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"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show
"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket
"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming
November 11, 2008
Our "Woefully Inadequate Grasp Of History"
I'm deeply impressed by the ability of our Ministry of Truth to continuously generate false history on the fly. They do good work.
Their latest masterpiece is the Terrifying True Tale of How the Early Clinton Administration Was Crippled by Liberals. You see, Bill Clinton began his presidency by giving into his wild-eyed leftist instincts. But the wise American people rejected his class warfare! They punished him and the Democrats by giving control of congress to Republicans in the 1994 midterm elections. So Clinton sobered up and governed from the center. Obama better not repeat Clinton's mistakes by giving into the left! The End.
In reality, of course, Clinton knuckled under to the center right—much of which was located within the Democratic party—from the very beginning. Following their advice, he went all out to pass NAFTA, then failed to pass universal health care. People who'd been desperate in 1992 saw no economic improvement by 1994. And with the low 45% voter turnout in the midterms, the Democrats lost control of Congress (mostly via the defeat of center right Democrats).
Here's an especially fine example of the Terrifying True Tale, by John Heilemann in New York Magazine. Heilemann deserves extra credit for berating people who remember history for not remembering history:
It’s not surprising that Summers should emerge as the transition’s first real flashpoint. With the economy in tatters, Treasury is almost certain to be the first cabinet post that Obama fills...
The easy, no-drama call for Obama would simply be to bypass Summers in favor of Geithner, a younger man and a fresher face and thus a more vibrant symbol of the change Obama has promised. But tapping Summers would have advantages—not despite but precisely because of the opposition he has stirred up. Obama never really had a Sister Souljah moment during his campaign, and staging one now might serve him well. Picking Summers would send a powerful message that Obama isn’t going to let himself be pushed around, as Clinton was, by the various factions on the left during his transition. That merit matters to him more than ideology or identity politics...
Indeed, several sources in the Obamasphere tell me Emanuel’s installment is meant to send a crystalline message to congressional liberals: that the president-elect has no intention of allowing them to set the agenda, let alone roll him as an earlier generation of Capitol Hill pooh-bahs did to Clinton in 1993 and 1994...
[F]or Obamaphiles, it fuels the anxiety that the regimes of the new boss and the old boss will end up resembling one another all too much...The problems with complaining about the supposed Clintonification of the Obama administration are many. The first and more glaring is that it reflects a woefully inadequate grasp of history...
Back in 1992, when Clinton was being "pushed around by various factions on the left," his pick for Treasury Secretary was Lloyd Bentsen.
ROLLED: Here's an interview with Kevin Phillips from December, 1994:
Clinton came in. I'm not certain what he meant and how sincere his intentions were, but he ran against Washington and he came to Washington and he got rolled...
In part, he was self-rolled. He set himself up in different ways. It's difficult to believe that he was 100 percent sincere in his outsider claims, because as soon as you start to see his modus operandi with all these Arkansas fat cats, it becomes clear that his way of dealing with things in Arkansas was to be part of the lobbyist crowd, to get contributions from the CEOs, and to basically work with them. In the context of Arkansas, he would have been slightly left of center, I suppose, but not in any way that he couldn't work with Walton and Tyson and the whole crowd. He did. And Hillary was on the boards of some of those companies. So, we shouldn't have believed it. He talked the talk, but he didn't walk the walk.
When he came to Washington, who did he sign up? Lloyd Cutler, Ron Brown, Vernon Jordan, Mickey Kantor—obviously not people who were enemies of the lobbying establishment.
Then, when he did the tax and budget package, the administration made deal after deal after deal with lobbyists. They did the same thing on NAFTA. So basically, they legitimatized interest group politics by the way they behaved as well as the way he dealt with the insiders almost from the start.
—Jonathan SchwarzPosted at November 11, 2008 07:47 AM