Archive for the ‘Bill Clinton’ Category

Opinion from The Los Angeles Times –

By Jonah Goldberg Sept. 30, 2008

On Sunday evening, Republican House Minority Leader John A. Boehner explained his considered opinion on the $700-billion Wall Street bailout plan: It’s a “crap sandwich,” he said, but he was going to eat it.

Well, it turned out he couldn’t shove it down his colleagues’ throats. The bill failed on a bipartisan basis, but it was the Republicans who failed to deliver the votes they promised. Some complained that Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi drove some of them to switch their votes with her needlessly partisan floor speech on the subject. Of course Pelosi’s needlessly partisan. This is news?

The Republican complaint is beyond childish. Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, a man saturated with guilt for this crisis, nonetheless was right to ridicule the GOP crybabies on Monday. “I’ll make an offer,” he added. “Give me [their] names and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them and tell them what wonderful people they are and maybe they’ll now think about the country.”

Would that Frank had been imbued with such a spirit earlier. Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has spent the last few years ridiculing Alan Greenspan, John McCain and others who sought more regulation for Fannie Mae’s market-distorting schemes — the fons et origo of this financial crisis. Now he says “the private sector got us into this mess.” His partner in crime, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), a chief beneficiary of Fannie Mae lobbyists’ largesse, claims this mess is the result of poor oversight — without even hinting at the fact he is in charge of oversight of banks. They sound like pimps complaining about the prevalence of STDs among prostitutes.

And let us not forget that the Democrats, with a 31-seat majority, could not get 95 of their own to vote for the bailout, largely because it didn’t provide enough taxpayer money to their left-wing special interests. Would that they thought about the country.

The one man who truly tried to treat this crisis like a crisis — McCain — was ridiculed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who implored him to come to Washington to help in the first place. And the news media, which now treat any Republican action that threatens a Barack Obama victory as inherently dishonorable, uncritically accepted the bald Democratic lie that McCain ruined a bipartisan bailout deal last Friday.

This is not to say that McCain knows what to do. Faced with an unprecedented financial crisis involving frozen global credit markets and a maelstrom of moral hazard, his standard response is to talk about wiping out earmarks and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. Memo to Mr. McCain: Waste, fraud and abuse are the only things holding the system together at this point.

Obama is no better. The man has spent two weeks irresponsibly excoriating his opponent for saying the fundamentals of the economy are strong — a perfectly leaderly thing for McCain to have said during a panic. Then, campaigning in Colorado on Monday, the day the market plunged 777.68 points, Obama proclaimed: “We’ve got the long-term fundamentals that will really make sure this economy grows.”

Perhaps after Al Qaeda seizes Baghdad, a President Obama would finally declare, “Hey, we can win this thing!”

Meanwhile, President Bush, his popularity ratings stuck at below-freezing numbers, has decided to cling to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson for warmth on the grounds that the vaunted former Goldman Sachs chair has the credibility to sell the solution to a problem he’s been exacerbating for 18 months. When a reporter for Forbes magazine asked a Treasury spokesman last week why Congress had to lay out $700 billion, the answer came back: “It’s not based on any particular data point.” Rather: “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”

There’s a confidence builder.

As for the reputedly free-market firebrands of the congressional GOP, with whom my sympathies generally lie, I cannot let pass without comment the fact that they controlled the legislative branch for most of the last eight years. Only now, when capitalism is in flames, does this fire brigade try to enforce the free-market fire codes without compromise.

I loathe populism. But if there ever has been a moment when reasonable men’s hands itch for the pitchfork, this must surely be it. No one is blameless. No one is pure. Two decades of crapulence by the political class has been prologue to the era of coprophagy that is now upon us. It is crap sandwiches for as far as the eye can see.

It seems that Hillary is acting very presidential already! And now we get a glimpse of how Bill would handle his future roll as First Gentleman.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign forced a magazine to drop a negative story about her by threatening to cut off the publication’s access to the former President Bill Clinton, it emerged yesterday.

The ruthless response to GQ magazine, and its decision to bow to the ultimatum, reflects the enormous leverage Mr Clinton brings to his wife’s White House bid at a time when her quest for the Democratic nomination appears more formidable than ever.

The magazine, which is due to have Mr Clinton on its cover for its December issue, was told that the former President would no longer cooperate unless it pulled an article it was about to publish detailing infighting and tensions within Mrs Clinton’s campaign.

Despite protests at the magazine, the article was duly sidelined, according to a respected US political website. In an e-mail statement to The Times, Jim Nelson, the Editor of GQ, said: “I don’t really get into the inner workings of the magazine, but I can tell you that, yes, we did kill a Hillary piece. We kill pieces all the time for a variety of reasons.” He refused to elaborate.

The move by the Clinton campaign provides a graphic example of the be-hind-the-scenes hardball tactics it employs in keeping the New York senator’s relentlessly disciplined presidential bid on track and on message, and the power that she and her husband have in shaping how her White House bid is perceived.

On Sunday Mrs Clinton pulled off the rare feat of appearing on all five Sunday-morning political talk shows, a privilege the networks are unlikely to afford her rivals. Her lead in the national Democratic polls over her nearest rival, Barack Obama, is so big – almost 20 per cent – that pundits are now asking not if she can win the nomination, but if she can be stopped.

President Bush also thinks that she will win the nomination, it emerged yesterday, and has even indicated in private that he believes she will succeed him. White House aides, on Mr Bush’s instructions, have been privately briefing her – and other Democrat candidates – about Iraq in case she wins the election next November. They have been urging her not to commit to an immediate withdrawal if she takes office in January 2009, because Mr Bush wants his successor – Democrat or Republican – to continue prosecuting the war after he leaves the Oval Office.

Although Mr Bush often says that he will not handicap elections, he told the author of a new biography about him that Mrs Clinton has “got a great national presence, and this is becoming a national primary”. In an off-the-record session with broadcast journalists just over a week ago, Mr Bush, according to those in the room, gave the impression that he thought she would win the presidency and that he had been thinking about how to turn Iraq over to her.

Mrs Clinton’s lead in national polls, and similarly big leads over Mr Obama in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, means that the contest in the first nominating state of Iowa has become crucial.

With Mrs Clinton succeeding in making her nomination look almost inevitable, her rivals are expected to be more aggressive and critical in a Democratic debate tomorrow night in New Hampshire, aware that time is running out to derail her.

From The Times UK Online

For years Alan Greenspan, the most famous central banker in the history of the job, spoke in a careful code. His chosen means of communication was the oracular observation, hedged around by qualifying subclauses, parenthetical asides and carefully balanced counterfactuals, that could be understood only by those with a detailed knowledge of monetary policy and financial markets.

He once told an audience, in all seriousness: “I guess I should warn you. If I turn out to be particularly clear, you’ve probably misunderstood what I’ve said.”

But with the publication of his memoir, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, this week, it is as though the oracle has suddenly grabbed a microphone and started to gossip frantically about all the hopeless souls who had been consulting it all these years.

President Bush is portrayed as irresponsible and incurious (who knew?). The former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve says that Mr Bush presided over intolerable increases in government spending. “My biggest frustration remained the President’s unwillingness to wield his veto against out-of-control spending.”

He had hoped that his colleague from the Ford Administration, Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, would be a force for economic prudence and fiscal discipline. Instead, “I was soon to see my old friends veer off to unexpected directions”.

Republicans who controlled Congress for most of the past ten years “lost their way” and “swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither.”

By contrast, Mr Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, was a “risk-taker”, who had shown a “preference for dealing in facts”, and something of a soulmate for the data-obsessed Mr Greenspan.

“Here was a fellow information hound . . . We both read books and were curious and thoughtful about the world . . . I never ceased to be surprised by his fascination with economic detail: the effect of Canadian lumber on housing prices and inflation . . . He had an eye for the big picture, too.”

When it emerged that he also had an eye for something else – an intern by the name of Monica Lewinsky – Mr Greenspan was left feeling “disappointed and sad”.

The first President Bush gets short shrift for trying to strong-arm the central bank into an easier monetary policy so that he could get reelected in 1992. (He failed.) President Reagan’s tendency to formulate policy and ideology from anecdotes represented an “odd form of intelligence”.

The Iraq war, Mr Greenspan says, was “largely about oil”. The excitement that that seems to have caused in some sections of the media might be tempered by his somewhat testy acknowledgement earlier in the book that he was left out of the inner circle of policy advisers around President Bush.

For all the chatty observations about politicians and events he encountered in 19 years at the Fed, for today’s turbulent financial markets it is his account of monetary policy in the past few years that is of most interest. To the growing number of Greenspan critics, the former Fed Chairman, who once enjoyed godlike status on Wall Street, is largely to blame for the sub-prime mortgage crisis that is behind today’s turmoil. They say he allowed a bubble to develop in the housing market between 2001 and 2006, his last five years at the Fed, when he cut interest rates too far and kept them low for too long. Mr Greenspan acknowledges that he did not see the scale of the problems in the sub-prime housing sector. “I didn’t really get it until very late in 2005 and 2006,” he said last night in an interview on CBS News timed to coincide with the book launch.

But he insists that the Fed was right to cut interest rates – to an historic low of 1 per cent by 2003 and to keep them there for a year – because of the very real risk of deflation.

“We wanted to shut down the possibility of corrosive deflation,” he argues. “We were willing to chance that by cutting rates we thought might foster a bubble, an inflationary boom of some sort, which we would subsequently have to address . . . It was a decision done right.”

He says that the housing bubble was caused, in any case, by other factors – mainly the end of communism, which brought new countries into the global economy and pushed down wages, prices and long-term interest rates (to which most US mortgages are tied).

He also argues that it is always better and easier for a central bank to respond – aggressively, if necessary – to the damaging effects of economic or financial events by cutting interest rates. That, at least, ought to resonate with Ben Bernanke, Mr Greenspan’s successor at the Fed.

Mr Bernanke and his fellow US central bankers gather tomorrow for the most important meeting of his short tenure so far, where the debate seems to be not about whether, but by how much, to cut interest rates in response to the financial turmoil of the past two months.

From The Times UK

We will not be posting Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2007. We are participating in the STRIKE FOR PEACE.

If you’ve had enough, you need to say “When.” Say-when.org

 

We’ve been asking the question “Why Clinton and not Bush?!” This article explains it very clearly – along with why we won’t be seeing any real change any time soon.

by Butler Shaffer

Why do the Democrats, with control of both the House and Senate since last year’s elections, continue to twiddle their thumbs over the policies and practices of a corrupt president? Yes, they did spearhead a bill through the House that requires a withdrawal of troops from Iraq by April, 2008, a measure that media propagandists dutifully offered as having some significance. But those who take the time to carefully read legislation realize that this was but another empty, cynical gesture; the latest expression of “bipartisan” meaninglessness designed solely to placate an increasingly disgruntled booboisie. Even in the unlikelihood of the bill being signed by the president – assuming a similar proposal passes the Senate – there does not appear to be sufficient Congressional support for it to override his veto.

But Mr. Bush’s signing or non-signing of such legislation would not restrain his continuing the mayhem and slaughter visited upon Iraqis who do not fully appreciate their “liberation.” The bill contains a number of provisos, such as the keeping of a sufficient number of soldiers to help train Iraqi troops, to protect U.S. government properties, and to fight terrorists. The judgment as to when such conditions exist, and what numbers of troops would be necessary to deal with such problems, would, of course, remain in the hands of Mr. Bush. In other words, this bill would leave the president in precisely the same position he now enjoys, with this added benefit: he could rationalize his policies in terms of carrying out the express will of Congress!

Serious critics of both Mr. Bush and the Democrats ask why the latter do not undertake the impeachment of the former. Nancy Pelosi, whose every word and gesture belie the allegedly oppositional role of the Democrats, announced, immediately after the 2006 election results, that the impeachment of Mr. Bush was not a matter the Democrats would pursue with their newly-gained power. “Why not?”, many asked, particularly since Congress had been eager to impeach Bill Clinton for his far-lesser offenses. Should a man who lied America into an unprovoked, criminal attack that has thus far produced a million deaths, be more favorably treated than a man who lied about his sexual behavior in the White House? The few intelligent minds remaining in this intellectually benumbed society continue to ask this question.

If one takes the trouble to examine the matter from the perspective of the machinations that dominate all political behavior, the answer becomes apparent. Though Republicans and Democrats have their personal and minor policy differences, they are in agreement on one basic point: their “bipartisan” support for the preservation and aggrandizement of the power of the state. They understand – as do members of the mainstream media – that their principal obligation is to serve the well-being of the political power structure that long ago laid uncontested claim to the ownership of modern society.

The interests of Democratic and Republican officials alike are best served by the maximization of political power. If “government” is defined as an agency enjoying a monopoly on the lawful use of force within a given territory, what politically ambitious person would not want to enjoy as much of that power as he or she can muster? And since such a purpose not only suits the interests of the ruling establishment, but defines its existence, a symbiotic relationship between these two groups is easily fashioned.

Because the state and its de facto owners thrive on the exercise of force, any circumstance that enhances the power of government will be embraced and eagerly pursued. This is the meaning behind Randolph Bourne’s classic observation that “war is the health of the state.” It also explains the well-orchestrated fervor over global warming or any other dire threat du jour. Likewise, anything that diminishes state power will be resisted by all who have a vested interest in the exercise of such authority. At its base, this is what accounts for the refusal of the political establishment and its news media to acknowledge the existence of Ron Paul’s candidacy. Paul is persona non grata to these forces for one reason alone: his insistence upon drastically reducing state power.

Because, as Acton reminded us, power is a corrupting influence and, as such, its excesses can dissipate the public sanction upon which its continued exercise depends, the state must occasionally perform cosmetic surgery upon itself in order to restore its image. Thus, civil liberties groups may be successful in getting the courts to enjoin some minor prohibition (e.g., a statute criminalizing flag-burning), not out of any innate defense of individual liberty, but to create the appearance that the state is a force that can be tamed by a reasoned dedication to principle. In such ways does Boobus Americanus get lulled into the passive mindset that allows state power to retain its popular image as a latent but controllable system.

But what events or conditions are appropriate for this cathartic exercise? If there is a growing popular disaffection for governmental excesses, to what ritualistic remedies might the establishment resort without, in the process, posing a threat to the power base upon which it is is dependent? The exercise of monopoly powers can often prove embarrassing to the state which must, for the sake of not looking foolish or unprincipled, resort to superficial hygienic measures.

When Bill Clinton’s social life became an embarrassment to the establishment, his impeachment had the aforementioned cleansing consequences without, in the process, threatening the power structure. Lying about one’s sexual behavior – particularly when conducted in the inner sanctum of state power (i.e., the Oval Office) – is not an activity that is either essential to, or enhances, the exercise of state power. Thus, Clinton could be impeached, and public respect for the presidency restored without, in the process, depleting the coercive authority of the state. For the same reason can the likes of “Scooter” Libby, Lynndie England, Jack Abramoff, et al., be offered up in sacrifice to the purgative needs of the state.

The Iraq war – both as to its genesis and conduct – has likewise proven an embarrassment to the established order. The lies, deception, forged documents, and corporate-state financial corruption that have defined this undertaking, have sent public respect for President Bush as well as Congress into free-fall. The state cannot long endure such humiliation. But what can be done about it? Impeaching Bill Clinton was relatively easy, because state power was not threatened in any way. But in the case of George W., his malefactions go to the essence of power. He has dismantled any semblance of constitutional government, with its “separation of powers,” into a “unitary presidency” which, in any other society, would correctly be labeled a “dictatorship.” Nor does Mr. Bush make any pretense to the contrary, referring to himself as “the decider” and having, on more than one occasion, expressed his preference for a dictatorship, “just so long as I’m the dictator.”

President Bush feels not the least bit constrained by such niceties as the Bill of Rights, nor of the power of Congress to legislate regarding matters of which he disapproves. He will sign legislation and then state his intentions to selectively enforce, or to ignore altogether, statutory provisions enacted by Congress. He has also announced his intentions to attack – with nuclear weapons, should he desire to use them – any nation he has unilaterally selected as “terrorist.” Should even the slightest squeak of protest be offered to his despotic practices, he will play to the peanut gallery by invoking “the troops,” or “terrorism,” or the phrase that his would-be successor, Rudy Giuliani, has made the entirety of his campaign: “9/11.” He has elevated himself, with little or no objection from most Americans, to the status Louis XIV once declared of himself: “I am the state.”

Don’t think that any of this has gone unnoticed or unappreciated by either the owners of the political apparatus, or the politicians and government officials who are allowed to play on it. With only token objection, Mr. Bush has greatly expanded the exercise of arbitrary, unrestrained executive power and, in so doing, ended any pretense of a system of constitutionally-defined government. With the idea of an imperial presidency so readily accepted by most Americans, the owners and managers of the political order are reluctant to advocate any actions that might threaten this newly-gained source of power.

We have already seen, in the so-called Republican “debates,” how eager so many of their presidential hopefuls are to emulate the war-making practices of Mr. Bush. Nor do most of the Democrats show any dispositions for a restrained American state. I can imagine Al Gore drooling over the prospects of becoming “the decider” of matters related to global warming, or Hillary Clinton envisioning herself as the “dictator” of health care to the American people.

The thought of impeaching Mr. Bush thus poses a major dilemma to all members of the political establishment. If the deceit, corruption, criminality, and downright stupidity of his administration have so embarrassed the system as to endanger its continued approval, is it possible to rehabilitate its image by any means short of impeachment? But since his impeachment would necessarily implicate the over-grasping for power that the rest of the political order would love to exercise on behalf of their own ambitions, dare any such hearings be undertaken?

Thomas Jefferson got it right when, in 1819, he observed: “Experience has already shown that the impeachment the Constitution has provided is not even a scarecrow.” Those who seek or want to hold onto their existing power are not about to condemn the man who has done so much to extend its reach.

July 17, 2007

 

Butler Shaffer teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival.

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