Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Bill Clinton on the common good

Contributing to an incipient Democratic effort to articulate a politics of the common good, Bill Clinton spoke at Georgetown University yesterday. I was reading along, remembering why I liked a good bit of what he had to say (but never believing he actually meant it) when I came to this howler:

You have to oppose people who do things that are wrong, but it is very hard to say there’s going to be one set of rules for me and another set for everyone else.


I think the "common good" approach on national security worked. It was a combination of carrots and sticks. We did have military encounters. We didn’t succeed at everything we tried to do, but I think on balance, the world was safer when we stopped than when we started.

Read that last sentence again. The world in which al Qaeda, checked only symbolically by the Clinton Administration and emboldened by its feeble efforts, was well into preparations for 9-11 was safer than the world in 1992. What’s more, the context of this comment is suggestive: he’s talking about nuclear proliferation. If we have nuclear weapons, we can’t really tell the Iranians and North Koreans that they can’t have them too.

Much of the speech is a defense of the Clinton Administration’s record and an attack on what Republicans have done the past six years, framed by a wish that we can have deep and respectful philosophical arguments about politics and policy. That last part is the Clinton I remember liking, but not believing. The rest is the real Clinton, so to speak. In the course of this extremely long (is there ever any other description of a Clinton speech?) attack on the Bush Administration, he blames Republicans for the hyperpartisanship and name-calling that now marks Washington. Not a good way to open up a respectful airing of our philosophical differences.

Or as he put it at one point in the speech, "it is very hard to succeed in politics when you’re telling people they’re ugly all the time." In Bill Clinton’s world, it’s a bad idea to criticize the North Koreans but O.K. to heap opprobrium upon Republicans. But wait, the Republicans have nukes....

Discussions - 24 Comments

Uhhh ... yeah ... we can and should tell despotic regimes that they can not have nuclear weapons.

I hate moral equivalency!

Yeah yeah... "don’t stop speaking until tomorrow".

Clinton heaping "opprobrium upon Republicans" is a very recent development. If you read his biography (which is also pretty long-winded) he goes out of his way to be even-handed towards the party which criticized him as he went to war, impeached him for lying about oral sex, and encouraged personal lawsuits against him while he was trying to run a country. It was an unprecedented assault, and until recently he’s been very statesmanlike about it. This is the plus side of "triangulation"; it forces you to be polite.

And I have to repeat, you guys keep saying that Clinton’s policies caused all these problems for Bush, but somehow the problems happened on Bush’s watch and not Clinton. So it must have been luck. Is God on Clinton’s side?

Um, the first attack on the World Trade Center came in 1993. The bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa took place in 1998. The attack on the U.S.S. Cole occurred in 2000. "The problems" started long before Bush entered the White House.

But the first WTC bombing (which ruined a portion of the underground parking structure) happened just a few weeks after Clinton took office. Surely, that was Bush Sr’s fault!

I’m trying to suggest that the big damage, the serious loss of American lives, has happened under the current administration’s watch. The fact that things were relatively stable under Clinton suggests that his policies did, indeed, work better.

Yes, the Republicans have Nukes, the North Koreans have ’em, the Ukrainians, the Russians.... The only ones that DON"T have them are the Iraqis.

This argument is a silly one, and it is an indication that the right is desperately thrashing in water over its head.

Remember when Bush took over, and the world was writ in big letters with colorful pictures? With us or against us, good and evil, compassion and high moral tone,safer, more secure, Gore’s correct predictions were too "fuzzy" to comprehend??

Well, the problem for R’s these days is that it SHOULD be clear as a bell that we are safer today than we were under Clinton (or Carter, if that doesn’t work), but it is awfully "fuzzy," isn’t it?

This Sunday, we may decide it is too dangerous to attend an NFL game. Thousands of kids are still (and perhaps permanently) attending schools in Texas, instead of in New Orleans, 50 American soldiers died in Iraq last week, and the NIE describes a world much MORE dangerous than the one that Bush inherited. It should be a slam-dunk, because that is what Bush promised: thwarting evil-doers, bin Laden dead or alive, bring ’em on, mission accomplished!! Now, it is pathetically tragicomic how his supporters are splitting hairs, making fine distinctions about how many weeks Bush and Condie had to ignore Clinton’s warnings, and how many U.S.S. Coles you can fit in a 9/11.

I have been reading the posts from one and two years ago, and I have enjoyed the gloating going on-- the crowing over the impending death of the Democratic party. A far cry from this kind of argument.

This guy really rips those righty tighty wingnuts a new one.

Fung, you are so full of hot air. The Democrats are MORE to blame for New Orleans than Bush ever wash...don’t make me trot out the corruption of that place, how money was REALLY spent, and how dependent that population was/is on the dole. Just a WONDERFUL model of Democratic governance.

As for Iraq and recent casualties...have you ever heard of the Tet Offensive? We have an election coming up...we have greatly increased ’insurgent’ activity. Hmm...wonder if there’s a connection? If it weren’t for weak-minded fools like yourself, those boys wouldn’t be dead...and that’s the plain fact of it. These terrorists are playing to people like you, Fung. YOU are the audience...how pathetic you are.

As for Bush being responsible for 9/11, that’s BS...everyone knows it. Even these "bipartisan commissions" have traced 9/11 to fundamental errors made during the Clinton administration. I guess Bush could be blamed for not dropping every other policy concern in his first months of office (e.g., putting the ’W’s’ back on his keyboards), but he didn’t even have a full cabinet until...when, Mr. Fung? And who slowed him down?

If there has been a mistake in Iraq, it was to overestimate the worthiness of the Iraqis. The sad truth is, they aren’t worth dying for...which I think is the conclusion of most people today. I don’t blame Bush for trying to drag them into the 21st Century, but the Left is also culpable in these "mistakes." Throughout, Bush has had to fight two wars...one at home. There’s a reason he didn’t commit more troops, a reason he didn’t "get tough" with insurgents, a reason he didn’t do something about the sponsors of insurgency (Iran and Syria). Those reasons would be YOU, Fung, and your Leftoid fools.

We will probably lose this November, but if so then I have been right all along. This country is finished, and only about a third of its people are worth dying for. If we have so little stomach for fighting important wars, then it won’t be long before we really will be a paper tiger...just as Bin Laden said we were. There are plenty of people waiting in the wings to take our place (e.g., China)...people with a lot more fortitude and vision. So enjoy your wine and cheese, Fung.

"We were safer then" really is a major Demoratic theme of the election and one that must be sounded by all on that side to carry resonance. If so, if it is to be believed that we were so safe at the end of Clinton’s presidency, then how did we become so "unsafe" so quickly? I am mostly just a housewife, and yet thought that even I knew that the North Koreans had been working on having a nuclear bomb for a long time. I thought that the world was an unsafe place, with troubles in dozens of places and has always been such. I thought that was one of the reasons I voted for GWB in that first election. The world was an unsafe place with some really nasty people in it. A Democratic foreign policy that had Clinton cheered in foreign capitals, while the US, on general principle was reviled seemed schizophrenic to me. That Al Gore did not have the same kind of charisma meant that no matter which man was elected, the president was not going to be cheered again in those capitals for a long while. Besides, the Dems "common good" meant that the line between what is right and wrong can be endlessly blurred, and that peace can mean silence on absolute goodness. Even "Goodness" seemed to mean what was good for the US, or even just for Bill Clinton, at just that time. Tomorrow could take care of itself.

Yes, I suppose a certain blindness is necessary to co-exist in the world. I hear that is called being pragmatic. It seems clear to me that idealism in the world means to enlarge yourself as a target. To the extent that we are an idealistic nation in our basic notions of freedom and equality, we are the biggest democratic nuisance in the world. Those basic notions bring us prosperity, which means that we trade with other nations, which means that we can’t isolate ourselves, politically. I always wondered how we were supposed to look smaller, as to get along. Isn’t being a nation in a world of nations just dangerous? Being the nation that we are has to be the most dangerous thing in the history of nations.

The US, as big as we are, still does not have the capacity to compel our notions of "the common good" on the wide world. That was why Mr. Clinton did not have unqualified success. Unless we become the empire that some on the left accuse us of being, we never will have that capacity. Unless we become, suddenly, totalitarian in our national nature and fight the whole world to win our contentions about what is good, and make that goodness common, then the world will be a dangerous place for America. Obviously, to do that is to change our contentions, and then we would be one with the world, anyway.


What does this term, "common good" mean, anyway? How do we find "common good" with Al Quaeda, or Iran, or even China or France? We can’t even agree on a "common good" in the US, among ourselves. Which brings me to another question: when was Clinton EVER not heaping opprobrium upon Republicans? He stopped? How did I miss that?

"Hmm...wonder if there’s a connection? If it weren’t for weak-minded fools like yourself, those boys wouldn’t be dead...and that’s the plain fact of it. These terrorists are playing to people like you, Fung. YOU are the audience...how pathetic you are.

As for Bush being responsible for 9/11, that’s BS...everyone knows it.

Dain, old buddy, you are starting to sound a bit shrill. Earlier, you told me how DIFFERENT this little picnic is from Vietnam, do you remember that? No valid connections at all! Now, you want to tell me that the election is responsible for the recent increase in violence. You are right, but you have the wrong election. Which election was responsible for the previous 2500 Americans killed in Iraq? Which election was responsible for the rash of beheadings? I never said that Bush was responsible for 9/11. I said that the concept of safety under Republicans gets a little "fuzzy" when we see how safe things are NOT under Bush’s watch.

Why don’t you face it: You and yours have been wrong about EVERYTHING. You, more than anyone, crowed about the unlimited reign of the Republicans, and the failed model of the Democrats. You maintained even after Bush gave up, that Iraq and 9/11 were connected. You are a shrill, rigid apologist for a sinking ship. Before you drown in your own bile, say it one more time: "Fung, there’s no THERE there." Quick, Dain, before the bubbles distort the clarity! While you’re getting fitted for your SCUBA gear, say hi to DeLay, Ney, Foley, Blackwell, Harris, Libby, the whole bunch of great American leaders!

Sarcasm is a poor substitute for argument, Fungus...as I’ve told you repeatedly. Saying that current violence is "like the Tet Offensive" isn’t the same as saying the whole war is just another Vietnam. Again, to remind you, we lost nearly as many men in 3 MONTHS of the Vietnam War as have been losted in Iraq in 3 YEARS. While this is clearly the Iraqis’ Tet Offensive, this war is nothing compared to Vietnam.

We’ve been wrong about EVERYTHING? Now who’s the "shrill" one? I don’t think we’ve been wrong about much of anything, with the exception of overestimating the Iraqi people. This was probably their ONE shot at having a peaceful democratic form of government, but they are blowing it...badly. So, perhaps all you "caring" Leftists who thought the Arabs incapable of representative government were correct. I’ll give you that one. I vote we no longer defend Muslims from themselves...let them eat one another.

The rest of your post is DRIVEL. I’ve never connected 9/11 and Saddam...nor did Bush. There WERE dealings with Al Qaeda, and that’s a fact. Saddam subsidized/encouraged Palestinian suicide bombers...fact. Saddam had WMD in the past and had plans to revive those programs once the "sanctions regime" collapsed...fact. Saddam was a mass murderer in the mold of Hitler and Stalin...fact. The lengths people like you will go to in order to nail George Bush sickens me. I don’t number people like you among my countrymen, but I do admire our soldiers who willingly die to defend slime mold like yourself...I wouldn’t.

Stubborn, arrogant bleating is a poor subsitute as well, dain-bramaged. As is making stupid assertions and then putting "...fact" after them.

I don’t number people like you among my countrymen, but I do admire our soldiers who willingly die to defend slime mold like yourself...I wouldn’t.

But would you if every American was a staunch Republican?

Oh, that’s much better, Dain. Now you don’t sound so much shrill as simply bitter and nasty.

" but I do admire our soldiers who willingly die to defend slime mold like yourself...I wouldn’t. "

I admire our soldiers, too. I admire them enough, in fact, to argue against sending them into senseless and immoral wars. And, as for picking and choosing whom to defend, that is another difference between you and me. I think that you and others who disagree with me deserve to live, and to exercise your constitutional rights. You and your friends only value those things for your brethren: people who believe, look, and vote as you do. Luckily, the voters in the country are finally starting to wake up. They remember the costs of segregation, racism, nationalism, and fascism. Apparently, you remember only the benefits.

Yea, I figured you’d say something like that. Meaningless. You respect our soldiers, but not enough to let them finish their jobs...do you have any idea what Vietnam (i.e., defeat) did to morale? You honor their existence, we honor their identities.

There is nothing senseless or immoral about the Iraqi war. Even Hillary voted for the war...nearly everyone thought it was necessary (even Bill Clinton). When did "regime change" become a national policy? I think it was 1998, wasn’t it, and as I recall, George Bush was still governor of Texas at the time.

As for being bitter, you bet I am. We keep letting fools like you eat away at our national resolve. 69,000 died (in vain?) in Vietnam, now over 2,000 in Iraq...I know, you blame our side. But we have the will to win, and left alone for a year or two, WE WOULD. And we would be safer as a result.

Why am I angry? Because we allow traitors to endanger MY family, squander the lives of our fighting men, and eviscerate the body of ideas that holds us together as a nation. Fung, people like you are dooming us, and you are not my countryman.

As for the troll above, the post is SOP. Question "facts" without putting up any of his own.

"You honor their existence, we honor their identities." What a stupid distinction to try to make. Better to distinguish the feelings of a grieving parent of a soldier who gives a life for a moral war vs an immoral and needless one. You seem to think that the "identity" of a soldier makes that distinction null, but it does not. A parent, and a country, can find meaning and value in a life given for a just cause. But, warmongers like you cloak yourselves in patriotism that you have stolen from the families of soldiers who have died for a lie, and you don’t care. You cover yourself in a flag that stands for less precisely because you squander it on capitalistic, expansionist goals, and then you have the gall to question the patriotism of people who insist that lives be spent on just causes. You want other Americans to stupidly and blindly follow the orders of a leader who wouldn’t have faced enemy fire in order to save his own mother, much less because it was his duty. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Call me a fool and a traitor al you want. I have already expressed what I think of an anonymous hate-monger who throws such words around as casually as he would throw the lives of soldiers away, simply to avoid having to admit being wrong, or weak. You are the one who would diminish the values and ideals that this country stands for; trading them in for profit, and blind obedience to a leader that appeals to the lowest, and dumbest common denominators: fear, hatred, suspicion, racism, and pride in empty symbols made emptier by the actions of profiteers and authoritarians like you.

People like you would punish flag-burners, and cover your walls with symbols of religiosity and morality, while your leaders diddle little boys and steal from the poor. But, as long as your symbols remain intact, you don’t care that the substance and integrity that once gave them value have flown the coop.

You are pathetic, and your appeals to patriotism, and support for the troops are a shell game hiding profit motives, empire-buliding, and fascism. The main reason the country hasn’t awakened to the lie more quickly is because of the collective sickness they must confront when they acknowledge the evil and waste that they have supported thus far. You make ME sick and disgusted.

I’m glad you hate me...as Shakespeare’s Henry V states, "we would not die in that man’s company." About military identities, you just don’t get it, and that’s the epidemic we fight.

The rest of your slavering post betrays the worms in your head...capitalist imperialism, warmongering, the flag, etc., -- you’re just a garden-variety communist. Lenin would have been proud of your little speech, and nothing so clearly demonstrates the point I’ve been making lo these many months -- Lefties hate America! You hate our economic system, you hate our political system, you hate our social system. You utterly despise our traditional culture and make mock of white folks, as if they were some kind of disease. How can we expect people such as yourself to defend America? The bottom line is, we can’t, nor can we trust you to respect any aspect of our lives that you disapprove of (which is 99% of it). Thy name is totalitarian, and while you veil it with fair words about democracy and social justice, behind the veil you seeth with rage and the will to power. Truly sickening.

Gosh, if you use words like "thy" and "lo" a few more times, readers might think that you have a brain, instead of a hard-wired drive to obey the head bubba. Or, we might suspect that the line between your personae and your real self is slipping, so that you can’t tell if you are Shakespeare, George Will, or Bobby Brown Shirt. My guess iw that when your real self emerges, you are motivated to deny and distort it immediately.

Another sign of your rigid excuse for a mind is your utter inability to see the difference between opposing racism and opposing white people. In your world, all white people MUST be racists, and that is why you don’t apologize for your own racism; you see it as natural and universal. Kind of like a child thinks everyone must see the world as she does.

Similarly, you cannot discern between critique and hate. To your little collection of neurons, to suggest that one’s country can do better, and can act on loftier ideals than fear, profit, and selfishness, is to hate one’s country. Again, that is because hate and selfishness are all the country that you can see. So, in your little mind, to hate selfishness is to hate the country. I understand, and I won’t try to argue with you any longer. It is unfair, and undignified. It would be like trying to explain physics to a 2 year-old. I apologize. I forgot just how subjective and stupid you really are.

I guess I should feel better...I’ve graduated from morally evil to simply stupid. Of course...you’ll probably change your mind at some point.

Your attacks, and those of your brethren, go well beyond critique. You make up paranoid stories, you deny simple facts, and you claim absurd relationships between our actions and the actions of our enemies. In short, to claim you are the "loyal opposition" is truly malicious (although, as the saying goes, I shouldn’t attribute to malice what could more easily be explained by stupidity).

I guess we can leave it at that, but I notice you cannot gainsay that the war was thought necessary by both sides of the aisle, that Saddam had WMD in the past and wanted more in the future, that he was a mass-murderer, and that he did traffic with terrorists. Your words are empty bile, and you call me stupid. LOL.

No, I did not give up on those arguments, I just thought that they were too stupid and repetitive to dignify with a response.

My side of the aisle disappinted me (for instance, Hillary really let us down) by giving Bush the power to commit war. She says that that was not equivalent to supporting the war, and that she and others were misled, and only voted on the power, and not the war. She lost many points with me on that vote, and while I would like to take her at her word, I think that she and other Dems allowed themselves to be carried away by wartime emotions and thoughts of future votes lost.

As for WMD, we have beaten that one into the ground, as well. If we invade every country that wants, or has, WMD’s then we should start with ourselves, go to Russia, Ukraine, Pakistan, India, and Chad and on and on, starting with North Korea. Saddam did not have them at the time we decided to invade.

There, now I have entered the sandbox again. My wife and I just had a nice meal out, and a half carafe of Merlot, and I lowered my standards again! Darn!

How did I know you were a wine drinker...hmm?

You’re right, this is pointless. Go digest, Fung.

Wine, Irish Whiskey, microbrew......

I am glad you admitted defeat. Have a good week, Dain.

Your pal,

Fung

Oh, I wasn’t beaten...you never showed up for the game! And lay off the sauce...I’m beginning to understand some of your posts a little better now.

Understanding shall set you free! Take baby steps, so the sudden epiphany will not shock you into denial and resistance. A bit of tolerance here, some compassion there. We’ll have you driving a Volvo in no time!

Actually, I like Volvos, but the association with the Left is off-putting. Wine, on the other hand, gives me heartburn (as do you, now and then).

Actually, Fung, in all seriousness, you may have noticed that I have a good number of "progressive" values...hey, I just got accused of being a "Progressive" in another thread! If you can’t get along with me, well...then there are millions and millions of people you will simply hate.

Make your peace with the facts, boyo, and admit that the Iraq war was justified. Perhaps it has been botched (I am ambivalent on that point), but it was something that was needed. After we get you past this little rough patch, we can start working on your attitudes about white folks.

Who called you a progressive? The Tzar of Russia?

Iraq justified? I am not likely to give that one up.

White folks? Hey, some of my best friends..... As long as they stay in their place..... I’d even let my son marry one.

Gotta do some work for a while.

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