As I watched the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Center today, I was left nostalgic, remembering an era where our President could speak coherently and meaningfully.
How far we’ve fallen in just the last four years, from an era when 20 million jobs were created to four years when still more than 700,000 jobs have been lost. Featured throughout the ceremony were regular folks who rose to the podium to talk about the legislative accomplishments of the Clinton era and how their lives had been touched: expansion of volunteerism programs, more children covered by health insurance, and passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act despite vicious Republican opposition.
Imagine that! A time when the actions of government actually helped regular people, as opposed to the Bush era where in just four years, real Americans have been tangibly harmed. See, e.g., Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America.
The Clinton era saw a decrease in crime, not by stripping Americans of our civil liberties, but by putting more cops on the beat and reducing the grip of poverty on America’s poorest neighborhoods. The Clinton era saw a decrease in the incidence of abortion, not by outlawing it, but by expanding sex education programs and the availability of family planning information. The Clinton era saw the strengthening of families, not through bigotry and exclusion, but by helping parents earn a living wage and helping them with better child care and child healthcare programs, and yes, child tax credits.
In just four years, the Bush Administration has sought to gut many of those programs. This so-called “tough on crime” administration rescinded the funding for the 100,000 cops that Clinton put on the streets. This Administration that values fetuses has stripped healthcare funding for children, slashed child care programs. This uniter “promotes” family by telling some families that they’re contemptible and unworthy of basic rights!
In the Spring of 2000, Bill Clinton put his arms around my partner and me. In 2004, we can’t even get into a Bush event without being asked to sign a loyalty oath. They’d probably throw a dozen Secret Service agents at us if I dared try to introduce him to same-sex partner of nearly a decade. You see, at Bush campaign events, those who might challenge the President’s view of reality are not welcome.
I never thought I’d think of the Reagan era as “the good old days,” but thanks to Reagan’s admonishment that political foes during the day should be drinking buddies at night, Republicans were called upon to suck it up and deal with gay people, Democrats, Liberals, and anybody else they didn’t particularly like. They might have said nasty things behind closed doors, but in the 1980s, even the most partisan Republicans and Democrats treated one another with a measure of decency and integrity. Certainly, the Democrats played hardball with the opposition, but seldom did it devolve into character assassination and vitriol.
The Clinton years that changed all that. It was Republicans who first began to hate the President openly and with relish. It was shadowy, un-American hit-squads, funded by sociopaths like the demented billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who hounded the Clinton family over things like a land deal called Whitewater – a deal that the Clintons lost money on! But America lost $40 million on Ken Starr’s smut-quest.
Soon the money-changers in the temple, folks like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell gleefully committed the sin of bearing false witness against President Clinton, accusing him of corruption, rape, and even murders! Yes, plural, murders.
Is it any wonder that after 8 years of lying about President Clinton, the Republican machine and its standard bearers in the Bush Administration would build that administration upon lie after lie, corruption upon corruption, and yes, thousands of dead soldiers and civilians.
As President Clinton said today at his library dedication: “America has two great dominant strands of political thought; we’re represented up here on this stage: conservatism, which at its very best draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which at its very best breaks down barriers that are no longer needed or should never have been erected in the first place.”
And across the dais, the current President Bush could be seen gazing off into space, seemingly counting the minutes before he could get back to screwing the least of us.