Clinton: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Bob Dole clicked his ruby-red slippers together and exited stage right from the Oz-like world of electoral politics Tuesday night. Democrats across the country were seen dancing the Macarena into the wee hours and mockingly chanting, “There’s no place like home.” Hell, you might have even been one of those people.
Less than a day after the election, Democrats are proudly proclaiming an end to Gingrichian politics. The party faithful firmly believe the Savior himself was reelected to the White House, and activists are crawling back out of the closet with fresh legislative initiatives. According to this terribly deluded and convoluted mind-set, Bill Clinton will show his true liberal underpants in his second term in the Oval Office.
To blatantly borrow from Bart Simpson, I must protest, “Kids in TV-land, you’re being duped!” Just as Krusty the Clown was a fraud, so too is Bob Dole’s Bozo. Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention would have been warmly embraced in San Diego, and coldblooded, callous conservatives like me are almost gleeful that he won.
I must admit, at one point several political light-years ago, Clinton was indeed the conservative anti-Christ. Shortly after moving up from Arkansas, he proposed a grotesque national health care program (apparently his staffers forgot to check out the reports of the impending insolvency of Medicare and Medicaid — that’s the real crisis in need of a legislative solution). In a move that reeked of government expansion and social do-goodism, he and Hillary wanted to nationalize a $1 trillion industry. While the liberal elite broke out the Perrier and celebrated, middle-class moderates experienced minor heart palpitations.
The voters issued a clarion wake-up call to the commander in chief during the midterm elections, and Clinton promptly responded. The desire to save the world with government initiatives and expensive social programs was tossed out like a beer-stained Halloween costume. Dick Morris (of toe-sucking fame) successfully remolded the candidate into a centrist who identified and empathized with suburban soccer moms and not just the National Public Radio audience.
Clinton’s inexorable slide to the right is well-documented. Perhaps most damning was his admission during the State of the Union address that “the era of big government is over.” Face it, he’s a New Democrat with an identity crisis.
The economic arena is an excellent example of Clinton choosing the Republican road over Robert Frost’s less-traveled one. Clinton’s feel-your-pain campaign in ’92 was built upon James Carville’s bumper sticker philosophical musing, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Clinton promised a tax cut for the middle class and programs to help people washed up after a decade of the Bush-Reagan rising tide of supply-side capitalism.
In reality, Clinton’s economic policies were none too liberal. Consider the North American Free Trade Agreement. That “giant sucking sound” Ross Perot frequently mumbled about was really Clinton slurping the Republican ambrosia of free trade. He lobbied hard for the bill against the wishes of most of his party and key special interest groups like organized labor. Strangely enough, it didn’t hurt his popularity, and the AFL-CIO made record contributions of $35 million to the Democratic National Committee this year. Now Clinton’s hoping to expand the agreement to include Chile, a South American country famed for its commitment to democracy. In another disappointment for the Amnesty International crowd, the Clinton administration decoupled human rights and China’s most-favored nation trading status. Gee, if I’m not mistaken, that reads straight out of the Republican playbook.
Sure, Robert Reich, the secretary of labor, likes to stand on his footstool and dither about corporate responsibility, CEO robber barons and the like. But compared to Clinton’s inner circle, he’s orbiting somewhere near Pluto. Clinton & Co. have tacitly admitted there’s nothing government can do to stop turbo-charged capitalism, global competition and increased worker anxiety. Instead, they’ve proposed modest plans like targeted tax credits and a break on the capital gains tax for homeowners.
The Dow Jones recently barreled through the 6,000 mark, American firms are recording record profits, interest rates are low and inflation is almost nonexistent. The deficit has plummeted since Clinton took office (in truth, however, a large part of the credit is owed to the general overall health of the economy). So why should conservatives like me be upset that this “Democrat” was reelected?
Clinton’s campaign promises indicate that the next four years will probably be a replay of the last two. The Families First proposal doesn’t contain any LBJ-like, hyperambitious planks. Instead, the Democrats are offering incremental changes in health care, education credits and child care. Also included is a pledge to balance the budget in seven years with only $54 billion in new taxes.
Of course I’m disappointed a Republican isn’t preparing for the inaugural ball in January, but as a second choice, Bill Clinton isn’t too bad. To quote Howard Mohr’s book, “How to Talk Minnesotan,” it could be worse. A whole lot worse.
Greg Lauer’s column runs every Wednesday in the Daily.