President Clinton

"Thumbs down!" by Christopher Hitchens; "Thumbs up!" by Peter Leyden

By Salon Staff
Published August 16, 2000 7:04PM (EDT)

Read Christopher Hitchens' story

Read Peter Leyden's story

Thank you, Christopher Hitchens. It appalls me how many fellow Democrats refuse to confront the sad, bitter truth about the man we chose to represent our party for the last eight years. After showing such promise and charisma, this failed boy of a man has done more to destroy my party than any Republican attack ever could. The sheer number of allegations against this man boggle the mind, and if even a fraction of them eventually turn out to be based in fact then I believe that the punishment for his crimes should be exile, being stripped of his citizenship and being shipped off to China. The sooner that this man-child -- and don't get me started on Al Gore -- is out of our lives the better. Even if it means putting little boy Bush in the White House for four years. There's no way he will ever serve more than one term, and having a Republican whipping-boy might be a relief.

-- Dick Fitz

Every time I think of voting for Gore, Christopher Hitchens pulls me back to reality.

Why don't more liberals protest Clinton? And I'm not talking about the Joe Lieberman way of scolding him for his personal behavior and then not doing the gutsy thing by voting for his impeachment. I think the worst thing for progressives is if Gore and Lieberman won. There won't be anything liberal left to cling to.

-- Jim Haug

Christopher Hitchens displays an appallingly selective view of recent history. I'm not even going to address the Juanita Broaddrick slime -- garbage that has been spread for years by the same folks who talk of murder in Arkansas. But I will address facts.

On the economy: Hitchens glibly assigns our economic successes to Alan Greenspan, conveniently forgetting that the one factor that turned everything around was Clinton's '94 balanced budget -- the first balanced budget in more than a generation (something Reagan and Bush failed to do) -- a measure that the GOP fought tooth and nail. This, more than anything else (as any non-partisan economist will tell you), ended an era of soaring interest rates that was hobbling our economy.

On Ricky Ray Rector: Yes, I was appalled. But let's inject a bit of perspective. The current GOP presidential nominee has been, and continues to be, the busiest executioner this nation has seen since Hanging Judge Parker more than a century ago. In point of fact, G.W. Bush now has Parker beat. And with the execution last week of an inmate with the I.Q. of a 6-year-old, Bush also has Clinton's awful Rector decision beat.

The wag-the-dog Sudan scenario: I needn't say much, beyond pointing out President Bush's splendid little war to make the world safe for cheap oil -- an easy war he nevertheless managed to screw up. Clinton did not get us in a war in Sudan. Bush DID get us in a war against Iraq -- a war which most benefited his good Texas buddies in the "awl bidness," at a time when his approval ratings were quite low. The war got his ratings up, at which point his limited attention span turned elsewhere. Which is why Saddam Hussein remains with us today.

-- Rod Proctor

Hitchens is a great opinion-piece writer and always a fun read. But like so many American men in his age group he is driven to froth-at-the-mouth frenzy by Bill Clinton. Classic vanity/jealousy combo: How can that guy get everything and get away with anything? The president came from a background without name and money and got and succeeded in the most coveted job in the world. He is intelligent, charming and women go for him. Hitchens and his ilk can't stand it.

-- J.S. Henry

Right on! Some of us do get tired of the dirty old men of the Republican Party who decided to "get" Clinton by way of his sexual handicaps when they couldn't stop him any other way. Fifty years from now, he will be called a great president: for pulling the Dems to the middle from too far out in left field; for making way at the table for as many of those left out as possible, for NOT going to all-out war when moderation was possible.

-- Mary Carpenter

The Internet blossomed in the '90s through the investments of hardware and software corporations, which often benefit from so-called "corporate welfare," and has flourished in a climate of free-flowing private sector venture capital, limited regulation and limited taxation. It is, in other words, a paragon of conservative economic theory in action, and for Bill Clinton to claim credit for it is not just a stretch of the plausible, it is outright theft. If his "hands-off" tutelage of the techno-economy means anything, it is that he embraced the economic theories (including welfare reform) of his enemies in practice while in stump speeches cynically demagoguing against them for his own political ends. George W. may be taking a few pages from Bill Clinton's playbook to reach the White House, but he will get there by no less hook and crook than its current occupant.

-- Scott McKim

Peter Leyden instructs us that Bill Clinton is as responsible for our economy as any president can be. Predictably he trots out the usual liberal evidence, the deceptiveness of which never ceases to amaze me.

In the end, yes, Clinton did support balancing the budget -- but only after being nailed down by a Republican Congress hell-bent on balancing the budget, and only after well-publicized repeated vacillations on the subject. Never mind the fact that interest had been coming down since the middle of 1991, well before Clinton took office. And also ignoring the fact that Clinton fought bitterly for a universal healthcare program that would have hobbled the economy.

"He kept moving government away from the 20th century welfare state model, initiating welfare reform." Excuse me, Mr. Leyden, but "initiated" my eye. Again, it was the Republican Congress that led the way on this issue, and once again Clinton came late, and only after he saw the writing on the wall. And also once again Clinton has gone on to claim credit for it.

In real life, Bill Clinton was saved by an economy for which he bears almost no responsibility. His only major contribution to it, in fact, was hostile: the 1993 tax increase, the largest in U.S. history. Fortunately the pain of it has been muted somewhat by the whopping economy. Clinton points to the surpluses -- surprise, surprise, it's easy to have surpluses when you slash military spending and raise taxes at the outset of a record economic expansion.

No, in the end it has been the technological private sector and Alan Greenspan, a Reagan appointee, that have been the primary shapers of our current economic situation, and as usual Bill Clinton has only ridden the coattails but claims to have drawn the carriage. Which mirrors what will be his overall legacy: an antagonism to the truth and a stunning ability to flaunt it.

-- Clint Hayes

Salon Staff

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