Saturday, May 26 , 2018, 3:15 pm | A Few Clouds 71º

 
 
 
 

Mark Shields: The Real Clinton Presidential Record Unmasked

About the time the Dodgers abandoned Brooklyn for Los Angeles, my savvy precinct captain drilled into all her workers this rule: A week is a lifetime in politics, and a month is an eternity. This should be a warning for all wise people handicapping the 2016 presidential race who have already conceded the Democratic nomination to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the dominant front-runner in the polls.

How dominant? In the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, an overwhelming 86 percent of Democrats said they could see themselves supporting Clinton for their party’s nomination, whereas just 13 percent of Democrats could not.

By contrast, some 49 percent of Republican voters can see themselves supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for the GOP nomination, but 42 percent of Republicans are now unable to visualize their supporting Bush.

Already the old one-liners from Clinton’s 2008 campaign are being recycled, seeking to recall past presidential transgressions. An example: “If Hillary Clinton does win, do you know what that will mean? Answer: Bill Clinton in the White House all day with nothing to do!”

But in today’s almost rancid political atmosphere, when voters were asked to rate their positive or negative “feelings” toward major public figures and both George W. and Jeb Bush collected fewer positive than negative scores, Bill Clinton, the most popular president of the past quarter-century, received a 52 percent positive rating to only 26 percent negative.

American elections are always about the future. But the Clinton presidential record is real and deserves remembering. Elected when the federal budget deficit was at a historical high and when the U.S. economic growth rate under his Republican predecessor had fallen to the lowest level in more than a half-century, Clinton pushed a controversial economic program that raised income taxes on the wealthiest 1.4 percent of Americans. Every Republican in the House of Representatives and the Senate voted against the Clinton plan. Then-House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., predicted: “This is the Democrat machine’s recession, and each one of them will be held personally accountable.”

Gingrich was, to put it gently, absolutely wrong. What followed was the creation, during Clinton’s eight White House years, of 22,891,000 jobs — 93 percent of them in the private sector.

By comparison, during the combined 20 years of Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, there were 19,985,000 jobs created.

Under Clinton, the United States attained its lowest unemployment rate in 30 years. The unemployment rate among women was at its lowest in 40 years, while the unemployment rates among African-Americans and Hispanics were the lowest in history.

The United States went from having the biggest budget deficits ever to having a balanced budget and the biggest budget surpluses ever.

If the 22nd Amendment, limiting a president to two terms, had not been on the books, it’s a good bet that Bill Clinton — scandals, scar tissue and all — would have been re-elected to a third term in 2000.

What we now need to remind ourselves and every presidential candidate of is the timeless insight of the late CBS commentator Eric Sevareid: “The difference between the men (update that to the grown-ups) and the boys (the adolescents) in politics is ... that the boys want to be something, while the men want to do something.”

It’s past time to demand that every would-be Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt name what three specific laws — just three, no 10-point programs, thank you — that he or she would enact, change or repeal. Then we could actually have a national debate in which candidates campaign on what they stand for instead of whom they’re running against.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >