Are Bad Guys Better Presidents?

When he was president, I loathed Bill Clinton.

I cannot express this passionately enough. The man was so clearly, fundamentally dishonest, so patently corrupt, that I was ashamed for my nation every time the weasel opened his mouth. The Lewinsky scandal was particularly disgusting, because it has now forever lowered the standards of conduct we can expect from those in public life. Suddenly, lying under oath if it’s “just about sex” isn’t that big a deal, and even feminists like Gloria Steinem said Clinton’s botched fondling of Kathleen Willey’s breast was acceptable because he stopped after she said no. So now everyone is entitled to one free grope.

It’s easy to focus on the sexual stuff – it’s salacious and easy to understand – but Clinton’s corruption ran far deeper and was far more devastating on other fronts. Selling nuclear secrets to the Chinese for campaign cash is essentially treason, and it dwarfs what malfeasance he committed in the Lewinsky mess. Yet that is Bill Clinton’s legacy, along with kicking the can of Islamic terrorism down the road until it finally blew up on September 11, 2001. The guy is human garbage, and I’m optimistic that with his wife’s defeat, we’re finally rid of him.

So here’s the problem: in terms of actual, practical policy, the guy wasn’t really all that bad.

I’m setting aside the tyrannical judges he appointed, which are going to be the byproduct of any Democrat’s administration. I’m talking fiscal and economic policy, which he essentially abandoned in 1994 when Newt and the boys took the Hill. That’s when he suddenly decided to sign a welfare bill he had previously vetoed twice, which has been more successful than even its proponents dared hope. Now Clinton boasts of Newt’s bill as his own crowning achievement, despite having bitterly opposed it and then promising to “fix” it after he’d signed it into law.

Newt pushed through capital gains tax cuts and the child credit. Clinton signed them into law and took credit for them. The economy hummed along without incident, because Clinton did nothing to get in the way. In his 1996 campaign, he triangulated a la Dick Morris and focused on piddly issues like V-chips and school uniforms. The guy did nothing and got out of the way. Which, in terms of the nation’s economy, is not a bad thing to do. I wish George Bush could figure that out.

The irony is that it was Clinton’s mendacity and complete lack of any guiding principles that allowed him to abandon his party’s ideology and “govern” without screwing things up too badly. Had Clinton been a decent man, he would have been a far more destructive president in terms of policy. (Although we might have avoided the scandals.) To quote and/or paraphrase George Will, Clinton was not our worst president, but he was the worst man ever to serve as president. 

Why do I bring all this up? Because Barack is turning out to be less decent than I previously believed. Certainly he’s more decent than Clinton, although that’s a ridiculously low threshold, but he seems willing to throw his old positions under the bus if they get in the way of his electability. If he keeps doing that, then he might end up betraying his lunatic base and doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

Where does that leave me?

I doubt I’ll get another Reagan in my lifetime –a Pres who does the right thing for the right reasons – so maybe I have to be satisfied when dopes like Barack do the right thing by accident. That’s probably the best I can hope for this time around.

I’m still not going to vote for him, though, although I can’t vote Beavis McCain, either. My wife has broken down and said she’s casting her ballot for McCain, only because Barack is so patently awful on every issue. If I lived in a different state, maybe I would lose my resolve, too. Fortunately, I’m in Utah, where the electoral votes are assigned to the Republican long before any ballots are cast. So I can comfortably write in the French guy and know that no matter what happens, we’re all screwed.

Cousteau ’08, baby!

The Dark Knight
My Grandfather

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