Obama’s failure, Scott Walker’s success: Clinton’s support of Reaganomics.
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But Taft’s views and the nascent conservative movement were no match for Ike’s military glamour, and in a tumultuous convention Ike emerged as the Republican nominee. He trounced the Democrats’ Adlai Stevenson as well.
The Eisenhower presidency never took on the underlying precept of Big Government that was the foundation for the FDR and Truman presidencies. As the first Republican to take charge of the White House after the New Deal, Eisenhower flatly refused to take it on as Taft clearly intended to do.
But the fact of the matter was that when Eisenhower took office as president in January of 1953, the political consensus of the day was that Big Government was the wave of the future. Ike accepted that view. In the eight years that were Eisenhower’s popular two terms in the White House, there were zero attempts to challenge the premise. In fact, Eisenhower went about creating one of the modern behemoths of the federal government — the Cabinet Department of Health and Welfare, now renamed the Department of Health and Human Services. It is from this perch today that Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is busily implementing Obamacare as per the expansions of power provided her department by today’s Big Government congressional champions Pelosi and Reid.
By the time Eisenhower handed the reins to young John F. Kennedy in 1961, the FDR-New Deal view of activist Big Government had been seemingly cemented forever. And why wouldn’t it seem that way? Not only had Eisenhower not done anything to challenge the idea, his designated successor as the 1960 GOP nominee, Vice President Richard Nixon, had swallowed the concept whole, as was evidenced in his losing campaign against JFK.
Which brings us to Bill Clinton.
By the time Clinton took office as the first Democrat to succeed Ronald Reagan, the consensus over the role of Big Government had been irretrievably smashed. In its place stood the new consensus — the Reagan Consensus. An understanding that taxes must be kept low to encourage economic growth — and that spending had to be restrained.
No one was more acutely aware of this than Bill Clinton himself. He had in fact spent years positioning himself as a “centrist” or “New Democrat.” Working with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, Clinton fought to give the Democrats a more moderate veneer after years of McGovern, Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis had left Americans with the realization that Liberalism was hopelessly captured by tax-and-spend special interests — with public employee unions at the top of the list.
Yet once elected president, Clinton plunged into the presidency as an activist Democrat in the mold of his hero JFK, With a bust of FDR on his desk, Clinton and wife Hillary spent two years fighting the Reagan Consensus with “HillaryCare” — a government-controlled health care system. They failed. According to aide George Stephanopoulos, the quickly frustrated President Clinton was grousing that he was being forced to behave as an “Eisenhower Republican.”
He wasn’t happy — but if he were going to win re-election Bill Clinton was determined to get on with accommodating the Reagan Consensus.
By 1995, with the 1994 Gingrich-led sweep of Congress on a Reaganesque platform now a fact, Clinton formally acknowledged the new consensus — the Reagan Consensus. “The era of Big Government is over,” he proclaimed in his State of the Union message. And while that was a decided stretch, there was no disagreement that what Ronald Reagan had wrought had now replaced the once central idea in American politics and culture — that Big Government was the foundation of American politics.
While Clinton tinkered at the margins — a tax increase and, more lethally, setting in motion the housing crisis of 2008 — the essence of Reaganomics was kept in place. No less than the Father of Reaganomics, Professor Arthur Laffer of “Laffer Curve” fame, became a Clinton enthusiast as Clinton adapted his presidency and ceased fighting the Reagan Consensus. Laffer happily voted for Clinton in 1996 over the non-Reaganite Bob Dole.
Which is to say, Bill Clinton became to the Reagan Consensus what Dwight Eisenhower was to FDR’s New Deal Consensus.
As Eisenhower refused to undo Roosevelt, after a brief but futile — not to mention politically lethal — try, Bill Clinton raised the white flag and became, on economics, “even more Reagan than Reagan.”
Is there any wonder that there is tension between the Clinton and Obama camps?
Barack Obama’s famously stated intent in 2008 was to “transform” America. Or, in other words, to replace the Reagan Consensus with a new Obama Consensus. A consensus that Obama critics immediately accused of being outright socialism — or, in the words of our friend Bob Tyrrell’s new book The Death of Liberalism, “Stealth Socialism.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online