Friday, May 8, 2015

Don't Be So Hard On Yourself, Bill

The legacy of former President Bill Clinton is under attack again.  And the main hatchet man is none other than William Jefferson Clinton himself.  President Clinton started his self-bashing in 2013 by attacking the Defense of Marriage Act--which he signed into law in 1996 and that required the Federal Government to not recognize the legality of same-sex marriages and did not require states to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states.  That bill was passed with veto-proof bi-partisan support with Democratic lawmakers serving as proud co-sponsors.  But a certain someone Bill knows--and who also supported the measure--now needs the support of gays to win an election, so he must tear down his own accomplishments.

Now, the former President is turning his attack another major accomplishment from his term in office: the Federal "3 Strikes and You're Out" law.  This is the "get tough on crime" bill that Clinton signed into law in 1994 after overwhelming bi-partisan support in Congress.  The measure was simple, commit three violent, Federal offenses and spend the rest of your life in prison.  You have to remember, this was the time of drive-by shootings, rampant gang violence in cities and crack cocaine destroying urban areas.  Even First Lady Hillary Clinton called the measure a "well-thought out crime bill that is both smart and tough" in a 1994 interview.  She said that the crime bill would keep violent offenders locked up "so they could never get out again" and touted the "three strikes" provision specifically.  "We will finally be able to say, loudly and clearly, that for repeat, violent, criminal offenders: three strikes and you're out. We are tired of putting you back in through the revolving door," Clinton said in 1994.

But now the former President says 3 Strikes and You're Out was a mistake because too many (black) people committed the third strike and now sit in prison forever--and he is willing to shoulder the blame for that.  Clinton tells CNN "We have too many people in prison".  Really, Mr President, that isn't your fault.  Think about it, these are people who have committed THREE Federal offenses.  They weren't just given a second chance to live within the rules of society, they were given a third chance and they still couldn't abide by the laws.  But a certain someone Bill knows--and who also supported the measure--now needs the support of African-Americans to win an election, he must tear down his own accomplishments.

President Clinton's self-bashing won't end here.  Up next will be the Welfare Reform measures that he signed into law in 1996.  The bi-paritisan Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act did away with direct cash payments to welfare recipients, it required recipients to actively seek and keep work, it required job training and education to continue to receive benefits and it reduced the number of people on the dole significantly.  "This is the end of Big Government" Clinton said with a smile to thunderous applause.  But by taking people off the welfare rolls, Clinton took away Democrats main political threat for poor people "Republicans want to cut your benefits!"--and perhaps that led to George W Bush winning two elections.  President Obama has since undone many of the reforms accomplished by Clinton and put even more people on the dole.  But since someone Bill knows--and who also supported the measure--now needs the support of poor people to win an election, he must tear down his own accomplishments.

And soon after that, President Clinton will need to tear down NAFTA and all of the other free trade agreements that he signed as President as well.  Clinton supported the bi-partisan NAFTA bill whole-heartedly--in large part because his good friends in the Walton family would benefit from it immensely at their Walmart stores.  Bill just rolled his eyes when Ross Perot talked about his "giant sucking sound" in the debates and the likely loss of American textile and manufacturing jobs.  But a certain someone Bill knows--and who also supported the measure--now needs the support of big labor unions to win an election, and so he must tear down his own accomplishments.

If Hillary Clinton manages to make it all the way to November of next year as the Democratic candidate--poor Bill will have her voters believing that he was the worst President in the history of the country.  Perhaps that is her way of getting back at him for the decades of embarrassment leading up to this.

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