Barack Obama vs. Bill Clinton

Contributing Columnist

Bill Clinton gave a spirited defense of the Obama administration at the Democratic Convention, according to ABC News: “Once a political adversary, Bill Clinton tonight went to bat for the president, playing the dual parts of professor and preacher, firing up the crowd and explaining just how Obama has succeeded in working to fix a flailing economy.”

Clinton left the actual nomination for a climatic finish when he roused the convention with: ““I want to nominate a man cool on the outside but burning for America on the inside…. I want Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States and I proudly nominate him as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party.”  Then, with the crowd cheering, Mr. Obama came on stage, hugged Clinton, waved to the crowd and then dragged the Big Dog off stage as the band played the old Clinton theme song, “Don‘t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.”

It was well he did as the Big Dog is as fond of political schmoozing as Obama is not and the speech had already lasted close to an hour. Or, as Jon Stewart observed about the length of the speech and the lateness of the hour, “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow because it’s only a half-hour from now.”

Clinton did well as everyone expected. He is first and foremost a politician and the rules of politics demand he support his party’s nominee, especially when the nominee is also the sitting president. Still, it is a strange marriage. Last time around he and Obama didn’t have their arms around one another. In April 2008, Clinton was heard to say, “I think that they played the race card on me. We now know, from memos from the campaign that they planned to do it all along.” Earlier, in New Hampshire, when discussing Obama’s record, he said: “Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.”

It’s only fair to note that things said by opponents during an election are always overheated and primary opponents usually bury the hatchet after the election. Still, Clinton’s endorsement of Obama’s economic stewardship strained credulity because Obama’s governance was very different than Clinton’s, as he well knows.

Clinton must have thought at some point, “I reformed welfare by working with Republicans and you [Obama] didn‘t.”  He could have pointed out, “After I suffered a stunning midterm defeat, I moved to the middle. I found a way to work with Republicans like Newt Gingrich. We balanced four budgets and had one of the longest periods of economic growth in history. You didn’t even submit a budget for three years, you didn’t work with Republicans, and you haven’t had a recovery.” And, Clinton would have been more than justified if he had reminded us, “If you think working with Newt Gingrich was a tip-toe-though-the-tulips, you have another think coming.”

As good as Clinton was that night, he said something so contradictory and out of tune that it staggered anyone listening who understood just how discordant it was. He criticized the Republicans who want to “get rid of those pesky financial regulations.” Now, as Bill Clinton would say, “pay attention, this is important.” Bill Clinton was the great deregulator.  Columnist John Berlau noted, “That liberals such as Aaron Sorkin (West Wing) and Robert Kuttner (American Prospect) warned Obama in 2009 not to follow Clinton’s deregulating ways.

Please note, Sorkin and Kuttner didn’t warn Obama not to follow Bush’s deregulating ways, they knew that Clinton, not Bush, was the deregulator. In 1999, the Clinton administration was eager to account for the remarkable economic growth during the 1990s. Among the achievements they listed were, according to Berlau, “modernizing for the new economy through technology and consensus deregulation.”

Clinton justified his deregulatory stance with, “In 1993, the laws that governed America’s financial service sector were antiquated and anti-competitive.” The answer to that, again according to the Clinton administration was, “to modernize those laws to increase completion . . . To give consumers and small businesses more choices and lower costs.”

Remember, it was Clinton who led the charge to repeal the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, a move that opened up financial services. Democrats, with the aid of a compliant press, have somehow shoe horned that into criticism of the Bush administration.

Obama would be well advised to follow Clinton’s lead because according to government reports, over $40 billion in new annual regulatory burdens have been imposed since the start of the Obama administration. The regulatory pipelines are full of proposed rules − some 2,785 rules of which 144 were classified as economically significant. This represents an additional $14 billion burden to the commercial sector each year.

Now, the total cost of regulatory action by the government is estimated at $1.75 trillion. The cost per employee for firms with fewer than 20 employees is now $10,585. Uber regulation has a cost. It has a cost in jobs, economic output, employee’s salaries, and business expansion. The Obama administration, according to a report by Dr. George S. Ford and Larry Spiwak, recently estimated that a single modification to a hazard label would save U.S. firms $585 million per year, money that might better be used creating new jobs.

While it disconcerting to find Bill Clinton lauding those polices he abandoned during his administration, it is politics as has been practiced in this country since about 1800. It is harder to understand that a major political party’s convention, when faced with a grim present and an even grimmer future, was forced to listen to a 30 year-old child tell us why sex now needs a government subsidy.

This election is important and let me put it to you squarely. It is as much about a choice between Obama’s vision for America versus Clinton’s vision as it is between those of Obama and Romney.

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3 Responses for “Barack Obama vs. Bill Clinton”

  1. Tom Burgum says:

    Howard, you are correct about Fannie and Freddie and the Clinton administration. I left them out because the narative was more about how Clinton is closer to Romney than he is to Obama. Can’t imagine Romney making the mistake with F&F.

  2. C,F, says:

    Bill is only supporting Obama to save his wife’s job. Obama has done nothing but send most of us to the poor house. Really support him??? All his wife cares about is making sure she looks good.

  3. Howard says:

    You failed to mention Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It was also the Clinton administration (along with Barney Frank) that opened the doors to financing for those would could not afford to qualify for a mortgage; thus putting in place the great housing bubble and bust.

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