“There is nothing patriotic about hating your country, or pretending that you love your country but despise your government.” President Bill Clinton
He went by the name of Bill Clinton and not only was he the most charismatic President since JFK, he was gifted with a genus like level of understanding of social policy and crucially, was a centrist conservative with a Deep South accent.
Don’t believe me? He reformed welfare, believed in free trade and balanced the budget with a strong economy, used a tough love foreign policy and cut the federal payroll to trim big government…oh and throw in that he was pro-death penalty. To the conservative movements utter horror here was a Democrat that middle America could vote for and love. And all this in spite of his silly personal misdemeanours (utterly blown out of proportion by the right but only because they feared him so much), he polled the most consistently high level of job approval since the aforementioned JFK. No wonder that when Newt Gingrich saw Clinton speak he commented:
“We’re dead. There is no way we’re going to beat this guy.”
It was a sign perhaps of the awesome political proposition Clinton presented, that he vexed the right so much, indeed Clinton bought out the ugliest, intolerant traits in the conservative movement but then he didn’t help himself. His first two acts when in the White House were both terrible examples of liberal over reach: gays in the military and cabinet selection seemingly based on skin colour and being a female.
But when Clinton got it right, he got it very right; economic measures that cut the deficit and built up the surplus that Bush Jnr squandered; NAFTA, welfare reform via tax credits that made it more worthwhile to work than claim benefit and the ability to say (roughly) what the American people wanted to hear. He did so much in his first term that for the second he simply steered the policies through…and got embroiled in sexual misdemeanours that tainted his time in power and ruined Al Gore’s chances.
It no doubt helped that was up against the awfully wooden and unfashionably patriarchal George H.W. Bush, who achieved much in his time (post Cold War diplomacy, punishment of Saddam Hussein and repairing Reagan’s voodoo economics) but it’s interesting to note that he rates higher amongst non-Americans than he does amongst his own people, especially the conservative movement, that quite frankly loathes him and his time in power. So while the GOP tried to smear Clinton with every personal attack under the sun, the next President stuck to his key principles:
Change vs. more of the same
The economy, stupid
Don't forget health care
George H.W. was the conservative past, Tory paternalism was to be replaced by the likes of Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay and the furious partisanship that marks the current American political climate.