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Marion On July - 27 - 2011

People are living longer. Just look at the number of ex-Presidents we have living yet. There are four, and I can’t remember when so many ex-leaders of the country have been alive and compos mentis.

There have always been ex-Presidents who lived beyond their term of office. Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman and Ike all lived to be reasonably, if not very old men; but it’s always been sort of an unwritten tradition that ex-Presidents were allowed to retire gracefully to work on their library legacy (unless you were an established criminal, like Richard Nixon, and then you were allowed to retire in ignominy) and were expected to refrain from comment or criticism of the incumbent, whether he was a member of their party or not.

Of course, many engaged in charitable or philanthropic endeavours and were wheeled out to wave or address the faithful at various party conventions or caucuses, but most knew enough to demur tactfully from any commentary on the state of the government of the day or the current inhabitant of the Oval Office.

Until now.

The last two Democratic Presidents are alive and well and within the public domain: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – the former a symbol of Democratic failure and the latter basking in a state of post-Presidential beatitude. I voted for both.

During the first year of Barack Obama’s tenure, at the height of a long, hot summer of Tea Party madness centering on the healthcare debate, when everyone was screaming “death panels” and “pulling the plug on Grandma,” NBC sought Jimmy Carter’s opinion about the strident scenes of ugly criticism directed at the 44th President of the United States, by his opposition, both elected and within the public domain.

Carter was quick to tell the obvious truth, which no one in the media wanted to confront: the real reason behind all this Tea Party insurrection, the demonstrations, the name-calling, the accusations and armed people showing up at rallies, was racism, pure and simple.

Carter was a Southern man, who’d come of age during the era of Jim Crow, a liberal Democrat from the geographic area which used to harbour the Democratic base. He knew and could readily identify racism, no matterr how subtle the perpetrator intended it to be, and the Rightwing of the day was hardly subtle. Straight up: The hatred borne by the Right against Obama was racial, pure and simple.

I, personally, think Carter hit the nail on the head. A lot of other people with whom I’ve spoken pretty much think so too; but obviously, this was an answer that unsettled the news media, and they took their cue from the White House, who played down the remarks entirely. They reported what Carter said, and moved on precipitously.

Well, of course, the White House would play down any insinuation of racism. This is a seminal Presidency. An African American in the White House isn’t going to play the race card, even when he’s cognizant enough to know exactly why he’s being meted the treatment he’s receiving from some sectors.

And so, President Carter was dusted off, thanked politely, and returned to his Presidential box.

It would appear in this instance, that absence did not make the heart grow fonder; or maybe Carter hit a bit too close to the truth, and maybe that truth isn’t just popping up on the Rightwing side of the political coin. Because now, several voices are being raised in identifying a brand of racism, peculiar to the radical chic of the extreme Left, emerging in Progressive quarters.

In the case of the Big Dog, Bill Clinton, absence has made some Democratic hearts pine longingly, and a Presidency which began twenty years ago is now viewed through rose-coloured glasses as a bastion of liberalism.

In political terms, Bill Clinton’s still a reasonably young man. As head of the Clinton Global Initiative, he’s frequently seen at high-powered and high-profiled events around the world and in the United States. I can’t remember another President who’s been interviewed as much and as often, post-Administration, by everyone from David Gregory on Meet the Press to David Letterman, right down to Jon Stewart. In fact, Bill Maher is messing his knickers at the prospect of getting Clinton on his program for an interview.

Even the President has called upon Clinton for help in getting his message across, especially when turning a press conference over to him after effecting the infamous (for blinkered, disgruntled EmoProgs) Bush tax cuts compromise.

Don’t think for one minute, Barack Obama didn’t know exactly what he was doing and why when he had Clinton answer questions asked by a press which have been nothing less than openly disrespectful to the current President. Any viewer with nous could cast his mind back to the sort of questioning the President had received only weeks before in the wake of the 2010 Midterm shellacking, when fluffly sprites like Savannah Guthrie insouciantly asked the President point blank if he “just didn’t get it,” and compare that with the measured, respectful questioning Clinton received when he addressed the press corps.

Since then, it seems as if almost every move or utterance the President has made has been followed a few days later by someone ferreting out Clinton for a comment. The 42nd President has been tact incarnate in refusing to comment or criticize a Democratic successor, but in the wake of the increasingly infuriating Republican intransigence regarding the debt ceiling, some perspicacious hack tracked Clinton down recently simply to ask him what he would have done in this instance.

Clinton replied that he would have used the 14th Amendment option and dared the courts to challenge him.

The press and the EmoProgs went wild.

More and more, in various areas of the Left’s photosphere, amidst all the speculation and media-enhanced spin about the President’s latest betrayal of “caving,” I’m seeing EmoProgs whine and wail about the good old days under Clinton, and wondering now amidst all this sturm und drang “WWBCD” (“What would Bill Clinton do?”)

It’s all very well and good for Mr Forty-Two to say he’d invoke the 14th Amendment in this current crisis. He’s the equivalent of an armchair quarterback now, lobbing suggestions from the sidelines, along with everyone else, after the fact, when, actually, if he were faced with such a similar situation, he’d do what he did for six years between 1994 and 2000: try to effect some sort of compromise with the Opposition.

It’s simultaneously funny and sinister how the most strident voices on the Left now channel Clinton, reincarnated as a Progressive’s dream, whilst at the same time their increasingly hateful rhetoric brings to mind those people, all over the country, to whom the 39th President referred.

You have to wonder why the longing for Bill Clinton has established itself so firmly that these people, as ignorant of history as their Rightwing brethren (it would appear) think life would be a Progressive’s wet dream if Slick Willie were staring down the recalcitrant ignorati inhabiting the House on Capitol Hill.

This is Bill Clinton, who, in 1993, effected the largest cuts to Medicare in the history of the program, backed by a Democratic Congress. That’s right. Bill Clinton cut Medicare significantly, and there was nary a peep from the high-profiled Liberals about in the day – not from Ted Kennedy in the Senate, not from Bernie Sanders, who was in the House at the time.

This is Bill Clinton, who abandoned any pretext to discussing healthcare reform after the same Democratic Congress slapped down his attempt. It was 17 years before this subject was addressed again, and this time it passed, successfully, despite the attempts of such so-called powerful Progressive voices like Jane Hamsher, to railroad the legislation.

This is Bill Clinton , who when the same Democratic Congress demurred allowing gays to serve openly in the military, instituted the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell legislation, which the current President managed to get repealed.

This is Bill Clinton, whose was forced to compromise for six of the eight years he served as President, because in the 1994 Midterms, he not only lost the House, but also the Senate, and he had to deal with one Speaker Newt Gingrich, who – in and of his day – was just as uncompromising as the current crop of fools on the Hill. He compromised, and – sorry – but I didn’t hear any sort of objective rumblings from the likes of Joan Walsh, who was certainly palling around in the incipient cyber blogworld of the day. If there were grumblings, they were always directed at the Republicans pulling the strings.

This is Bill Clinton who signed off on NAFTA and repealed Glass Steagall and signed DOMA into law, and this is Bill Clinton, whose Cabinet officials and advisors included some of the current President’s most strident and vocal critics of the day, Robert Reich and James Carville.

This is Bill Clinton, or a mythologically progressive facsimile thereof, that scores of EmoProgs are channelling each day as the clock ticks down to Debt Ceiling Armageddon.

It’s so easy to make people from our past into historical giants to the point that the somehow begin to resemble the gods from Olympus. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, Johnson – all become some sort of purist role models of strength to be emulated, figures of such gigantic moral proportion that the current incumbent of the White House becomes almost prosaic in comparison. It says quite another thing about our historical perspective when certain of us project such onto contemporary high-profiled figures still with us, like President Clinton. And it becomes more than wishful thinking when someone with a bully pulpit like Chris Matthews forgets himself (again) and refers to President Clinton as the President, not once or twice, but regularly in a segment on his show.

Think again about President Carter’s words, and all the ugly rhetoric and language being directed at the President (that’s President Obama, thank you) by various and sundry voices from the Left, high-profiled media voices whose thoughts and opinions trickle down to the lesser mortals who are their sheeple.

I supported Barack Obama’s candidacy from its beginning, and I’m a white, Southern woman. If you supported the centre-Left pragmatic realist that he was, good for you. If you supported a Progressive who was willing to die for single payer healthcare and ending all wars, you didn’t listen.

13 Responses so far.

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  1. agrippa says:

    I agree with what everyone has written.

    This is not over by any means, however this debt ceiling matter works out.

    On the matter of race, we have a lot of “unfinished business”.
    Racial prejudice is still with us. Race does a lot to do with this.

    This is difficult to separate from the anger and fear that is mostly caused by the recession and the failed GWB Administration.

  2. Firbolg says:

    I also believe Carter was correct. I live in a red district in Southern California and the remarks I hear and mass circulation emails that are passed on from neighbors validate Carter. And its not just Obama, it is also Mrs. Obama.
    That being said, I think all three presidents you mention plus the one in the middle, GWB, have been a disaster for ordianry Americans. My mantra is “Clinton set us up, Bush ran amok and Obama say’s “go suck.” The debt/deficit manufactured crisis is just another smokescreen behind which the less fortunate and seniors will have their pockets picked again. Just as in the MMA under Bush and Obama’s Affordable Healthcare -- or should that be wealthcare -- Act. Add the ongoing occupations and related slaughter of innocents in the perpetual wars, loss of constitutional protections and surrender to business and special interest money and you have the picture.

    • choicelady says:

      Hi Firbolg -- don’t know you, am also in CA, and have to vehemently disagree about where we currently are. Marion -- I SO agree with the elevation of Clinton as a Left Saint even though it was he who put us IN this mess that Bush so blithely used to make it worse. But Obama is doing his damndest to STOP it.

      I won’t belabor the health care issue other than to say that I’ve read the bill -- I’m a lobbyist in Sacramento working for a social justice organization -- and also the MA plan and its clone the failed Schwarzenegger plan. Obama’s plan is NOTHING like the MA plan in almost every way. I am a strong supporter of single payer in CA and discovered that the payment plan for the new federal health care reform will be based on CA’s single payer schedule -- a sliding percentage based on your income rather than the MA plan of a flat fee with HUGE deductibles and out of pocket costs ($5000 and $10,000 per person per year) in MA. Unlike MA the federal plan limits “risk rates” (higher costs as you grow older) and most of all allows rate regulation in your state -- CA bill AB 52 is currently establishing the mechanism.

      The one thing it does NOT do is eliminate private insurance. Why? The votes to do that were NOT available. The federal single payer had 85 supporters, period. One does not, if you have any sense, wage a Don Quixote battle for principle when it’s doomed.

      But the current plan, presuming we can regain control of the Congress, does open the door for a public option that would ease the path -- just as occurred in Europe -- to single payer. That is a huge accomplishment, and in the meantime, ask any of us on the Planet who just GOT insurance whether they are not relieved to finally have something they can afford that gives them real health coverage.

      Obama’s accomplishments have been methodical, deliberate, and successful. He has undone much of the damage left by both Clinton and Bush, all within the teeth of the nastiest opposition I’ve seen in my lifetime. It makes the opposition to Clinton look like a playground dispute. And Clinton caved on EVERY issue while Obama has not. The deal he waged in the Lame Duck was brilliant -- he traded two years of the Bush tax cuts for HUGE benefits for ordinary people. Only 14% of the deal went to those cuts and the other 86% went to us. He is also NOT caving on these issues in this crisis.

      His refusal to exercise the “14th Amendment” option is borne out of realistic appraisal -- Clinton can boast he’d have used it. I doubt it. This Supreme Court would crucify Obama for it because their decisions have flown in the face of Constitutional law over and over. Then, having been adjudged wrong (even if right), Issa would move impeachment against Obama. He will not, cannot, give the Right that capacity to screw up this nation as they did with Clinton’s impeachment. There is a huge RW conspiracy -- make NO mistake about that. This is the MOST dangerous period in this nation’s history since the Civil War. Obama is fighting for the stability of the nation, nothing less.

      For those of us who want a full tilt battle between left and right -- the outcome is totally uncertain. Unless and until you can assure that sanity and maturity would actually triumph -- and don’t fool yourself that we’re “progressive” when only 80 members of Congress out of 535 are in the Caucus -- then don’t start something you cannot be sure you will finish.

      Obama is the most conscientious president ever. Not flashy but careful and securing very important accomplishments that will endure. That should be something we celebrate. But it takes careful assessment and not impatient wishful thinking to see what all has been done. And the MSM is no damned help nor are most blogs (the Planet is the exception) with the posturing and “sky is falling” rhetoric.

      Thanks Marion -- this is a very good analysis of what is being thrown at Obama and why. We all need to keep our eyes on the prize.

      • Firbolg says:

        In his speech the other day Obama said “Americans voted for divided government, not for a dysfunctional government”. This is typical of his mastery of newspeak which, I have to admit, took me in during the presidential campaign. I have become sadder and wiser since experiencing his total behavior, not just his clever rhetoric. I now understand that his “…clinging to guns and religion…” remark and his praise for Reagan was the real Obama.
        In Francis Fukuyama’s new book “The Origins of Political Order” he writes “left to their own devices, elites tend to increase the size of their (wealth), and in the face of this, rulers have two choices. They can side with the peasantry and use state power to promote reform…or the rulers can side with the aristocracy and use state power to reinforce the hold of local oligarchs over their peasants.” I believe Obama came to this T junction during the campaign and turned hard right and has not looked back ever since.
        I believe the president should be the middleman between the electorate and the other arms of government. His job is not always to “go with the flow” but often to oppose it. Sometimes, as was the case with LBJ who, like Obama took over and augmented an unpopular, atrocity plagued and pointless war, it meant sacrificing another term even though he did a statesman’s job in persisting with civil rights and Medicare. Obama should do the right thing for the country and follow LBJ’s example.

        • AdLib says:

          Hi Firblog!

          I don’t see what your issue with his statement about divided vs. dysfunctional.

          The point seems straightforward and sensible, voters elected a Congress that is divided because they were unhappy with Obama and the Dems but I doubt their motivation was to have manufactured crises and greater neglect occur.

          The public unquestionably wants action and voted for change in 2010 whereas, the GOP wants inaction in order to damage Obama’s re-election chances.

          So in the end, his representation seems accurate.

          As to Obama pushing back, he may not have pushed back as much as many of us have wanted but neither did he agree to any of the Repub bills including Borhner’s latest.

          Historically, Presidents usually do move with the results of midterms and the sentiment they express. Clinton did. In an election year when GHW Bush saw where public sentiment was going, he even broke his own “no new taxes” pledge and raised new taxes.

          Presidents are supposed to represent all Americans, not just those who voted for him. We had enough of a Pres Bush who actually said that he was there to serve the people who voted for him, not all Americans.

          I don’t think Obama should be like that, either. He’s not just President of Progressives or Dems, he’s President of all Americans so if a many Americans want him to appreciate their views as well, he should.

          Doesn’t mean he has to always follow public opinion but if a huge swath of Americans’ opinions are irrelevant to a President, we end up governed just as in George Bush’s disastrous reign.

          • Firbolg says:

            Apologies, Adlib.
            I thought I was still on a thread and responding to “Choicelady” above. Also I was referring to Obama’s speech – not to what anyone wrote when I mentioned “new members”. I think we have run out of space and far from common ground on this thread so let’s just agree to differ.

            • bito says:

              @Firbolg, one can always go to the top and when room on a thread “runs out” if they want to continue, just mark it with a @ and name to get the persons attention. To reduce any confusion I try to always name the person I’m replying to and they will usually see it in the “recent comments.”

          • Firbolg says:

            I thought that as a lobbyist you would have a deeper understanding of spin. I would be surprised if any voter went to the polls to deliberately elect a “divided government”. That result is due to our simplistic and corrupt political system but Obama’s genius is to make it appear the voters’ fault and have everyone swallow that whole – apparently including you. Saying this in the context of belittling the “new members of Congress” (or did you miss that as well?) clearly was no accident. The subtitles to what he said are “if you don’t vote for incumbents and the status quo you deserve what you get”.
            Also your description is of a follower and not a leader and very clearly applies to Obama. Martin Luther King was a leader; he stood against the flow and paid for it – but the nation benefited. Obama tries to appease everyone from the well intentioned to be trusted to the torturer to be shunned but particularly the elite who are already stuffing his election coffers. He follows fanatics to the brink of the deep hole they dug for themselves to plead and cajole and offer them concessions that hurt the tolerant and disadvantaged. Please – give us a least one statesman every 8 years or so.

            • AdLib says:

              You’re mistaken, I am not a lobbyist.

              I don’t get the logic of your claim that Americans didn’t vote for who they voted for and that it is Obama’s nefarious plan to make it appear that they voted for more Republicans in the House and more Democrats in The Senate.

              It is a fact that Americans voted for a politically divided government. They did not vote for a single philosophy or party to be in power. All of those who voted for Republicans knew that the President was a Democrat and that electing Republicans into power meant dividing power between parties.

              So yes, de facto, Americans as a whole voted for divided government.

              I didn’t use the phrase “new members of Congress”, please read my comment again. Even so, your projection onto such a factual term as being an insult is quite odd. How do you differentiate between old and new members of Congress without calling new members “new”?

              You’re mistaken again in asserting that I said anything about voting for incumbents. Putting words in others’ mouths so they can be attacked only damages one’s own credibility.

              You propose that a leader should not represent the will of the people. That makes no sense in a democracy. It only makes sense in a dictatorship or tyranny which unfortunately, some people on both the right and left are clamoring for due to their insistent, absolutist and extremist views.

              There is no difference between someone claiming to be liberal who wants a dictatorial President and someone claiming to be a conservative who wants the same. An intolerance for compromise and other Americans who may have opposing views, as we’re seeing from the GOP, damages our democracy and makes it impossible to progress or govern.

              There are good reasons to have strong emotions about things going on in our country right now. However, emotion can blind one to the way things really are, making one perceive conspiracies and evil that only really exists inside their own imagination.

              I think the problem for some is that they believe that they should get all that they want or all they expect from others and anything less is a betrayal or a sign of evil. That is not realistic or wise, life is full of conflicts between what some want and what others want. Compromise between what one wants and what one can have is more often the case in life.

              Those who accept this seek solutions, those who don’t just simmer their lives in resentment.

            • jkkFL says:

              Which new members of Congress do you find outstanding? Clearly, you are seeing members I have overlooked.
              As for Statesmen; they seem to be in damn short supply as well.. but I would entertain your version of the current crop of nominees.

  3. KQuark says:

    I think it’s a little disingenuous for Clinton to say he would invoke the 14th amendment when it would be a terrible idea to invoke it before the deadline because it automatically means a ratings downgrade. However I again think the hatchet job is unnecessary. I also don’t see the left canonizing Clinton for his stance on this issue in fact I see more progressives say Obama should be like Bush on this which is more disgusting.

    But as a last resort the president may have to go to the 14th amendment because while a ratings downgrade is bad, defaulting is worse.

    I really see Congress passing the debt ceiling increase at least. Just because they don’t want the president to look like the winner in this at all.

  4. Bauart says:

    I think President Carter was right, and correct to call it out. Many people say they just don’t like President Obama. But if you notice, a great deal of that opposition comes from the Southern states. I believe, whether they even know it about themselves, that the Tea-Party is rooted in racism. It may have evolved since, but that is certainly where it began. It’s just sad that they have hog-tied the GOP and are now considered the Republican base.

    • Marion says:

      Not just the South and not just the Tea Party. There’s plenty of nuanced racism amongst the Firebaggers of the Left. And many of the celebrity talking head Lefties.


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