question as if it hadn’t occurred to the rest of humanity that the Clintons dislike him. I chuckled at the cynicism about the effect of Clinton’s purported affairs on millennial voter (“And I hate to say this about my grandkids, but with gay marriage and Caitlyn Jenner and whatever else, they’re a lot more liberal and loose on that stuff. I just don’t think they’ll care,” a fogey said, loving to say it). He’s eager to repudiate the chapters of his legacy that affect Hillary’s electoral chances except when challenged by youth.

But the pal of Bono and Davos frequenter hasn’t forgotten his humble roots, according to the article:

More often than not, the ex-president finds himself staying in hotels with nothing resembling a presidential suite; he typically overnights in Holiday Inn Expresses and Quality Inns. His aides say he’s the least prissy member of his small traveling party—caring only that his shower has good water pressure and that the TV has premium cable so that he might watch San Andreas or one of the Fast & Furious movies before he drifts off to sleep. When he wakes, he often makes coffee for himself in his room.

Who makes coffee for himself using those in room pots? The former president. Ya can’t take Arkansas out of him.

A romp through convention platforms past

An excerpt from the Democratic Party platform of 1972:

We hold that the federal tax structure should reflect the following principles:

The cost of government must be distributed more fairly among income classes. We reaffirm the long-established principle of progressive taxation —allocating the burden according to ability to pay —which is all but a dead letter in the present tax code.

The cost of government must be distributed fairly among citizens in similar economic circumstances:

Direct expenditures by the federal government which can be budgeted are better than tax preferences as the means for achieving public objectives. The lost income of those tax preferences which are deemed desirable should be stated in the annual budget.

When relief for hardship is provided through federal tax policy, as for blindness, old age or poverty, benefits should be provided equally by credit rather than deductions which favor recipients with more income, with special provisions for those whose credits would exceed the tax they owe.

Provisions which discriminate against working women and single people should be corrected in addition to greater fairness and efficiency, these principles would mean a major redistribution of personal tax burdens and permit considerable simplification of the tax code and tax forms.

Twenty years later, the party that nominated William Jefferson Clinton:

We reject both the do-nothing government of the last twelve years and the big government theory that says we can hamstring business and tax and spend our way to prosperity. Instead we offer a third way. Just as we have always viewed working men and women as the bedrock of our economy, we honor business as a noble endeavor, and vow to create a far better climate for firms and independent contractors of all sizes that empower their workers, revolutionize their workplaces, respect the environment, and serve their communities well.

In a story published in 2012, Marc Fisher noted the consistency with which the GOP has moved towards “ever more conservative stances” on the economy and social questions while the Democrats have followed a, well, “a more jagged series of experiments with activist and statist approaches,” he writes, in which riffs on family, God, and free enterprise ring as nervously and reassuringly as a power chord in a One Direction song.

The GOP’s gonna be doing some awful zagging this year to accommodate the nominee whom we all know even Ross Douthat will embrace by the Fourth of July. Whatever else has happened since the GOP fooled itself into thinking it had principles, the Dems will coalesce around a platform that will look, oh, about sixty percent different from the time Hillary Clinton’s husband decided that adopting conservative positions would get him reelected. For the first time since I became old enough to vote, I am reasonably comfortable with voting for a Democrat.