Bill Clinton Gets It Right — Almost
Like so many other convention watchers, I was much impressed by the performance of former President Bill Clinton. Beyond his superb presentation, he actually hit the content buttons. He moved beyond the ‘my grandfather was poorer than yours’ rhetoric, and the deadening dull sloganeering that’s largely been the basis of both parties’ campaigning. He actually got into issues, their meaning for voters, what specific programs would or wouldn’t do for specific groups of voters.
Well done, Mr. Clinton. Better than well done. Masterful. Except…
Except there was that one item he slipped into the middle of his talk. The one that was supposed to illustrate President Obama’s willingness to compromise with Republicans and the latter’s refusal to do so under any circumstances — Simpson Bowles.
A bipartisan commission headed by these two was supposed to come up with recommendations to check our endless national debt buildup. Alan Simpson, one chairman of this commission, was a former very conservative Republican senator. Chester Bowles, a former Clinton Administration official, was the Democratic-appointed head of the commission.
Was this group bipartisan? Sure. In the sense that both parties had representation at the top. But ideologically and fiscally, it was heavily big money and Wall Street weighted. Bowles, the Democrat, is also a former Wall Street bigwig, and part of the Clinton-era, Wall Street-friendly, so-called ‘centrist wing’ of the Democratic Party.
And surprise! The Simpson-Bowles commission came up with a plan that cut programs for the poor and middle class on a 2 1/2 times to 1 ratio with revenue increases that might hurt the rich and Wall Street.
Elizabeth Warren, who spoke just before Bill Clinton last night, is now the voice of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. She called the financial system facing middle class Americans these days “rigged” — something that’s obvious to anyone who bothers to consider the matter seriously. Bill Clinton, his economic mentor Robert Rubin, and the Rubin gang that included Chester Bowles, played a big part in this rigging.
So Bill Clinton’s speech last night got it mostly right in distinguishing what separates the Obama-Democrats from the Romney-Ryan-Tea Party-Republicans. But Clinton is still a decade behind when it comes to acknowledging a middle class rigging to which he contributed mightily.
Otherwise it was a great speech.
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