Election 2012

Bill Clinton's Nostalgianomics

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You wanted a nostalgia trip? You got a nostalgia trip. Because that's what Bill Clinton wanted too. His expertly delivered, substantially improvised speech at the Democratic convention played like a 2012 remix of a 90s greatest political hits album: balanced budgets, economic prosperity, job growth, work and welfare.

Clinton played all the characters that made him famous: bleeding-heart bubba, the relatable leader, the clever country-boy, and even the serious — but accessible! — policy wonk. Clinton spent the majority of the speech explaining and adjudicating a slew of economic policy debates. He has always had a keen nose for the political trends of the moment, and here the former POTUS was reborn as fact-checker-in-chief.

That's not to say he got all of his facts right. On Medicare, for example, he argued that ObamaCare's Medicare cuts extend the solvency of Medicare — which, as I noted recently, is only true if you double count the savings, using them to pay for both an extension of Medicare's trust fund and ObamaCare's new insurance subsidies. He went after Mitt Romney's campaign for attacking the Obama administration's assertion of new, legally dubious authority to grant waivers to welfare's work requirements. "The requirement was for more work, not less," he said. Not wrong, exactly, but not the best truth. The requirement was to move 20 percent more people from welfare to work — and an easy way to do that is to increase the program's rolls, thereby increasing the number of people who successfully move on from the program. He bragged about the higher number of jobs created by Democratic presidents, a comparison that, as Ron Bailey noted last night, is less favorable depending on how you perform the count.

All in all, though, the speech was more substantive and policy-focused than any convention speech so far — and that's at either convention. And some of Clinton's attacks were dead on: He hit Romney for budget math that doesn't add up, and it doesn't. He knocked Romney's telling lack of policy specifics, which is a legitimate problem. He called out GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan for attacking Obama's Medicare cuts after proposing the same cuts in his own budget. Like so many modern media personalities, Clinton played multiple roles: the pundit, the explainer, the fact-checker, the arbiter of what is true and false — and he did it well.

But what Clinton's speech gained in policy substance, it lacked in a compelling governing vision. The whole speech was a masterful bit of sleight of hand: He touted his own economic record, attacked the Republicans for their hypocrisies — and then concluded that the correct response is to vote for Obama. Essentially, he tried to transfer his own economic record to the current president.

You could see that most when it came time to drive home the case for Obama. In the final stretch, he had to rely on airy defenses of the status quo: Vote Obama "if you want every American to vote and you think it is wrong to change voting procedures." Vote Obama "if you think the president was right to open the doors of American opportunity to all those young immigrants brought here when they were young so they can serve in the military or go to college." Vote Obama "if you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American dream is really alive and well again and where the United States maintains its leadership as a force for peace and justice and prosperity in this highly competitive world." Vote Obama, in other words, if you want to live in Bill Clinton's America.

NEXT: Steve Chapman on Gas Prices and Political Mythology

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31 responses to “Bill Clinton's Nostalgianomics

  1. Hrm, I was hoping for something more…interesting…from Bubba.

    WHY DO I NEVER LEARN MY LESSON AND CONTINUE TO HOPE FOR THINGS.

    1. My interest in “issues” is merely to point out how badly we’re doing, not to suggest a way we might do better. Don’t confuse me with those who cling to hope. I enjoy describing how things are, I have no interest in how they “ought to be.” And I certainly have no interest in fixing them. I sincerely believe that if you think there’s a solution, you’re part of the problem. My motto: Fuck Hope!
      -George Carlin

      1. The sad thing is, I don’t hope for anything big. Just tiny little things that also never happen.

    1. what was that? Nothing’s appearing. It must be your jumplink because it can’t be my browser – the latest version of Mosaic is installed

      1. Weird. Works in Chrome. Try this link.

        1. er, sorry HM, was making 1994 World Wide Web-related joke. Badly. Must try harder!

          1. Doh! If you said “Lynx” I might have gotten it.

          2. Doh! If you said “Lynx” I might have gotten it.

          3. By the way, you wouldn’t happen to be down with O.P.P., would you?

            1. down like a clown. But then anything is preferable to this

              1. To this day, I still lust after Ms. Loeb and her lovely, lovely cats-eye frames.

  2. Other slick formulations were “The Republicans left Obama an impossible mess to clean up, and since he hasn’t cleaned it up they call for him to be fired” and “In order to support the Founders’ ‘more perfect union’ you must vote for Obama”.

    Great stuff.

  3. If Clinton and Obama never entered politics they would probably have been repeat salesmen of the month at luxury car dealerships. If Obama is reelected it will have little or nothing to do with the issues, but on his abilities as a shrewd pitchman.

    1. I’m thinking they would have been trial lawyers of the lowest order, amassing great fortunes from successfully defending obviously guilty but wealthy clients and/or winning heaps of money through frivolous lawsuits.
      Bottom feeding scum.

      1. So John Edwards before entering politics?

        1. Basically.

  4. Essentially, he tried to transfer his own economic record to the current president.

    And yet, according to my Facebook news feed, it worked.

    “Thattaboy Bubba! This is the reason Obama will have my vote in November!”
    “Clinton killed it tonight! Obama 2012!”
    “A vote for Obama is a vote to return to Clinton-era governing!”

    and other jaw-dropping gems.

  5. How does Clinton reconcile his ability to get along with a GOP congress led by a prick like Gingrich while Obama can’t overcome a GOP Congress led by George Hamilton wannabe Boehner? “I knew Bill Clinton and you Mr. Obama are no Bill Clinton.”

  6. I thought slick Willy hated Obama. Is he being nice so Obama will support Hillary in 2016?

  7. Yes I am ready for nostalgia. I never thought I’d say this when he was in office, but given the bozos who have held the office since and considering the two bozos running for it this time, I’d give my left nut to have President Clinton back.

    1. He was a pretty bad president and would be remembered more for that badness without two things–the economic boom that had nothing to do with the government and the GOP Congress. We can do better.

      1. We can do better, sure, but have we done better? Considering the other people to hold the office, I honestly have to say that Clinton was probably one of the best presidents in the post war period. A terrible person, to be sure, but he did a good job as president.

        1. Except the whole murdering a hundred innocent civilians because they had a weird religion.

          I’d put a bullet in his head if he was standing here today.

          1. What president doesn’t have the blood of hundreds of innocent civilians on his hand? Again, while acknowledging Clinton was certainly not the ideal, I think he fairs better than most of the other people to have held the office in the modern era.

    2. Keep in mind, you just saw ‘booming economy’ Bill. Hard to say what ‘cratering economy’ Bill would be like..

      1. Good point. Anybody can play two aces.

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  9. My interest in “issues” is merely to point out how badly we’re doing, not to suggest a way we might do better. Don’t confuse me with those who cling to hope. I enjoy describing how things are, I have no interest in how they “ought to be.” And I certainly have no interest in fixing them. I sincerely believe that if you think there’s a solution, you’re part of the problem. http://www.cheapbeatsbydreheadphonesau.com/ My motto: Fuck Hope!

  10. He was a pretty bad president and would be remembered more for that badness without two things–the economic boom that http://www.nikefootballcleatsmercurial.org/ had nothing to do with the government and the GOP Congress. We can do better.

  11. How does Clinton reconcile his ability to get along with a GOP congress led by a prick like Gingrich while http://www.footballcleatstrade.org/ Obama can’t overcome a GOP Congress led by George Hamilton wannabe Boehner? “I knew Bill Clinton and you Mr. Obama are no Bill Clinton.”

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