Oh, listen, dear, sweet American children. Come and gather close to the Rude Pundit while he explains a little recent history that, like so much of our history, is being revised by conservatives like mad Stalinists scrubbing Soviet classroom lessons of any mention of Trotsky. The latest, but certainly not the last, salvo is an op-ed in the New York Times by Peter Wehner, whose bio may as well read, "Republican ballsack washer." He was in the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II administrations, becoming one of W's speechwriters. He also advised Mitt Romney's doomed 2012 presidential campaign. So he has tasted the testes of many a powerful Republican who wanted to dip their nutbuckets in Wehner's well.
Wehner's column (if by "column," you mean, "a list of bullshit talking points you'll hear every goddamned Fox 'news' commentator parrot for the next 18 months") posits that the problem of political stasis in the United States isn't that the Republican Party has been taken over by the deranged, the cruel, and the ignorant. No, sir: "[I]n the last two decades the Democratic Party has moved substantially further to the left than the Republican Party has shifted to the right." And Wehner uses the presidency of Bill Clinton to demonstrate his point.
Kids, you may think of Bill Clinton as that creepy old dude who once got a blow job in the Oval Office and who Republicans despised so much that they tried to get him booted out of office. You might have heard that Clinton was a wild and woolly liberal who jizzed all over the nation when he wasn't snorting coke off the bouncy titties of Daisy Mae or some other trailer park maiden. But did you know that Clinton was actually a "centrist Democrat" who "governed as one as well"? That's what Wehner tells us. He's correct, but he's totally rewriting not just the history of Republicans now, but Republicans then, who wanted the Clintons both exiled for their fantasy crimes.
Wehner gets to these conclusions through lies and obfuscation or, you know, the GOP way: "One of the crowning legislative achievements under Mr. Clinton was welfare reform. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, loosened welfare-to-work requirements. Mr. Obama is more liberal than Mr. Clinton was on gay rights, religious liberties, abortion rights, drug legalization and climate change." And on the economy, "Mr. Clinton lowered the capital-gains tax rate; Mr. Obama has proposed raising it. Mr. Clinton cut spending and produced a surplus. Under Mr. Obama, spending and the deficit reached record levels."
Does the Rude Pundit have to go through all of this? Does he have to explain that times change in two decades? Does he have to say that Al Gore, Clinton's Vice President, was Mr. Climate Change? Does he need to explain that one of the reasons that Clinton went further right was because he was chastened by the defeat of his health care reform proposal, which had far more government control over the market than the Affordable Care Act does and was thus more "liberal," that Democrats were routed in 1994 and Clinton decided that the only way to get anything done was to give in on some Republican ideas? That any Democrat on a national level who dared to appear liberal was going to be tarred with Jimmy Carter and then feathered with Walter Mondale so many Democrats tried to be tough bastards to the poor and disenfranchised?
Or maybe, just maybe, it's important to note that when Bill Clinton cut the capital gains tax rate in 1997, it was part of a negotiation with Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, the leaders of a Republican Congress. And one of the things that Republicans compromised on was a reduction in military spending, a definite liberal goal in the post-Soviet era. Oh, and the deal also established the Children's Health Insurance Program, which brought health care to five million children, paid for by the government. And many conservatives hated the budget deal, tax cuts and all, precisely because it spent some money and didn't cut taxes enough.
Clinton was working with Republicans who were willing to bargain. It wasn't perfect by any stretch, and even Bill Clinton says some of what he did was too conservative, like mandatory sentencing. Gingrich and Lott may have been motherfuckers, but they were motherfuckers who wanted to legislate. Rich people got to keep money and kids got insurance. That's the way this shit is supposed to work.
Instead of recognizing that, Wehner is happy to just shit on Obama and call it insight: "The Democratic Party, then, has moved steadily to the left since the Clinton presidency. In fact, since his re-election, Mr. Obama’s inner progressive has been liberated...Other examples are his executive action granting temporary legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, his claim that gay marriage is a constitutional right, and his veto of legislation authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline." Which is fine, if you ignore all the very un-liberal things Obama has done when it comes to drones and surveillance, and if you ignore all the things Obama has done that Republicans used to support, like the Dream Act and the Massachusetts model of health insurance, that they abandoned as they veered into nutsy conservative-ville.
As for Clinton, Wehner says, "Mr. Clinton acted on a lesson Democrats learned the hard way, and moved his party more to the center on fiscal policy, welfare, crime, the culture and foreign policy." And that's totally true if you ignore all the liberal shit that Clinton did.
Of course, it might have been more fair to compare Democrats not named Clinton or Obama, since the vicissitudes of the presidency are different than those of a member of Congress or a governor. That 1997 budget deal? Yeah, three-quarters of the Democrats in the House, led by Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, were against it. It passed primarily with Republican votes.
But, no, really, go on about how Democrats have become more liberal.
That is the lesson for today. History will fuck up your nice little propagandistic statement every time.