The Return of Bill Clinton
After eight years of Obama, will the Clinton family be a refreshing change?
For a preview of what the next two to ten years will look like, check out the video of Bill Clinton's speech this past weekend at Senator Harkin's Iowa Steak Fry.
It's been long enough since Clinton was president that some of us may have forgotten the low points. The youngest eligible voters in 2016 will be so young that they don't even remember the Clinton presidency. They weren't even born in 1992, when I was in Madison Square Garden covering the Democratic National Convention that nominated the Arkansas governor.
But if your memory of the years 1992 to 2000 is nonexistent or rose-colored, the steak fry speech is really something, a vivid reminder of Clinton in full demagoguery mode.
"Think about America. We are less racist, sexist, and homophobic than we have ever been. But we do have one continuing problem. We don't want to be around anyone who disagrees with us," Clinton said. "We have got to pull this country together to push this country forward."
While extolling unity and pluralism, Clinton proceeded to describe Republicans as a bunch of mindless, rabid, racists. "They're trying to get you to check your brain at the door, start foaming at the mouth, push some hot button. The last thing they want you to do is think," he said.
"Every time Republicans win a secretary of state job, seems like they try to restrict voting rights, and I really don't like that too much," Clinton said.
If Republicans take over Congress, Clinton claimed, "they would simply shut the government down over and over and over again."
Asked by reporters if Hillary Clinton could win Iowa, Bill Clinton reportedly replied, "I won it twice!" Yet as Politico's Maggie Haberman noted, he lost the 1992 Iowa caucuses, finishing third behind Senator Harkin and Paul Tsongas.
One of Bill Clinton's great achievements as president was to win passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a tariff reduction treaty that Clinton's Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has described, together with other tariff reductions through GATT/WTO, as "the largest tax cut in the history of the world." Yet at the Iowa Steak Fry, Clinton danced away from that accomplishment, emphasizing what he called "fair trade and not just free trade."
Clinton faulted Republicans for running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Then he launched a blistering attack of his own on the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell.
Clinton is leading a parallel direct mail campaign, sending letters over his signature and on his letterhead on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee claiming that "a Republican Senate could stop our efforts to raise the minimum wage, secure equal pay for women, protect Americans' right to vote, and reform our broken immigration system."
Clinton's great domestic policy achievement other than free trade, welfare reform, was not mentioned by him at the Iowa Steak Fry or in the DSCC letter.
Leave that for the general election. Just as Hillary Clinton has been distancing herself from President Obama's foreign policy and positioning herself as a disciple of Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton will surely find a way, once the midterm elections and the Democratic primary is over, to tone down the partisan leftism and reach out to more centrist and independent voters. As he confided to the Steak Fry audience, a secret of political message making is that "Without being dishonest, you want to appeal to as many people as you can."
After eight years of Obama, that may be a refreshing change. Or it may be that voters in 2016 feel the way they did back in 2008 — they've had enough of the Clintons and are ready for someone new.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission forced Intrade to stop accepting bets from Americans on election outcomes. In politics, one never wants to underestimate the Clintons. Even so, if cheap options were available on non-Clinton presidential candidates, now would be a good time to do some buying.