Archive for the ‘Bill Clinton’ category

The Cynics Quandary

February 12, 2019

The election of Donald Trump has placed a new lens on the everyday political world.  Through this lens, many, while scratching their heads about the crass, wholly despicable, and greedy attempts by the President to reap benefits from the Office of the President, say “sure President Trump is unusual but what has changed, politicians are all the same, and my life is unchanged and no different than it was under President Obama”?

Trump apologists begin with “I voted for Trump because Hillary was worse”.  To be sure, the Clintons have used their roles in State and National politics to gather and enhance personal wealth.  But both Hillary and Bill Clinton were students of domestic and foreign policy, and observed the accepted decorum associated with political life.  Both were interested in sustaining traditional American values and institutions.  

George W Bush, the compassionate conservative, was already wealthy when he ran for President.  Bush inherited “family” money and connections.  “W”, however, was hardly a student of anything (other than bicycle riding and painting).  And Bush’s term produced the Iraq Invasion and Occupation (the unwinding of the Middle East), Hurricane Katrina (the failure of Government services), and the near depression of 2008 (failure of government oversight).  Americans were left the impression that “W” meant well but was surrounded by those who didn’t.  

Barack Obama appealed to a different voter segment and was swept into office.  Obama was well intended but not skilled as an executive.  Obama was neither rich (meaning wealth and Washington influence) nor experienced (meaning how Washington worked), or just as importantly, how the Democrat Party leader ought to lead.  President Obama was more like a quick learning Don Quixote than “I don’t worry about those things” George W Bush.

President Trump represents something quite different.  His style and actions are foreign to Presidents who respected the office despite what they may or may not accomplish.  Trump is first and foremost about himself, the perpetual need for narcissistic gratification and the robust and crass search for personal wealth.  Beyond Trump’s inclinations  lays a much more dangerous side.

President Trump is putting holes in the ship of state’s side BELOW the water line.  His baseless attacks on the FBI, CIA, and members of Congress are over the top.  Trump’s repeated assertion that he knows more than the Generals (or Global Warming experts) presents  risks to every American in the days, months, and years ahead.  But some tell us Hillary would have been worse.  Hmmm.

The feeling some profess that “nothing has changed”, or that “Congress members unceasing thirst for personal wealth growth” is the real problem simply do not recognize how far out of the mainstream President Trump lies.  His pathological lying and senseless attacks on foreign allies are driving the US into that spot between a rock and a hard spot.  

Presidential leadership should be forward looking while assume the world is inherently unpredictable.  Great leaders prepare the country for unforeseen events while building the country’s capabilities.  Stealing from the future does not make America great, instead America is being hollowed out.

Great roads or bridges, if not maintained, will in time collapse.  Less wealthy countries left to their own devices will become nuisances, and often war with each other.  Income inequality is a natural event and without government’s soft touch, the economy will slow because the mass’ buying power becomes too little.  President Trump’s “friends”, however, thrive and prosper under these undesirable conditions.  Therefore, it should be no mystery why the President acts the he does.

In a large economy like the US, changes occur on the margins.  Consequently mainstream change occurs slowly and only after a period of time.  But once mainstream change begins, it will require even greater force to reverse the erosion, not just another Executive Order.  Cynics who overlook Trump’s destructive rule simply because they “see nothing has changed” are in for a surprise.  When the surprise arrives, cynics will wake up to real change and no good ideas on how to get back to the past.

Ends and Means

May 24, 2016

There are many reasons to be worried about a Donald Trump and GOP victory this November. Let me count the ways. Emotional attitude, standards of personal conduct, breadth of knowledge on foreign affairs, plausible policies and plans for governing, and fitness to be President of all Americans are just a few.

What more could one worry about?

As questionably fit as Donald Trump may be, he will ultimately also run on the GOP platform (necessary to get conservative donor money). As in 2008 and 2012, tax cuts for the wealthy, no comprehensive immigration reform, roll back of equal rights protection, active rejection of Roe v Wade, and the repeal of Obamacare (with loss of coverage for tens of millions) will underpin his candidacy.

But that is not all there is to worry about.

The “ends justify the means” modus operandi became crystal clear during former President George W Bush’s terms. Enhanced interrogation, invading sovereign countries, abrogation of lawful treaties, and warrantless search and seizures were all justified in the name of national security. And in each case, US courts in due course forced the Administration to end these practices.

When Donald Trump speaks about Bill Clinton’s past indiscretions, he is either saying the ends (getting elected) is far more important than the means (speech far beneath the dignity of a President) or he is trying desperately to avoid answering substantive questions.

Imagine what he will do when China, India, Russia, or any other country does not obey a President Trump’s wishes?

The Republican Mirror On The Wall

May 8, 2016

“Oh, mirror, mirror on the wall, whose the fairest of them all?” That seems to be the GOP theme for the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination. So many GOP leaders seem caught up in a twist.  They couldn’t decide and now this.   How can our party nominate someone like Donald Trump, they ask? Unstated but clearly indicated is the rest of their thought… “when we have so many other good looking Republicans over here”. Hmmm.

There is no doubt that Republican leaders are concerned. Many express their concerns in terms of “down ticket” collateral damage… read potential loss of Senate control. Others, especially the neoconservative crowd, express horror that Donald Trump might have his finger on the nuclear weapons button. Still others see someone who flaunts chapter and verse of the GOP ideology (as expressed in their traditional platform).

For these Republican worriers, the thought that their image might not be the fairest in the land is very worrisome. Of course, the cool aid these Republican leaders drink is the best everyone knows (except those awful Democrats). Hmmm.

Donald Trump’s populous message unfortunately resonates with a significant segment of the American electorate. Income inequality has resulted from both greedy Americans (the infamous top 1%) and from many average people for whom globalization has turned their fortunes into stagnated lower paying jobs. For these people, Government has just sat on their hands, look the other way, and filled their own pockets while life turned poorly for these middle class workers. Donald Trump will fix things, they think.

Of course, there is no evidence that Trump can fix anything and plenty that his road to riches was paved with the sweat of so many others like these disgruntled voters. Trump has outsourced jobs, paid wages as low as possible, and walked away from deals when ever it benefited him. Why should anyone expect a President Trump to be different?

Recently, Trump hinted that one way to lower the national debt was to ask (demand?) national debt holders to accept less than full repayment. Was this for real? The security of paper money is based upon the claim that its value is backed by the “full faith and credit” of the United States. Hmmm. Well there goes the credit.

But even more telling is Trump’s response to Super Pac ads (favorable to Hillary Clinton) which recount derogatory statements Trump has made about women). Trump has invoked Bill Clinton’s behavior with regards to women (philandering) and that Hillary was an enabler. The pot calling the kettle black? What is Trump thinking?


Most of Trump’s supporters are not Hillary fans. Damning her, even if unjustly, makes no difference, his supporters will cheer anyway. The verdict is still out whether these anti-Bill Clinton attacks will change any Hillary supporters’ thinking.

So, there is evidence to justify GOP distaste for Donald Trump. His behavior is horrid and his policies are at best unclear, if not middle of the road. His apparent depth of knowledge appears quite shallow. But his attacks upon Hillary are welcomed and accepted by the GOP.

So, if Trump fixes his behavior, sharpens his policy statements, and does his homework on how government works, would that be enough to get full GOP support. Could Trump become the fairest in the GOP mirror?


The real problem with Donald Trump is that he is his own person. He owes nothing to GOP kingmakers. And frankly, Trump is so unpredictable that he scares them. Trump could raise taxes, nominate progressive judges, and enact punitive tariffs when trade negotiations do not go his way… even if those tariffs hurt other good Republicans’ businesses. Hmmm.

For GOP “leaders”, they might do well asking if Hillary Clinton is the fairest in the land.

Obama’s Legacy

December 23, 2015

The news media seems fixated on what will constitute President Obama’s 2 term legacy. Would it include the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s recovery from a near 2009 depression, the achievement of energy independence, the growth of green energy sources, the shutting down of two wars, the Trans-Pacific Trade Pact, the Iran nuclear settlement, or the Paris Environmental agreement. Hmmm.

If you listen to the GOP, the bag representing Obama’s legacy is not only empty of accomplishments, the only contents are pieces of black coal. This should be no surprise since the GOP has been the “just say no” loyal opposition since President Obama was elected. In this matter Republican opinion is sorely compromised.

To the extent that President Obama is worrying about his legacy, this is truly wasted energy. Only with the passage of time will the impact of actions President Obama instigated or did not take be seen. For President Obama, he should endeavor to keep the same course and same demeanor.

Those who think well of his time in office will not think more kindly and those who think poorly are unlikely to change (until someone less desirable takes office).

In comparison to Bill Clinton, Obama’s years have neither the taint of impropriety nor the sleaze of sexual scandals. There is even stronger contrast with George W Bush. President Obama cannot be accused of being intellectually lazy nor with making huge, unthought through foreign policy initiatives.

While many may still prefer to have a beer with “W”, nothing like the calamities of invading Iraq, sleeping through Hurricane Katrina, or allowing the nation’s financial institutions to bring the US (and the world) into recession and nearly a depression has taken place during President Obama’s watch.

For my money that’s not too bad for a legacy.

Will Hillary Get A Pass?

April 24, 2015

Early release of a new, but soon to be one of many, book denigrates Hillary Clinton.  Reports based upon the book are making a splash on the 7/24 news media. The book alleges that once Hillary became Secretary of State that the money flood gates opened for the Clinton Foundation. More specifically, money from foreign sources flowed in and in return those foreign sources received favorable State Department action. Hmmm.

The sun rises each day and sets each evening. This we can be sure. We can be equally sure that “attack ads” featuring these allegations will hit the airwaves soon and run through out the election campaign regardless of who becomes the GOP Presidential nominee.

Another thing you can be sure about is that neither the Republican Party nor its standard bearer will say “I approve this ad”.

The reasons are two fold. (1) A GOP candidate doesn’t need to produce such an ad because one of the “uncoordinated” PACs will gleefully undertake this work. And, (2) these Clinton innuendos strike too close to home for all the candidates.

The day we see a dirt poor Congress member, former President, or senior cabinet official, we can begin to suspect that person did not trade favors for value in return. Favors could have been decisions or outright lobbying, or just introductions (with a nod).

All politicians use their office in ways they feel best and growing their personal wealth is part of that territory. Consequently, GOP candidates are not likely to personally attack Hillary.

Of course these charges are serious and do deserve a full investigation. But there wouldn’t be K-Street nor political fund raising breakfasts unless “favors” were for sale.

The Clintons are not your ordinary “influence for sale” politicians. They can afford staffs that advise on how to keep their actions clear of any direct connection. Most of the other candidates including Jeb Bush will experience similar charges and will inevitably be found clear of a direct connection to what ever the charges are.

When this type of charge begins to be leveled at Jeb Bush, the Press will see it as a left wing smear campaign. For Hillary, these charges are just the continuation of the “right wing conspiracy”.

It Is Tough Being President

September 9, 2014

Bill Clinton and George Bush made it look easy. Easy, that is, of being the chief executive. Always glib, always with a smile, always looking like they knew what was going on. Hmmm.

Looks can be deceiving. “W” did not know much of what was going on and seemed to care less. Bill knew as much as his subordinates knew and still wanted to know more… as long as it did not interfere with his “intern time”.

Each of these former Presidents was very concerned with combining actual real world intelligence with a political calculus. What worldly action would be most beneficial to their party and what outcomes would not.  Both former President’s action were driven by polling results.

Along comes President Obama. He appears far more circumspect than his two predecessors. IMO, President Obama wants more than his predecessors to “do the right thing, long term”.  But it seems a President cannot escape political calculus.

So tonight President Obama will give a prime time speech on what to do about ISIS. Obama claims his speech will help Americans understand this extremist threat in the long term perspective. He may also be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

President Obama’s steady, but patient course lead to the finding of Osama ben Laden. Obama did not boast that he was hot on the trail of ben Laden, nor did he puff up his chest before the mission. But the death of ben Laden translated quickly into Democratic political hay. How could the GOP claim Dems were soft on defense when Obama had found the man?

On the contrary, there is virtually nothing to be gained from mounting any type of “feet on the ground” military campaign  to eliminate ISIS. ISIS is an organization more akin to weeds in a garden. After ISIS is pulled out, others will grow back.

Don’t tell that to politicians. One party will claim the other is soft on security regardless of whether that same party wants to cut government spending. The other party will say in so many words, “no I’m not”. So what then?

With “W”, we saw “being tough on extremists” expression through disproportionate spending of dollars and lives on misdiagnosed sets of problems. We heard politically tinged rhetoric telling Americans they were at risk and it would be patriotic to send their children into war where these young Americans ( always someone else’s children) could get maimed or killed.

President Obama has clearly seen that our fighting men and women come overwhelmingly from lower income segments of our population. The all volunteer military is not the face of all Americans. Obama has tried (with much success) to reduce the number and occasions where Americans could get injured. During the Arab Spring and its aftermath, Obama has kept American military out of harms way.

So fast forward to today. The President will give a speech where he wants to sound tough and confident. He wants, also to keep away from using American ground troops. So what can he say?

No matter what he says, the GOP can (and will) say Obama’s does not understand.  They will add that his proposals do not go far enough. Who can prove either side of this statement?

Consider: ISIS, like al Qaeda, al Shabaab, and boko Haram are political expressions of groups who are not comfortable with income distribution. Their marketing plan, like the Crusades, aims to tip the balance in their favor with the claim that “god (allah) is on my side (regardless of what I do)”.

If President Obama has a chance tonight of not making the current situation politically worse, he must remind Americans that

  • He will authorize full military force when ever there is a direct threat to America.
  • He will not risk the lives of young Americans when there are other means or when America is not directly threatened.

How we will deal with ISIS, like how we dealt with Osama ben Laden, should not be the subject matter of political campaign speeches. End of statement.

Should the President try to explain, as a good professor, “the ins and outs” of coalitions, strategic partners, and the desire for world peace, the political path necessary to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, will be open.

Compelling Reasons?

August 14, 2014

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supposedly made up last night on Martha’s Vineyard island. In an interview, Hillary had called into question some of President Obama’s decisions concerning Iraq. Clinton’s comments is just the beginning of a careful tightrope walk she must undertake on the way to the Democrat Presidential nomination in 2016.

While her comments were a little of a cheap shot, they also bore some truth. “Organizing Principles” are an effective way to lead the broad, sprawling, government apparatus in a desired direction. While “don’t do anything stupid” isn’t an organizing principle, as Clinton pointed out, it sure would have been helpful if George W Bush’s Administration had embraced those words.

If you remember back to the Bill Clinton years, you will recall that his team were masters at “triangulation” as a fundamental in communication. Former President Clinton would “leak” some assertion, for example in response to some foreign provocation, and then measure (poll) how people reacted. Clinton would then disown the “lead”, and float another response. Again there would be a denial and again a trial balloon until Clinton’s advisors thought they were on the firmest ground in terms of public opinion.

There is no reason to believe that Hillary Clinton will not govern in the same frustrating manner. The public will likely become frustrated with the question “what does she really think?”

I would submit that while this will be a maddening attribute of Hillary, there are far more compelling reasons to nominate and elect her as the next President.

  • First, Hillary is very slightly on the right side of center. While there will be wild outcries from conservatives, Hillary will in fact not drive US foreign or domestic policies far off center.
  • Second, Hillary is a woman and there is scant evidence that electing a male President is essential for the country’s well being. On the contrary, there is mounting evidence that a diverse group (gender, race, ethnicity, age) is valuable in dealing with the complex, multi-cultural hurdles facing the country.
  • Third, although Hillary is a centrist, she will nominate candidates for the Supreme Court who are not like the current 5 conservative Justices. Who exactly she will nominate is a matter of question, but strict constructionists are unlikely.
  • Fourth, Hillary is thoroughly qualified individual who possesses far more ambition and willingness to question than President George W Bush and arrive with far more experience than President Barack Obama.

In my opinion, Hillary should be careful on her “Obama critiquing” and position herself confidently as someone a majority of voters will select. There is nothing she can say or do which will placate the right wing and ultraconservatives. Supporters of immigration reform, woman’s rights, gay rights, and progressives in general are sufficient to provide the margin of victory.

Unfortunately, it is hard to teach an old Hillary new tricks.