What goes around comes around...or something like that.
President Bill Clinton, despite his sordid personal life and disgraceful behavior while in office, was actually pretty successful as recent presidents go. The economy was roaring during his tenure, in large part because the newly launched World Wide Web and new technology were spurring rapid advances in innovation, productivity and quality. Clinton's policies, if not enhancing the healthy economy, certainly did not hinder it.
With prodding from the Republican Congress headed up by Speaker Newt Gingrich, Clinton signed a welfare reform bill after vetoing it twice, agreed to a capital gains tax cut that aided growth, and not only finished several fiscal years with balanced budgets; he actually had a surplus one year (the first in 30 years).
Yet now, 15 years after he left office, some of Bill Clinton’s most successful moves as president have come back to haunt him. Or, more precisely, to plague Hillary Clinton in her run for the presidency.
During his first term, Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, with strong support from many Republicans in Congress, passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which at the time was regarded as a tremendous achievement. Today, rightly or wrongly, NAFTA is the whipping boy for the loss of middle class manufacturing jobs.
In the realm of crime and helping urban areas battle a plague of violence related to the scourge of crack cocaine and other drugs, Clinton enacted the Violent Crime Control Act in 1994. The law included stricter sentences for offenders and less leniency with regard to parole and reduced sentences. These days, militant groups such as Black Lives Matter are complaining bitterly about how Clinton's policies resulted in far more African-American men being incarcerated, and for far longer than in the past.
The third major Bill Clinton policy that's now causing his wife heartburn took place near the end of his second term: His signing of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (aka the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999). This law repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 and essentially tore down the barriers between conventional banks that take deposits and issue loans, on the one hand; and companies dealing in securities and insurance on the other.
This new paradigm went a long way toward creating incestuous, conflict-of-interest situations among financial services professionals. For example, a firm's analysts would be talking up a stock to potential investors, while in another division, brokers raked in commissions for selling that very same stock. In conjunction with the push to qualify millions of unqualified people for home mortgages in the interest of "fairness," a toxic stew was created, and the house of cards came crashing down in September 2008.
Hillary's Democrat rival for the presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders, frequently mentions repeal of Glass-Steagall as a watershed that helped wreck the economy. Not all Sanders supporters are young, naive airheads. Some of them are actually intelligent and well-informed, and these are the ones who understand the implications of certain policy decision and could probably converse articulately about them. (Unlike large numbers of today's typical voter -- just check out "Watters World" sometime.)
But beyond Bill's actions while President, Hillary has a few things to answer for, too. She voted for the Iraq War resolution in 2002. Let's face it: Invading Iraq was a catastrophic mistake. It matters little whether it was due to inaccurate intelligence (my belief) or bald-faced lies by the Bush administration (a fervent belief of leftists everywhere). Thousands of Americans lost their lives; thousands were maimed and/or psychologically scarred; we spent hundreds of billions of dollars; scores of innocent Iraqis lost their lives. We laid waste to the country. And what do we have now? A dysfunctional, corrupt Iraq that is under the thumb of Iran and infested with ISIS scum.
Yes, President Obama's abrupt pull-out of Iraq worsened what might have proved to be a stable situation in the long run. (Two wrongs don't make a right!) But even if we had committed to keep troops there for decades, a la Japan and South Korea, it still would have meant spending many billions of dollars more and probably more lives lost.
Would it have been worth it? Perhaps not, when one realizes that large swaths of the United States feature crumbling infrastructure, dying towns, closed factories and massive unemployment. Suicides, drug abuse, alcoholism and hopelessness are, sadly, a huge part of the American landscape in 2016. But you don't hear that much about it, since this would force the corrupt media to paint President Obama in an unfavorable light, and they are loath to do that.
It is a bitter irony for Bill and Hillary that the landscape has changed so drastically, and what, a few years ago, were regarded as assets or bragging points are, today, nettlesome sore points that will continue to poke and prod them for the remainder of the campaign.