All presidents worry and fret about their legacy — how they will be remembered through the lens of passing time.
But Bill Clinton seems to worry about it more than most, and this is likely because he knows that he squandered a historic opportunity to promote American values at home and abroad during the Reagan Pax Americani and succeeded only in distracting the United States and the world with his reckless and self-aggrandizing nonsense.
That he averaged himself down, far below his talents, is a view held most strongly by his allies and friends, and no doubt himself, and this must truly burn him.
And so the question still is: how will he be remembered?
- As the president who was impeached for lying and obstruction of justice — the one who lied under oath and twisted words beyond recognition (“is is”)?
- As the president who squandered Reagan’s peace dividend and couldn’t lead because of his blizzard of scandals — the 900 FBI files on political enemies, Vince Foster dead near the White House, Whitewater land deals, accusations of sexual harassment, shady political fundraising via contacts in Indonesia and through the outright sale of overnights in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House, the granting of pardons to some of the worst drug dealers and fugitives one could ever imagine, and so many more?
- As the president who fiddled with modern-day fiddles and faddles while Osama Bin Laden struck American interests around the world with total impunity and laid the groundwork for 9/11?
- As the president who “erased the deficit“?
This last one makes me laugh, because it is false on two counts. First, the Republican Congresses of 1994 – 1998 slammed the brakes on Bill and Hillary Clinton’s progressive agenda, producing a decline in interest rates and a fiscal gridlock that halted runaway federal spending, and for a few years the total federal debt declined instead of increasing. This happened because Republicans obstructed Clinton, not because of policies he was allowed to implement.
Second, the total debt stayed large — it never went away under Clinton, not even close (unless you think nearly $6 trillion in debt is “not there”).
The Clinton Legacy
But let’s get to an answer that I think hits the mark far more than the others: Bill Clinton’s legacy is that of a Maniacal Deregulator.
It was Bill Clinton, along with his faithful charge Robert Rubin, both life-long Democrats, who dismantled and removed the Glass-Steagall banking law that had protected the American financial system since 1933.
Presidential legacies take time to develop because the implications of their actions while in office are not seen or felt for some time afterwards, and when historians look back at the period of 1976 – 2016 they will see the pendulum swinging from
Overly constricted markets —> free-er markets —> wildly free & unhinged markets —> global financial catastrophe —> anti-capitalism backlash led by a Manchurian candidate inculcated with and committed to anti-market / statist policies of patronage and control.
It was Clinton and Rubin who took it too far (“wildly free and unhinged markets“) by dismantling Glass-Steagall on November 10, 1999 (in case there is any cognitive dissonance in the minds of Liberals about which administration did this dirty deed).
Why was the repeal of Glass Steagall so central to this period of American and world history?
Glass Steagall was enacted in 1933 precisely to avoid the kinds of reckless gambling and over-leveraging of depositors’ capital that was at the root of the “Too Big to Fail” problem in 2008, nine years after Glass-Steagall fell.
Before Glass Steagall, there was no distinction between commercial banks and investment banks, and the 1929 stock market crash proved how reckless this arrangement was. Glass Steagall used the iron fist of government to break apart the overly large banking institutions so that it wouldn’t happen again, and it didn’t.
Until Clinton and Rubin came along.
After these two Democrats led the repeal of the law, commercial and investment banks promptly merged to form reckless super-banks that crashed a few years later and then cornered us tax-payers with the extortion known as bailouts.
The huge banks born out of the revocation of Glass-Steagall, especially Citigroup, and the insurance companies that were allowed to deal in securities, like the American International Group, would not have run into trouble had the law still been in place. <source>
Exactly, and so this is why Clinton’s maniacal deregulation is his legacy: he removed the keystone of our financial strength and paved the way for world economic collapse and the rise of Marxism/Leninism in the guise of Barack Hussein Obama.
This anti-capitalist backlash seems to be long-lasting, and the destruction that Barack Obama is perpetrating against our nation every day is ever-more profound and virulent.
I believe that had the banks not crashed the economy in 2008, a plurality of American voters would not have elected Barack Obama, a man mentored every step of the way by hard-core Communists and vocal America-haters. I further believe that even if Obama had squeaked past McCain and won in 2008, he would never have been able to destroy American healthcare the way he has been doing, and would never have won re-election because Romney’s experience as a business man would not have been so easily demonized by his opponent.
Romney was so obviously a capitalist — a very successful one — and this hurt him badly. Capitalism’s excesses in the 1990s and the 2000s after Glass Steagall fell made this designation the equivalent of being a stinking turd. Barack Obama’s early ads in Ohio pounded away on this theme, and I believe it won Obama the election.
Clinton’s eight years of deregulation led directly to the crash and to the current era of Hugo Chavezism, and this is a sad and shameful legacy indeed.
Post Script: He Deregulated More than Glass Steagall
At this point in the essay, perhaps Liberals are crying foul that I’ve focused on only Glass Steagall and that Clinton’s dismantling of this successful law does not by itself constitute “maniacal deregulation”.
First of all, yes it does.
But no matter either way, the truth hurts, and here it is:
He also signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which exempted credit-default swaps from regulation. In 1995 Clinton loosened housing rules by rewriting the Community Reinvestment Act, which put added pressure on banks to lend in low-income neighborhoods. <source>
The conclusion is inescapable: Clinton gave us the global crash and the rise of Hussein Obama and in the coming years this will become even more obvious and glaring than it is right now.