Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 17, 2006
POLITICS: Cleaning Your Own House

This story from Daily Kos diarist Mark27 is clearly written more in the spirit of bitterness than dispassionate analysis, but of course Mark27 is right that if the GOP picks a new House Majority Leader who is seen as a genuinely clean reformer - and John Shadegg does seem by far the best of the three candidates on that score - and is able to make some headway against the corrupting influence of earmarked spending and special-interest tax breaks that attract lobbyists, the Democrats' "culture of corruption" theme will dissolve, as the GOP will have proven itself capable of fixing the problem.

What I wonder is whether Democrats who agree with this analysis recognize its corollary: the harm inflicted on their own party by their to-the-last-dog defense of Bill Clinton.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:29 PM | Politics 2006 | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)

Was thinking about this in connection with Al Gore the other day. If he'd been taken a principled stand against Bill Clinton back in the day he'd have had rock solid credibility and probably would have won in 2000.
If the Dems ever do find something credible to try and impeach Bush with I hope the Reps keep this lesson solidly in mind. No one person is more important than the party and it's ideas and goals.

Posted by: Peder at January 18, 2006 8:57 AM

Peder & Crank, Al Gore lost in 2000 because he ran from Clinton's legacy instead of embracing it. Gore selected Leiberman, who had consistently denounced Clinton as immoral and disgraceful. Gore didn't involve Clinton in his campaign.

Gore, like the two of you, could never understand that people did not care about Monicagate, and he paid a hefty price for it.

And Crank, if the GOP does elect John Shedagg, this Democrat will be damn impressed. But I would not count on it.

And the difference between the two scandals - Monicagate & Abramoffgate - is that the latter has disasterous affects on the quality of our government, but the former did so only to the extent it was a distraction.

Posted by: pat_rick at January 18, 2006 9:14 AM

I find that last rejoinder quite mysterious. If I recall, Democrats made gains in the 1998 midterm elections---and the sixth-year midterms are almost never good years for the president's party. Not only that, but President Clinton was never more popular than when he was being threatened with impeachment by the Republican Congressional leadership. Clinton inspired a heckuva lot of rage among certain quarters (and continues to inspire it, oddly), but all in all he was a pretty popular president, and it seems quite curious that if his personal failings didn't prove a terrible drag on his own image, and didn't prove a drag on his party's political candidates, why would you suppose he inflicted harm on the party in a more general sense?

As for why Al Gore lost in 2000, I suppose you could say it had something to do with Bill Clinton, but it probably had a little more to do with Al Gore, no?

Posted by: Jack Roy at January 18, 2006 10:30 AM

Anyone see the genuinely hilarious bit on The Daily Show last night regarding taint in Washington?

Posted by: jim at January 18, 2006 11:23 AM

1. There was a backlash against impeachment in 1998. But there was also a lingering sense afterwords that Clinton getting off scot-free wasn't a great thing either, and that didn't help his VP.

2. pat_rick, I wasn't just talking about Lewinsky. The Clinton scandals also included campaign finance scandals and - in point of fact - the receipt of Indian tribe money in exchange for favors on casino business.

3. Yes, Gore lost very narrowly and for a variety of reasons. But the exit polling seemed pretty clear that he was hurt in some key Southern states, in particular, by his inability to distance himself from the scandals (and his choice of Lieberman only underscored the Gore camp's awareness of this weakness).

4. Yes, I agree that Shadegg is a long shot. Boehner would be better than Blunt, at least, since Boehner has a decent record on the earmark issue, but I'd rather see a more dramatic change.

Posted by: The Crank at January 18, 2006 11:32 AM

Jack Roy, I agree that Clinton was a popular president, but his coattails were awfully short. Within 2 years of his election, the Democrats lost control of the Senate and lost the House for the first time in 40 years, and the Democrats have not regained either since then. Bill Clinton's coattails extend only to those named Clinton.

Posted by: rbj at January 18, 2006 1:43 PM


That's awfully selective memory. If you'll recall, Bill Clinton was tremendously unpopular in 1994---when the Democrats lost all those seats. During his later years, however, when his popularity stayed consistently above 50% for the first time, Democrats were more popular and more successful than they had been in his first term. 2000 was a close call, to put it lightly, and every election since has been rather dramatically about issues that weren't present before 9/11. I really don't think you can make the case you're trying to make, at least not without grappling with some rather difficult arguments in the other direction.

I don't mean to dispute the perfectly sensible observation that Bill Clinton's political style has led to less of a party realignment than that accomplished by FDR or LBJ; indeed, I don't think I could. But simply to assert that Clinton hasn't had coattails is to blink the world, so to speak.

Posted by: Jack Roy at January 18, 2006 2:14 PM

Always cracks me up to see Republicans citing exit polling to support a point...if we followed exit polling, Bush wouldn't have been president twice.

As for Bill, the "scandals" had no teeth...Clinton was the most investigated president since Nixon and they could find nothing more than a BJ...nuff said.

So why is it that Bush won't release info on Abramoff visits to the WH again? How will Congressional proposals (which are nothing more than for the cameras) going to help this scandal driven WH? Not hardly. If Abramoff and Plame don't bring em down, NSA eavesdropping is definitely going to...if not by Congress, by prosecution...

Posted by: AstrosFan at January 18, 2006 3:59 PM

Clinton regained popularity because, once the GOP got hold of Congress, he had a foil in Newt. And GOP control made it easier for him to simply accept Reaganite economic policy.

He kept Greenspan, allowed Newt to balance the budget, pursued various free trade pacts, etc. Clinton's ethics were dubious six ways to Sunday, but on the whole it's hard to fault his economics. But Clinton's successes, while in some measure good for the country, did his party little good. The GOP is now the majority party.

Gore lost for one reason-he lost touch with his "roots" in Tenneessee. Had he won TN, he wouldn't have needed FL.

Posted by: Campagna at January 18, 2006 6:54 PM

"Find nothing more than a BJ"-It is always funny how lefties describe the suborning of perjury by a defendant in a federal civil rights case. They never mention the name Paula Jones or any of the other names that Slick Willy sexually assaulted and harassed over his political career. However, if you get drunk and get touchy feely like Republican Bob Packwood, well that is just totally unaccepatble to the lefties and you have to go. Likewise, if you are Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and you are accused of just asking someone out too many times, again that is just unacceptable and you cannot serve in the government. But if you are a Democratic President and you routinely use your position to procure sex from subordinates, come on to women , pull your dick out and ask women to kiss little Willy, well that is just a lot of nothing. Because this nothing behavior is not behavior that would get anyone else fired or arrested in this country- right?

Regarding more of the "nothing" we have the 15 thousand dollars that the Clinton's had to pay the IRS due to Whitewater (don't remember that right?), we have the Slick one having to surrender his law license, again nothing, we have the fine that the federal judge imposed on Slick Willy-again nothing, then there was the 15-20 convictions Whitewater , the convictions-nothing. The settlement to Paula Jones-nothing.

"If Abrahamoff and Plame don't bring em down"-hey pal-Abrahamoff gave 1.5 million to the Democrats-did you know that? He gave money to somewhere around 40 of the 45 Democratic Senators and many democratic congressman-did you know that?-all elections are local-Republican challengers are going to be using this against Democratic incumbents and vice versa all around the country. The media will make a big deal about it, because they are part of the Democratic establishment, at the end of the day it won't be a major issue in more than a handful of races. But keep up the faith, because as we know the media and the Democratic party is batting 1.000 over the last 3 election cycles-right?

Plame-lol,lol,lol-In case you didnt get the memo Fitzmas didnt come-but again I guess your masters didn't tell you that. They of course have to keep the lemmings in a perpetual state of agitation and unreality.

NSA eavesdropping-please, please, make this a major issue-put it front and center with Harry Reid's "We stopped the Patriot act" and Howard Dean's ramblings. It is election gold.......... for us, keep bringing up issues that just illustrate how weak the Democrats are on defense issues.

Here is a little project for you- why don't you Google- Project Echelon and Carnivore - maybe you will actually learn something about eavesdropping and its uses by both Democratic and Republican presidents. I would also suggest you read the various court cases dealing with presidential power in times of war. You might notice that- surprise, surprise they say something different then your masters led you to believe.

Posted by: dch at January 18, 2006 7:18 PM

All this Clinton bashing does not change the fact that he, like Bush, won a first election that he could have just as easily lost had Perot not run--same with Nader.

However, Bush could have been beaten the second time around witha credible candidate. Kerry was not it, but does anyone think Bill Clinton would not have creamed George Bush, both in the debates, and in the general election?

Clinton had his ethical problems, but I really think Cheney's are far worse. And Clinton, unlike Bush, was a brillian administrator.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at January 18, 2006 8:11 PM

"And Clinton, unlike Bush, was a brilliant administrator."

That's what it comes down to. The details escape GWB all too often. The Medicare drug bill is the most recent example. Post war Iraq is the most tragic example. And there are countless others.

How can someone who rides his bike two hours a day and goes to bed by 9:00pm have any clue what's going on throughout his administration. If I kept that schedule for two weeks I'd probably be fired (I am sure Crank would as well).

Posted by: pat_rick at January 18, 2006 8:39 PM

Doubt your boss's boss's boss would though.

Posted by: seamus at January 18, 2006 8:41 PM

Guess a whole bunch of people missed my point. Taking a principled stand isn't just the right thing for a party to do, it's the smart thing too. I'm hoping the Reps keep that in mind.

Posted by: Peder at January 18, 2006 9:49 PM

RE: "Doubt your boss's boss's boss would though."

Bush supporters have always claimed that the President surrounds himself with highly competent people and let's them do their thing, without micro managing them.

But the limits of this approach have become painfully evident in the workings of this administration.

One example is the Pre-War planning. The Pentagon was very territorial about this invasion and completely excluded the State Department from pre-war discussions. So from the beginning, we were heading into Iraq with one hand tied behind our back. A strong leader could have forced these two Departments to work together.

Another example was troop levels. Paul Bremer writes in his recenlty released book that he requested more troops from Don Rumsfield while he was in Iraq. The Defense Secretary said he talked with some of the Military Leaders over there, and then checked in with the President, and finally decided no troops were necessary.

This is a macro decision that should have been made by the President. But GWB has always shirked responsiblity by saying I'll leave it to the guys in the field. Well, what if "the guys in the field" say different things?

And the worst part of this approach occurs when the President finally does try to involve himself, but its too late because he's totally removed from reality. This happened after insurgents dragged contractors through the streets of Fallujiaa.

The President sent word down that he wanted those animals hunted down and brought to justice even if it required punishing the entire city. But the Marines had been making inroads into the community. But they had to abandon those and go on the offensive (this is all described in the book "Assasins Gate," I highly recommend it).

Posted by: pat_rick at January 19, 2006 8:34 AM


Assassins' Gate is an excellent book. I'm not sure that it necessarily calls into question the lassiez faire executive approach, but I get your drift.

Here's some devil's advocacy-

re pre-war planning: As Assassins' Gate shows, the State Dept essentially advocated a continuation of the staus quo- diplomacy, inspections, etc. Natural enough, given its mission. Given the environment then, however, that approach all but guaranteed marginalization. Sure, DoD took the lead, but thats its job. The real criticism isn't that State wasn't consulted about pre-war planning (thats not its competence), its that its post-war planning in the pre-war period was more or less ignored. Lots of blame to go around there, and it ultimately lands on the president's desk, but, given that the State Dept was plainly unenthusiastic about the invasion- to the point, arguably, of hindering the effort- its not a wonder that the audience for its work in other areas shrunk. Regrettable, perhaps, but not remarkable.

re Bremer: he's either a fool or a cynic. I lean toward the latter. I hope its the latter. If he doesn't understand why troop levels were not raised during his time in Iraq, nor since, he wasn't fit for the office in the first place (in no particular order- cost, resources, size of American footprint and proportionate Iraqi capabilities, US politics). Which might explain a few things. To claim now that he asked for more troops and was rebuffed smacks of opportunism, but I'd rather that over the alternative- ignorance and incompetency.

re Fallujah: It was going to have to be done at some point, Marines were going to do it, and it was going to be bloody. In a better world, there would have been more time to shape the battlefield. Events intervened and decisions were made, and those decisions arguably made the mission more difficult than it otherwise might have been. There is room for debate and criticism here, but I don't see much evidence of anyone, including and especially the president, being removed from reality. Quite the opposite in fact.

Posted by: seamus at January 19, 2006 9:46 AM

There is a clear difference btween delegating, and ignoring. CLinton did neither, was a supremely intelligent workaholic who nonethelss had some very smart people around him who kept up.

Ronald Reagan, far too conservative for me, but a great president, delegated, He listened, made osme major policy decisions, and got out of the way,

W on the other hand, doesn't seem to get out of the way. He isn't on the road. He depends on his hangers on for information, as he seems to be prooud of hi lack of newspaper reading.

And BTW, your boss's boss's boss would indeed be fired. By the time you have gotten to the top of the pyramid, you generally do so by working like a demon. Sandy Weill would go bonkers if he sat back and delegated everything.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at January 19, 2006 10:25 AM

Clinton also admitted, when leaving office, that he made most of his worst mistakes when he was tired. Presidents get paid to make decisions and show leadership, not to micromanage. Certainly some of Bush's decisions can be second-guessed, but deferring to the generals on issues of troop strength is an odd one to question.

Posted by: The Crank at January 19, 2006 10:50 AM

it depends on how much he is "deferring to the generals" and how much it is Rummy/Congress saying ain't no more money...

Abramoff gave zero, nada, to Democrats. Get your facts right then rant.

Clinton spied on Americans, but with judicial oversight. Bush, not so much.

Posted by: AstrosFan at January 19, 2006 12:30 PM

seamus: All good points. I'll only take issue with the troop level question. Why are Bremer and Rumsfeld left pointing fingers at each other when the man who ultimately should be held accountable for that decision is the President?

If different advisors were giving different opinions the President should have made the call. And to hang his loyal advisors out to dry is shameful.

I am probably one of the only Democrats in the country who believes Donald Rumsfeld has served admirably as Sec of Def. He has overseen the removal of two evil regimes halfway across the world with miraculous precision. Too bad his boss f'd everything else up.

Posted by: jpat_rick at January 19, 2006 2:09 PM

Why? Bremer's trying to sell a book.

Bush made the decision and is being held accountable for it every day.

Posted by: seamus at January 19, 2006 4:53 PM

Which he richly deserves.

Posted by: Mike at January 19, 2006 5:19 PM

Re: "Bush made the decision and is being held accountable for it every day."

I have never heard him discuss this. A month ago he shocked the world by taking a few sponaneous questions. I for one was surprised when he had a somewhat reasonable response to the question about Iraq fatalities. How low we have set the bar.

Meanwhile, Rumsfeld has a weekly press conference.

Do you really think GWB is fit to carry the jockstrap of Don Rumsfeild or Paul Bremer? I don't.

Posted by: pat_rick at January 19, 2006 7:07 PM

I haven't heard that any Dems received $$ directly from Abramoff...if I have been misinformed, someone please enlighten me. And Crank, to imply that our President offered anything resembling deference to Generals regarding troop levels, pre or post-war planning, or anything else for that matter is preposterous. I could plaster a thousand links here to support this point, but we have obviously all been paying attention and I don't have time besides.

Posted by: macsonix at January 20, 2006 9:39 AM
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