Saturday, October 3, 2009

#161 An Obama Report Card II

William Jefferson Blythe III, as he was known in 1950--even then, the trademark shock of hair!--didn't KILL as many people when he was in office as Barack Hussein Obama has killed already in his brief tenure as President. And I'm not even grading them on the thousands who still suffer and die under our execrable system of health care in this country. Obama, not yet--he's still trying to correct it, just as Clinton did in his first term, but failed to do so, through not too much fault of his own. The venal forces against reform were just too strong then, and the will of the people just too weak, to overcome the status quo ante of his day. U.S. health care was just as bad then, as now, but the public consciousness of the problem was low, and the Republicans controlled Congress. Not now, though. The Democrats are in, so Obama's progress in reforming health care will weigh heavily on his final grade.

In other areas of domestic policy our last Democratic President before Obama gets the highest marks. Clinton presided over the greatest period of "peace-time" economic expansion in the country's history. We even had a Treasury surplus in the hundreds of billions, before Bush took over. And we all know what happened next. Clinton was also responsible for major welfare reform, family and medical leave for employees, lower taxes for the poor, higher taxes for the rich, free-trade legislation, and the line-item veto (finally).

Perhaps President Clinton's greatest accomplishment, however, was simply not letting us get into a whole lot of trouble here at home. Except for health-care reform, he couldn't be called an overly activist President. Like Eisenhower--our last bi-partisan President, by the bye, most often unfairly underrated today--Clinton let America pretty much go her own way. We had a strong, smart man in charge, whom we could count to step in when things threatened to get out of hand. (Ike's most notable interventions were in the civil-rights debacles of the 50's.) But nothing much did for Clinton. We just didn't have all that to worry about with Bill in charge. His lack of "comportment" in sexual matters are not of conseqence in my grading system.

Unfortunately, though, Clinton killed a lot of people. Not nearly as many as LBJ, of course, nor as many as the hundreds of thousands that Bush was about to kill over his eight long years ... but enough. And for this, his grades suffer. What is it about American Presidents, Democrat or Republican, that seems to drive them to kill foreigners? For little or no reason at all. Ike was the exception. He'd killed enough of them already, in a just cause. Once he got into office, in fact, he disliked the idea of killing foreigners so much, that, rather than killing one more North Korean, he threatened total nuclear annihilation for the whole lot of them, if they didn't stop their "insurgency." Armistice ensued. (China didn't have The Bomb yet.)

So we had, under Clinton, undeclared foreign wars all over the Eastern Hemisphere (we forget), taking the lives of hundreds our troops, and theirs, and untold thousands of innocent civilians. The Somalian intervention was the most embarrassing. The Battle of Mogadishu, with its "Black Hawk Down" humiliation, has become infamous. But Clinton went right ahead later, under the guise of NATO, to involve us in the bloody civil wars of the former Yugoslavia. That ended only when there was virtually nobody left to kill. And it was he who set the precedent for long-distance missile strikes on Muslim terrorists, bombing sites in Sudan and Afghanistan after Al Quaeda had attacked our embassies in East Africa. And Iraq? Even before Bush took over with a vengeance, Clinton was bombing "strategic" targets in that despoiled country for the entire last two years of his administration. (more)

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