“(Pres. Bill Clinton) beat the hell out of us first, for a year. He pummeled us for a year. … He didn’t roll over the second we walked in. … Then he out-negotiated us for a year. He brought us to our knees.” – Joe Scarborough
Those were the days. A time when a Democratic president in the White House knew how to wage a political fight. Today, not only has Pres. Obama ceded our national economic policies to Republicans and Tea Party extortionists, but he’s managed to alter the entire debate forever.
What we have done, Larry, also is set a new template. In the future, any president, this one or another one, when they request us to raise the debt ceiling, it will not be clean anymore. This is just the first step. This, we anticipate, will take us into 2013. Whoever the new president is, is probably going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again. Then we will go through the process again and see what we can continue to achieve in connection with these debt ceiling requests of presidents to get our financial house in order. – Sen. Mitch McConnell
Joe Scarborough was there and explained it best back when the Gingrich revolution rolled into Washington, something I remember well. Joe also makes the Democratic argument starting at around 6:45, with the money quote at 11:45 on the video above.
Back in the ’90s, William Jefferson Clinton had many things going for him Obama didn’t have during the debt ceiling debacle. First, as Kara Brandeisky writes in TNR, there was a roaring economy, but there were also no Republicans willing to take the country over a financial cliff.
Pres. Clinton had something else too. Yes, he became a Third Way centrist hated by progressives, but Clinton drew a line in concrete on what he would accept and not accept. But more importantly, he didn’t let the Republican extortionists set the terms of goddam debate.
November 9, 1995, a senior administration official told the Washington Post, “Our position is it does not matter what they put on this legislation, we are not going to accept anything but clean bills because we will not be blackmailed over default. Get it? No extortion. No blackmail. What you hear are their screams of complaint as they realize we are not, not, not budging on this.” – How Clinton Handled His Debt Ceiling Crisis Better Than Obama
As Jonathan Chait notes as well, it’s not about looking at Bill Clinton’s centrist presidency, which was filled with compromises, with rose-colored glasses, which isn’t going to happen anyway.
Obama and his loyalists have gone overboard the same way George W. Bush did when he came in. Bush’s Anything But Bill strategy led to the demoting of the first terrorism export, then 9/11. Obama’s aversion to Bill Clinton’s politics, but also Obama’s arrogance in not learning the lessons of his presidency, especially his hardball tactics that go back to Lyndon Johnson, has now given Republican economics to America.
Worse yet, Obama has also told his adversaries that there isn’t anything he won’t do to avoid a confrontation, while simultaneously yielding the economic debate to Republicans.
Clinton may be a lot of things, but he wasn’t a political coward.