Bill Clinton is 78 Years Old

|

It seems unlikely–he'd be preserved even better than Mitt Romney!–but how else to explain this comment on his Sunday Meet the Press appearance?

MR. RUSSERT: Last week I had Alan Greenspan on this program, and he said, "I think Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we've had in a while," talking about the deficit…

MR. CLINTON: Fiscal responsibility, yeah. Well, you know—see, it's funny. I guess maybe it's because I was a Depression-era baby, but I've always been a Democrat.

Clinton was actually born on August 19, 1946, a year after the end of World War II, which made him one of the first surge of baby boomers. So this is just… odd. Is Clinton confusing himself with the world's 2nd Most Famous Arkansan, Johnny Cash, who was born in 1932 and whose family endured the Depression in a New Deal program for farmers?

Nick Gillespie interviewed Amity Shlaes, author of possibly the best book on the Great Depression, for C-Span.

NEXT: Politics, by Don Rickles

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Living with Hillary could make anyone feel decades older.

  2. it just seems that long

  3. It might be a more local phenomena he’s referring to. Perhaps his family entered an “era of depression” at the time of his birth.

  4. I imagine it was difficult to tell the Depression had ended for quite some time in rural Arkansas.

  5. Most Famous Arkansan, Johnny Cash,

    Yep!

  6. I’m entering a state of depression seeing that pretty girl in the T-shirt ad on the right.

    Depressed because she’s likely an idiot, based on her choice in shirt…

  7. Re: Joe’s comment above, many people believe that in Texas and Arkansas the Depression persisted, especially in rural areas, at least until the Johnson administration. I think you could make a case that it is still in effect in much of the rural Deep South. It sure Depresses me to even drive through Missouri or southern Arkansas.

    It is a stretch for Clinton to call himself a child of the Depression era but it is much more of a stretch to imagine his youth, at least until college, as typical of the Baby Boom.

  8. Words mean whatever President Clinton says they mean, people.

  9. I think the comment reveals that in the mind of Clinton, and the rest of the American Left, its always 1935.

    The New Deal and the social, economic and technological environment that gave birth to it became the universal template for the American Left. They view problems and the solution to those problems purely through a New Deal perspective. They seem to think that the elitist, centrally managed, vertically integrated solutions of that era remain the only means of accomplishing their nominal goals.

    For example, look at the debate over Social Security. The Left argues that a program created in 1935 will still work in 2035 without any major changes

    I think that is why the American Left hasn’t had a new idea in at least the last 30+ years. They have become a bitterly conservative or even regressive force trying desperately to fend off the progressive innovations of the Right.

  10. Once WJC became black, it was a pretty easy jump to become a little older, too.

  11. He could have meant that he grew up in a depression-era environment due to his parents. That is, his parents lived during the depression, so he picked up the habits and mindset they had from that experience. Or, he could have just been babbling on a TV talk show.

  12. The context backsd up AC. If you’ve ever know anyone who lived through the Depression, or even heard their kids talk about being raised by them, you know exactly what Clinton is talking about.

  13. Every day that Dubya’s in office makes Billy Boy look better and better. And he knows it.

  14. They have become a bitterly conservative or even regressive force trying desperately to fend off the progressive innovations of the Right.

    Innovations like the Patriot Act, McCain-Fiengold, several Wars and Bill Kristol.

    Yeah, how dare anyone try to fend off such progressive innovations! [/snark]

  15. Every day that Dubya’s in office makes Billy Boy look better and better. And he knows it.

    Hell, every day that Dubya’s in office makes U.S. Grant look better and better. I personally dislike Clinton. That said, we’ve done a lot worse for Democrat presidenrs. Anyone remember LBJ or Mr. Malaise, Jimmy?

  16. Taktix,

    Innovations like the Patriot Act,…

    And social security privatization, education vouchers, welfare reform, free trade, pollution credits, etc.

    Whether an innovation is eventually judged a success or not isn’t really the point. Most new ideas will fail or evolve far from their original form. The point is that today the Right represents the part of the political spectrum that advocates new solutions to problems, whereas the Left proposes solutions that have existed for decades. The Left simply hasn’t adapted to the internet era. They still think like its 1935.

    During different periods of history, the mantle of progressiveness has switched back and forth between the Left and Right. In the period of circa 1860-1920 the Right represented progressive ideas. In the era of circa 1920-1975 the Left represent progressive idea. Since roughly 1976, the pendulum swing back to the Right.

    Leftist spend so much time chanting that they like new innovative ideas that they never stop to examine just how old maladapted to the contemporary world their ideas really are.

  17. And social security privatization, education vouchers, welfare reform, free trade, pollution credits, etc.

    You listed things that the GOP says they want. I listed things the actually gave us.

    In the world of politics, that makes all the difference.

  18. Addendum: welfare reform not withstanding. I must have glazed over that one…

  19. “The context backsd up AC. If you’ve ever know anyone who lived through the Depression, or even heard their kids talk about being raised by them, you know exactly what Clinton is talking about.”

    Yah, the interesting thing is how different the boomer children actually are from their depression era parents. At least, that is my experience. I find it very odd that a boomer would associate themselves with the depression era at all since most of the generation’s activities had to do with throwing off that yoke, as it were.

  20. I look back at the bitching I did about Clinton during his term, and all the bitching I did about Bush the Elder, with a certain amount of embarrassment at what whiner I was.

    Man, can you imagine if we’d had an undistinguished mediocrity who didn’t accomplish much as president for the past 7 years? That would be so cool…

  21. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin’ on the porch with my family, singin’ and dancin’ down in Mississippi Arkansas. …

  22. If the left thinks it’s 1935, the right does too, and is taking up the mantle of that era’s reactionaries.

    Anti-Social Security. Anti-modern welfare state. Pro-imperialist wars to civilize the “backwards” parts of the world. Anti-union. Anti-public schools. Anti-pollution regulation. I’m supposed to believe they’re the progressive, forward-looking party because they take their policy preferences from the 1890s instead of the 1930s? Gilded-Age Victorianism didn’t become progressive just because it’s been out of favor for 7 decades.

  23. I’ve been beaten to the punch on this, but isn’t it completely obvious what Clinton means? He’s saying his mom’s spending habits and attitudes were forged in the Depression, and he therefore grew up in a household shaped by that event.

    This really isn’t rocket science…

  24. Clinton grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which was something of a tourist resort. I don’t think I would consider that very rural – not unless you want to call the entire South rural.

    I seriously doubt Clinton’s Depression creds; I don’t think he ever had to go without much. His adopted father was a partner in a car dealership and later an owner of a hardware store. I’d call that middleclass bourgeois. Clinton may be white trash, but he isn’t poor, barefoot, dirty-leg white trash.

  25. Gilded-Age Victorianism didn’t become progressive just because it’s been out of favor for 7 decades.

    We need to go back the middle ages to get some really fresh ideas on darwinian social constructs.

  26. joe,

    If the left thinks it’s 1935, the right does too, and is taking up the mantle of that era’s reactionaries.

    Just because opponents of a plan were wrong 70 years ago doesn’t mean that those who want to change the system today are wrong.

    Lets do a thought experiment: Imagine that its 1935. The democrat, historically the conservative branch of American politics is advocating the then new idea of using large centrally managed institutions to provide solutions to modern problems (like having a major depression when nearly half your population no longer lived on the farm and could just ride it out by eating what they grew). The new centralized solutions had proven their worth in both the military and business. No. say the Republicans, up until that time the progressive branch of American politics. Lets stay with the systems we created back in 1865 at the end of the Civil war.

    For example, after the Civil War, veteran pensions were paid out of a specialized tariff on imported goods. The system remained that way up until the 1930’s. Do you think someone in 1935 who argued for maintaining that system would be a progressive?

    We face the same situation today. The mantle of progressiveness has shifted once again back to the Right. Now, the Right wants to apply the new decentralized solutions that have proven themselves so well in the military and business. They want to address new problems like providing public education in an environment when little consensus exist about what a good education is or how it should be accomplished. No, say the Democrats, lets stick with the same basic solutions as the ones we used in 1935.

    You, Clinton and the rest of the Left are to emotionally invested in the solutions for a completely different era. You can’t even distinguish between arguments about means from disagreement about goals. For you, the solution is the goal. You think people who don’t support centralized education. don’t support public education. You think people who don’t support a centralized compulsory pension system don’t care about retirees and the disabled. You think that people who don’t support centralized health care management don’t support making health care available.

    You really need to pull your head out. Its not 1935. It hasn’t been for a long time.

  27. Shannon,

    The only relevant part of your comment is your acknowledgement that, yes, the “progressive, modern ideas” of conservatism are actually the same old same old they’ve been serving up for a century.

    Yes, they are. It doesn’t matter that you’re trying to rebrand them as someting shiny and new. As you acknowledge, they are the same ideas that have defined the right since the period after the Civil War.

  28. We should just dump the consitution, too. It’s over 200 hundred years old now. There is no point in trying to rebrand that as something shiny and new.

  29. I’d try to change the subject, too, if I was attempting to argue that the Repubicans’ ideas were novel and progressive.

  30. I have a good friend who’s parents are what I have always called ‘depression babies’.

    Now that I think about it, they weren’t born until the mid 40’s, but their attitudes and spending habits were definately influenced by their parent’s experiences in the Depression.

  31. We should just dump the consitution, too. It’s over 200 hundred years old now. There is no point in trying to rebrand that as something shiny and new.

    Actually, I believe that’s exactly the stance that Shannon takes on matters of privacy, due process, torture, etc.

  32. smartass sob,

    But even people who became successful car salesmen after the Depression (or married them) tended to retain the penny-pinching, plate-clearing, bird-in-the-hand lessons they learned during that era.

    thoreau,

    Actually, I believe that’s exactly the stance that Shannon takes on matters of privacy, due process, torture, etc. Yes, but since the policies he prefers predate the New Deal, whether by years or millenia, that makes the progressive.

  33. His adopted father was a partner in a car dealership and later an owner of a hardware store.

    I can’t seem to find any online reference to his father being in the hardware business. I don’t recall where I heard or read it before. Sorry ’bout dat.

    Joe,
    I can see your point – Clinton’s parents were raised during the Depression. If they were anything like my own, some of their attitudes probably rubbed off on him.

  34. joe-

    That’s right. Torture is an old tactic, and thereby represents the aggregation of dispersed information through age-old institutions. So it’s a perfectly Hayekian thing. And since Hayekian approaches to society are rejected by the entrenched liberal establishment, it thereby follows that torture is progressive, as it represents a break from the liberal establishment.

  35. joe, thoreau,

    I can tell that neither of you actually know anything about the debates surrounding the debates of the era of centralization beyond vague leftist stereotypes of what you imagine the arguments were. Worse, you don’t seem to have any better grasp of modern ideas.

    I keep forgetting that just because someone sounds articulate it doesn’t follow that they actually have a real education in any particular area.

    Frankly, I prefer it if you continue to wallow in your self-delusion of being on the progressive cutting edge of political thought. There is no greater gift than a self-deluded competitor. I can prosper offering new solutions for new problems while you set on the grand steps of some WPA built neo-classical monstrosity wondering why no one calls anymore.

  36. Shannon-

    I haven’t said a word in favor of any particular social programs. I just like mocking your stance on torture. That’s all.

  37. Yes, Shannon, if people don’t agree with you about politics, it can only possibly be explained by their not knowing as much as you.

    That MUST be it. I mean, what other possible reason can there be?

  38. Truman Capote actually writes under the name of “Shannon Love”.

  39. joe,

    Yes, Shannon, if people don’t agree with you about politics, it can only possibly be explained by their not knowing as much as you.

    No, when someone makes an easily falsifiable assertion, in this case that political debate in 1935 is the same debates as the one now, I can either assume that the problem comes from either ignorance or dishonesty.

    Since I don’t think your are intentionally dishonest, I conclude that you don’t actually know anything about the debates of the era. Since you repeat many of the standard tropes I assume that you have only a casual understanding of the matter heavily influenced by self-serving leftist description of the era.

    If you want me to stop misinterpreting your arguments you might try actually making arguments instead of just alluding to the share prejudices of your own little subculture. Such attempts don’t work when you argue with someone operating from a different knowledge base.

  40. thoreu,

    Sorry, I didn’t realize you were just being inane. I apologize if I implied that you asserted something you didn’t.

  41. thoreu,

    Sorry, I didn’t realize you were just being inane.

    And joe’s first law of the internet (sorry, teh internetz) is confirmed: Shannon, in an attempt to argue that my comments weren’t intelligent, made a spelling mistake.

  42. He’s such a small fish, thoreau, and it’s one of my favorite barrels.

    Let’s just let him alone in there. He’ll think he scared us off, and we can all go about our day in good humor.

  43. Its just amazing the lengths people will go to rationalize (yet another) fib by Bill Clinton.

    He’s a narcissistic fabulist. Claiming to be a child of the Depression advanced his narrative of the moment, truth be damned, so that’s what he did.

    Its not like he hasn’t done this before, after all.

  44. Heh. This is almost as good as the time (several times, actually) when Hillary claimed to be named after Sir Edmund Hillary in honor of his climbing Mt Everest. Trouble is, he climbed Everest when she was six years old!

    Cut from the same cloth, they are. I could see lying about something important; I don’t think it’s right, but I can understand the motivation. But these people lie about inconsequential things, that they have to know are easy to verify. Very creepy.

  45. How is this post responsible? From your quote I don’t see Clinton saying he was born in the depression era. You’re picking at invisible mud to sling. Lets make with the logic if your going to write for a magazine titles ‘Reason’.

  46. Lets make with the logic if your going to write for a magazine titles ‘Reason’.

    Everyone drink?

  47. Isn’t this the same William Jefferson Clinton who “remembered” the black Churches being burned across Arkansas when he was a child, but there is no record of that happening in Arkansas?

    Maybe it is something about his generation of politicial, like Senator John F. Kerry remembering so vividly his secret mission into Cambodia and listening to President Nixon on the radio.

  48. How can you tell if someone is a pathological liar?

    Pathological liars, or “mythomaniacs,” may be suffering from histrionic personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder. The following comments basically reflect a pathological liar who has the characteristics of histrionic personality disorder.

    Exaggerates things that are ridiculous.

    …they would rather argue with you and bring out the sharp knives than admit that there’s anything wrong with them.

    They “construct” a reality around themselves. They don’t value the truth, especially if they don’t see it as hurting anyone. If you call them on a lie and they are backed into a corner, they will act very defensively and say ugly things (most likely but depends on personality), but they may eventually start to act like, “Well, what’s the difference? You’re making a big deal out of nothing!” (again, to refocus the conversation to your wrongdoing instead of theirs).

    They lie about even the smallest things.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.