Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Clinton-eye view of Republicans

A note from the road on Taylor Branch's The Clinton Tapes, which so far (I'm in 1995) makes Clinton seem almost like a policy monk, repeatedly willing to do the right rather than the politically easy thing -- e.g., deficit reduction, Mexican bailout, Haiti invasion (forestalled by last minute capitulation),assault weapons ban, bombing of Bosnian Serb positions, not to mention the pending showdown - understood in clear outline by Clinton before it developed -- with the Gingrich-Dole Congress over their proposed radical cuts in social spending.This is admittedly Clinton's view of Clinton. But it's true that none of those decisions were short-term political winners --and also that Americans rewarded Clinton with consistently high poll ratings in later years because of good results. At the same time, Clinton is frank about not being able to do the right thing when the politics are impossible, as in ending the embargo on Cuba. "Clinton agreed with FDR that there were times when embracing a farsighted goal could be wrong, even in principle,because the reaction would undermine a leader's strength for other causes" (301).

But I digress. Structure is hard on a Blackberry. What I wanted to flag was a long-term if not quite eternal truth of American politics: "Bluntly, said the president, the difference between the two political parties is that the Democrats sell access and the Republicans sell control. 'Businesspeople know a bargain when they see one,' Clinton observed. 'They'd' rather have the control, and they're willing to pay a premium for it'"(280).

So much of this book is deja vu all over again. Of course, it was published in '09; Branch was doubtless aware of and in some ways accented the contemporary resonance.

Related posts:
The long view from China 
Bill Clinton, Happy Warrior

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