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April 05, 2009

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but this sounds a lot like complaints about the 1990s that my then child-aged person has garbled from reading the editorial pages of the newspaper that America had a chance to remake the world now that it was the only superpower and it was squandered on [sexual peccadilloes or a deadlocked government and triangulation].

We wasted our moral strength by failing to [stop Rwanda, denuclearize, invest in human rights more generally or aggressively intervene in conflicts we didn't understand in service of nefarious interests or crass political concerns while clinging to a moral arrogance that was undeserved].

We failed to aggressively target man-made climate change etc. etc.

I can't remember any George H. W. Bush criticism but would not be surprised if he too suffered from criticisms along those lines, although since he was president when the Soviet Union actually fell he may be exempt.

It seems that after the fall of the Soviet Bloc every president is doomed to failure since there is no possible comparable moment of triumph to savor in the foreseeable future, and so every modern presidency will be subject to the Reagan Curse.

...if only we had supertrains and better broadband...

It is true that Bush One and Clinton failed to take action on a number of significant issues, climate change being the most significant one, but neither was an activley bad President and in many ways Clinton was a good one. Their failures, in other words, stand in contrast to to their Presidencies which in Clinton's case was largley successful and Bush One's which was ...well, forgettable, I guess.

With this Bush, however, the list of faiures publious gives is one disasterous aspect of a disasterous Presidency.

We are twenty years or so from chaos. Global climate change is going to screw up everything. I think Bush will be remembered with a great deal of rage. There will be anger toward the other Presidents and Congress memebers and voters who should have acted but didn't, but Bush, being the worst, is likely to end up being the scapegoat for all.

That's my guess. But I'm not planning to stick around to find out.

"...and Bush One's which was ...well, forgettable, I guess."

I don't find either the first Gulf War, or the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Berlin Wall, all that forgettable, myself.

Clinton failed to do a lot of the good he could/should have done because he and other Democrats shunned their liberal heritage in favor of trying to appease and cooperate with the modern Republican Party. Bush II failed because he and his administration are the evil-doers receiving efforts at appeasement and cooperation from well-intentioned but weak people, and their amoral calculating handlers.

It's the difference between the getaway driver and the underboss who planned the bank heist.

I don't think of the collapse of the Soviet Union or the fall of the wall as Bush One accomplishments and so not part of his Presidency.

There was the don't=blink=or-you-will-miss-it war. But I don't think that war is one that will resonate down history becoming part of the collective memory. I think it got overshadowed by Bush Two's war in Iraq.

But hard to say now, of course. We'll have to wait for history to judge.


I did not care for Bush I, though he looks pretty dazzling compared to W. That said, I don't think anyone thought that Bush I had no accomplishments to his name. They did think he was a bit out of touch on the economy, but he did a good job dealing with the crackup of the Soviet Union.

I think it's hard to see the economy of the 90s as not an accomplishment.

With W., I clung to two (2) accomplishments: the north-south treaty in the Sudan, and making a great big ocean preserve. The first was a genuinely big deal, although they didn't really follow up on it, and it has been on the verge of unravelling ever since.

But compared to the opportunities they wasted, it's nothing.

"Back at home, the administration flatly ignored the nation’s most pressing domestic problems. At the top of that list was global warming. During those years, concerns about global warming took on a new urgency both in our country and across the world."

You mean to say that he didn't ignore the Senate rejecting the Kyoto treaty 99-0, and set out to implement it anyway? What a dastardly failure to act unilaterally!

You mean to say that he didn't ignore the Senate rejecting the Kyoto treaty 99-0, and set out to implement it anyway? What a dastardly failure to act unilaterally!

And with one mighty blow,Sir Brett valiantly slays the man of straw.

I too agree that it is fair to say that Clinton failed to accomplish much that he shold have and his may really have been the "lost" time because the Bush years were more than just "lost", they were a disaster. In fact, it is ironic that Clinton's greatest accomplishment may have been during the first part of his administration, when the whole operation was such a mess, before Leon Panetta got hold of it. That accomplishment, of course, being the 1993 budget which laid the groundwork for the surpluses which Bush and the GOPers so gleefully squandered, destroying the societal benefit gained from Clinton's accomplishment. Thus, the Bush years were not a lost decade, but an affirmative disaster in that the squandering of that surplus helped lead to the financial crisis and left us without the best means of solving it and the long-term federal budget problem. Also full of irony is what I view as Clinton's likely second historical accomplishment, which was to cement the positive legacy of the Reagan years. While helping to end the Cold War and restoring people's optimism(I didnt vote for the man but 1980 was my third pres election and I have to admit his accomplishments), he left behind the budget problem, which Clinton solved, thus allowing the Reagan years to be viewed for their positive rather than their negative. And yes Iran-contra was bad, but my point is that Clinton helped Reagan's historical legacy. In fact, I think it is arguable that Reagan, with his real, almost naive, optimism, probably would have said that he expected a later president would solve the budget problem he left behind (and that he wasnt surprised it wasnt his own VP).

it's hard to see the economy of the 90s as not an accomplishment

And yet I manage to see it that way.

It was a bubble economy, that continued and expanded high-dollar, trade-deficit, job-exporting policies that hollowed out productive capacity, replaced pensions with individual stock market gambling, and swelled the financial sector beyond any appropriate size. Income inequality continued to increase, with further top-percentile tax cuts.

And the kicker, whose results we're paying double for today (given that Larry Summers is still a guiding light): the near-total deregulation of the financial sector, even after the criminal Long-Term Capital Management derivatives debacle in 1998.

True, real wages did rise in the latter Clinton years, their only increase in the last thirty years, before stagnating and falling again under Bush. But welfare "reform" set the stage for a huge increase in child poverty the minute the economy turned down again, which it predictably did under the next Republican administration.

Clinton also wasted his eight years in terms of dealing with global warming, to almost the same extent as Bush. He didn't actively promote denialism, he just declined to take any actions that would make a difference. Al Gore's actual behavior (carrying out Clinton's policy) was substantially worse than people like to remember, with the Kyoto conference as a low point.

The Clinton years also were decisive ones in swelling the mass incarceration disgrace. The rabid partisanship of congressional Republicans and appalling behavior of the media played their part, but there was one hell of a lot less there than we had a right to expect. And don't get me started on health care.

Oh, did I mention a huge increase in privatization, including a big expansion of private militaries (and wars that gave them contracts to grow on)? Plan Colombia, the $2 billion counterinsurgency disguised as an "anti-drug" and "pro-democracy" initiative, was Clinton's baby.


I don't think of the collapse of the Soviet Union or the fall of the wall as Bush One accomplishments and so not part of his Presidency.

I think the accomplishment of GHB's administration was that the collapse of the Soviet Union led neither to a really big war nor to the rise of a neo-fascist movement in post-collapse Russia with broad popular support (does anybody remember Zhirinovsky?). In other words, we didn't get anything as messy and violent as the collapse of [take your pick: the Qing empire, Tsarist Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman empire, the British Raj], nor did we get something like late-stage Weimer Germany redux, but this time with nukes.

Not to say that either of those things was highly likely to happen, but they weren't impossible either (especially if we had been gifted at the time with leadership as ham-handed and brainless as say GWB). The collapse of an sprawling multi-ethnic empire tends to be a period fraught with geopolitical dangers, so it could have gone much worse that it did, and GHB and Clinton (and their teams) both deserve some credit for that.

Regarding the "lost decade", I'm inclined to think that was a function of the US going through a period of relative safety, such that the quality of our leadership (or rather the lack thereof) was not directly and immediately threatening to the safety and well-being of Americans in the short run. So we did what we usually do in similar circumstances (c.f. the late-19th Cen. US, post 1865) - we "took our eyes off the ball". The collapse of communism and the "unipolar momment" created an opportunity for the US to drift along with brain dead leadership, a trivia obsessed media and an ADHD addled electorate. Never let it be said that we leave any opportunity unexplored, given the chance.

It seems to me that comparisons with the drift and muddle during late-Victorian and Edwardian era Britain are rather apropos.

Because the quality of our leadership in the still-supposedly-dangerous 1980s was so brilliant and capable...

Agree with eversything except one. Not lost decade--lost generation. Our national denial of reality really began with Ronald Reagan in 1980.

"Agree with eversything except one. Not lost decade--lost generation. Our national denial of reality really began with Ronald Reagan in 1980."

Yeah, clearly nothing good ever happened in America since 1980. [eyes roll so much they hurt]

I'm not inclined to label Bush II's presidency as a lost decade. It was squandered.


You've forgotten the great accomplishment of the 2000-2008 Bush Years - the [self] destruction of the Republican Party.

That had to be done before anything else worthwhile could be accomplished.

(does anybody remember Zhirinovsky?)

I've seen him on FOX as a "Russian expert."

No, I'm not joking.

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