The ODIOUS Presidency of Bill Clinton. And You Want Him Any Where NEAR the White House by Electing Hillary?

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    Oct 09, 2016 3:01 PM GMT
    Evaluating Clinton’s presidency as heroic is no longer a given, however. After the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the corporate scandals of the Enron period, and the collapse of the real estate racket, our view of the prosperous Nineties has changed quite a bit. Now we remember that it was Bill Clinton’s administration that deregulated derivatives, that deregulated telecom, and that put our country’s only strong banking laws in the grave. He’s the one who rammed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through Congress and who taught the world that the way you respond to a recession is by paying off the federal deficit. Mass incarceration and the repeal of welfare, two of Clinton’s other major achievements, are the pillars of the disciplinary state that has made life so miserable for Americans in the lower reaches of society. He would have put a huge dent in Social Security, too, had the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal not stopped him. If we take inequality as our measure, the Clinton administration looks not heroic but odious.

    According to the president himself, what the agreement was about was simple: “NAFTA will tear down trade barriers,” he said when signing it. “It will create the world’s largest trade zone and create 200,000 jobs in this country by 1995 alone.” The stationery of an outfit that lobbied for the treaty was emblazoned with the argument: “North American Free Trade Agreement—Exports. Better Jobs. Better Wages.”

    But it wasn’t reason that sold NAFTA; it was a simulacrum of reason, by which I mean the great god inevitability, invoked in the language of professional-class self-assurance. “We cannot stop global change,” Clinton said in his signing speech.

    The phrase that best expressed the feeling was this: “It’s a no brainer.” Lee Iacocca uttered it in a pro-NAFTA TV commercial, and before long everyone was saying it. The phrase struck exactly the right notes of simplicity combined with utter obviousness. Globalization was irresistible, the argument went, and free trade was always and in all situations a good thing. So good, it didn’t even really need to be explained. Everyone knew this. Everyone agreed.

    Yet there were people who opposed NAFTA, like labor unions, for example, and Ross Perot, and the majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives. The agreement was not a simple or straightforward thing: it was some 2,000 pages long, and according to reporters who actually read it, the aim was less to remove tariffs than to make it safe for American firms to invest in Mexico—meaning, to move factories and jobs there without fear of expropriation and then to import those factories’ products back into the U.S.

    One reason the treaty required no brains at all from its supporters is because NAFTA was as close to a straight-up class issue as we will ever see in this country. It “boils down to the oldest division of all,” Dirk Johnson wrote in The New York Times in 1993: “the haves versus the have-nots, or more precisely, those who have only a little.”
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    Oct 09, 2016 3:03 PM GMT
    NAFTA lobbyist tried to bring him around by reminding him that Carlos Salinas, then the president of Mexico, had “been to Harvard. He’s one of us.”

    That appeal to class unity gives a hint of what Clintonism was all about. To owners and shareholders, who would see labor costs go down as they took advantage of unorganized Mexican labor and lax Mexican environmental enforcement, NAFTA held fantastic promise. To American workers, it threatened to send their power, and hence their wages, straight down the chute. To the mass of the professional-managerial class, people who weren’t directly threatened by the treaty, holding an opinion on NAFTA was a matter of deferring to the correct experts—economists in this case, 283 of whom had signed a statement declaring the treaty “will be a net positive for the United States, both in terms of employment creation and overall economic growth.”

    The predictions of people who opposed the agreement turned out to be far closer to what eventually came to pass than did the rosy scenarios of those 283 economists and the victorious President Clinton.
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    Oct 09, 2016 3:08 PM GMT
    Mexico has not fared much better. In the decades before NAFTA, its economy often grew rapidly; since NAFTA was enacted, Mexico has experienced some of the feeblest growth of any country in Latin America, despite all the stuff it now makes and exports to the U.S. The country’s poverty rate has not changed much at all while every other country in the region has made considerable progress. One reason for all this is the predictably destructive effect that free trade with American agribusiness has had on the fortunes of millions of Mexican family farmers.
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    Oct 09, 2016 3:13 PM GMT
    Will Bill Clinton be Hillary Clinton's Chief Political Advisor?

    Once Clinton was in the White House, counter-scheduling mutated from a campaign tactic to a philosophy of governance. At a retreat in the administration’s early days, Bill’s chief political adviser, Hillary Clinton, instructed White House officials how it was going to be done. As Carl Bernstein describes the scene, Hillary announced that the public must be made to understand that Bill was taking them on a “journey” and that he had a “vision” for what the administration was doing, a “story” that distinguished good from evil. The way to dramatize this story, the first lady continued (in Bernstein’s telling), was to pick a fight with supporters.

    You show people what you’re willing to fight for, Hillary said, when you fight your friends—by which, in this context, she clearly meant, When you make them your enemy.
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    Oct 09, 2016 3:15 PM GMT
    NAFTA would become the first great test of this theory of the presidency, with Clinton defying not only organized labor but much of his own party in Congress. In one sense, it achieved the desired results. For New Democrats and for much of the press, NAFTA was Clinton’s “finest hour,” his “boldest action,” a deed befitting a real he-man of a president who showed he could stand up to labor and thereby assure the world that he was not a captive of traditional Democratic interests.

    But there was also an important difference. NAFTA was not symbolism. With this act, Clinton was not merely insulting an important constituency, as he had done with Jesse Jackson and Sister Souljah. With NAFTA he connived in that constituency’s ruin. He assisted in the destruction of its economic power. He did his part to undermine his party’s greatest ally, to ensure that labor would be too weak to organize workers from that point forward. Clinton made the problems of working people materially worse.
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    Oct 09, 2016 3:23 PM GMT
    The reasoning that led Clinton to turn the Rector execution into a ritual appeasement of the electoral gods brought him, in 1994, to call for and then sign his name to the most sweeping police-state bill that postwar America has seen. Among other things, the measure provided for the construction of countless new prisons, it established over a hundred new mandatory minimum sentences, it allowed prosecutors to charge thirteen-year-olds as adults in some cases, and it coerced the states into minimizing parole. It also increased the number of federal death penalties from three to sixty, including some for nonlethal offenses.
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    Oct 09, 2016 3:25 PM GMT
    StephenOABC saidNAFTA would become the first great test of this theory of the presidency, with Clinton defying not only organized labor but much of his own party in Congress. In one sense, it achieved the desired results. For New Democrats and for much of the press, NAFTA was Clinton’s “finest hour,” his “boldest action,” a deed befitting a real he-man of a president who showed he could stand up to labor and thereby assure the world that he was not a captive of traditional Democratic interests.

    But there was also an important difference. NAFTA was not symbolism. With this act, Clinton was not merely insulting an important constituency, as he had done with Jesse Jackson and Sister Souljah. With NAFTA he connived in that constituency’s ruin. He assisted in the destruction of its economic power. He did his part to undermine his party’s greatest ally, to ensure that labor would be too weak to organize workers from that point forward. Clinton made the problems of working people materially worse.


    Very true. The Clintons made $100's of millions by doing it.

    And they're not done with us yet. People can vote Trump, third party or stay home. Just NO CLINTONS in the WH.

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    Oct 09, 2016 3:26 PM GMT
    This was the age of “three strikes,” of “truth in sentencing,” of “zero tolerance,” and Clinton’s aides referred to their bid for mass imprisonment as “upping the ante,” as though it were a poker game with the Republicans. Winning that game was the subject of boasting for Democrats. Said Joe Biden, then a Democratic senator from Delaware, during the debate on the bill:

    The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is now for 60 new death penalties. That is what is in this bill. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party has 70 enhanced penalties. . . . The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is for 100,000 cops. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is for 125,000 new State prison cells.

    None of this happened because of an increase in crime, by the way.
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    Oct 09, 2016 3:33 PM GMT
    Someday we will understand that the punitive hysteria of the mid-1990s was not an accident; it was essential to Clintonism. Taken as a whole with NAFTA, with welfare reform, with his plan for privatizing Social Security and, of course, with Clinton’s celebrated lifting of the rules governing banks and telecoms, it all fits perfectly within the new, class-based framework of liberalism. Clinton simply treated different groups of Americans in radically different ways—crushing some in the iron fist of the state, exposing others to ruinous corporate power, while showering the favored stratum with bailouts, deregulation, and a frolicking celebration of Think Different business innovation.

    Some got bailouts, others got “zero tolerance.” There was really no contradiction between these things. Lenience and forgiveness and joyous creativity for Wall Street bankers while another group gets a biblical-style beatdown—these things actually fit together quite nicely. Indeed, the ascendance of the first group requires that the second be lowered gradually into hell. When you take Clintonism all together, it makes sense, and the sense it makes has to do with social class. What the poor get is discipline; what the professionals get is endless indulgence.
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    Oct 09, 2016 3:33 PM GMT
    Quotes from Thomas Frank