Political Animal


September 06, 2012 11:10 AM Bipartisanship and Amnesia

By Ed Kilgore

Another interesting discussion kicked up by Bill Clinton’s speech last night is made unavoidable by the Romney campaign’s official response, per Brother Benen:

“Bill Clinton worked with Republicans, balanced the budget, and after four years he could say you were better off,” Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said. “Barack Obama hasn’t worked across the aisle — he’s barely worked with other Democrats — and has the worst economic record of any president in modern history.”

This isn’t just amnesia—it’s double amnesia.

As Benen goes on to point out:

Look, there’s no great mystery here. President Obama appointed Republicans to key posts in his administration, and incorporated Republican ideas into his policy agenda. He demonstrated a willingness to work with GOP officials on just about every issue under the sun.
On the other hand, there were congressional Republicans who huddled, literally on Obama’s first day, and agreed to adopt “unyielding opposition” to every White House measure. The Senate GOP leadership decided before the president was even inaugurated that they would not compromise on anything. Shortly after the inauguration, one House Republican leader said his caucus was prepared to emulate the “insurgency” tactics of “the Taliban.”

I’d take that a few notches higher: on his three most important signature policy initiatives, Obama directly adopted policy approaches that were highly associated with the Republican Party of the very recent past—the stimulus legislation’s reliance on tax cuts far beyond anything justified by the likely effect; the adoption of the 2008 Republican nominee’s longstanding cap-and-trade proposal for dealing with carbon emissions; and of course, the 2012 Republican nominee’s mandate-and-private-insurance-options strategy for expanding access to health care. On another important policy front where violent Republican opposition made it futile to make any legislative push, Obama adopted the 2000 and 2004 Republican nominee’s proposals for comprehensive immigration reform. Said nominee’s standards-and-accountability approach to education reform, moreover, found a champion in Obama even as Republicans rapidly abandoned it for the snake oil of private-school vouchers. None of these gambits by Obama attracted any Republican support beyond the tiny band of GOP Senators who grudgingly voted for the stimulus legislation after shaping it to their own heart’s desire.

So much for Obama’s refusal to “work across the aisle.” But the fiction that Republicans were happy to work with that nice man Bill Clinton is equally bizarre.

Jon Chait is at his irrefutable best on that one today:

[T]he truth is that the Clinton-era Republicans believed, just as the Obama-era version of their successors, that the president was a wealth-confiscating Marxist. (The role of Chicago/Kenya, as the incubator of the president’s secret radical agenda, was the sixties-Yale-Hillary Clinton.) And this forgotten past actually lends us crucial insight into the economic debate occurring at this very moment.
Clinton’s first year was consumed by a massive conflagration over his plan to reduce the deficit. The contours of the fight were nearly identical. Democrats accepted the need to reduce federal spending, but demanded an upper-income tax hike, so that the middle class would not bear the whole burden of reducing a deficit that had originally been created in large part through regressive tax cuts. The tax demand rendered the plan radioactive to the GOP. Zero Republicans supported Clinton’s deficit reduction plan.
I’ve written many times about the wildly fearful invective that characterized the opposition. Republican dogma held as an absolute truth that raising tax rates on the rich must, by reducing the work incentive, slow the economy and thereby fail to raise the projected new revenue. Even the most respected Republican-affiliated economists, like Harvard’s Martin Feldstein, insisted “there is no possibility that the Clinton plan will produce the deficit reduction that it projects.”
Ground zero of opposition was the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which fashioned a running graphic for its crusade against Clinton’s plan, entitled “The Class Warfare Economy,” decorated with an illustration of a guillotine. The day Clinton’s plan passed the House of Representatives in a dramatic vote, the Journal editorialized, “We are seeing the early signs of the stagflation that we knew so well during the Carter presidency.”

And then there’s this little matter of trying to drive Clinton from office via impeachment once the electoral route failed.

Chait goes on to discuss why nobody has an interest in telling the truth about this quite recent history. But it won’t just go away:

The Republicans’ current line rests upon a historical revisionism so blatant they are holding up Clinton himself as an ideological ally, a fellow moderate, in opposition to Obama’s radical class warfare. It’s important to remember that Republicans made the same hysterical accusation against Clinton, even if Clinton himself has no interest in reminding us.

Team Romney could have engaged in a substantive rebuttal to the substantive arguments in Clinton’s speech. But despite having elevated the brave truth-teller Paul Ryan to the national ticket, they don’t want to go there. It’s easier to rewrite history, even the history most of us witnessed with our own eyes.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • SecularAnimist on September 06, 2012 11:25 AM:

    Ed Kilgore wrote: "This isn’t just amnesia—it’s double amnesia."

    Um, no, Ed. It's not "amnesia".

    It's deliberate, calculated, blatant, sneering, in-your-face LYING -- just like everything else coming from the Romney campaign.

    Sheesh, what is it with you liberal bloggers that you just flatly refuse to use the word LIE?

  • c u n d gulag on September 06, 2012 11:26 AM:

    Once the Republicans found themselves a read Nigrah Democrat in the White House, all of a sudden, our "First Black Presiden," looked pretty white to these guys.

  • T2 on September 06, 2012 11:28 AM:

    Yeah, the GOP was so palsy-walsy with Clinton they Impeached him - what an idiot Romney is.
    "Team Romney could have engaged in a substantive rebuttal to the substantive arguments in Clinton’s speech" except for the fact they have no "substantive" policy to argue about.
    By now it's obvious that Team Romney is simply a PR outfit, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Pete on September 06, 2012 11:30 AM:

    "I'm deeply concerned that this tax bill is a one-way ticket to recession." Phil Gramm, 1993


  • c u n d gulag on September 06, 2012 11:31 AM:

    That's "a real..." and "President..."


  • stormskies on September 06, 2012 11:32 AM:

    One of the stories I remember from the time of Obama trying to negotiate with the Repiglicans over the ACA was this: he initiated a meeting with the Repiglican Senators including turtle head McConnell where he sat down and said to them "This is what I am willing to negotiate". He put his cards on the table. He then asked what the had to negotiate and he was meet with dead silence.

    Sums up the whole fucking deal right there.

  • howard on September 06, 2012 11:37 AM:

    it's a fascinating sign of how addicted to dishonesty the romney campaign has become that after clinton called them out for bs, here they still are, trying to claim that they are clinton's descendant.

    it's truly pathological.

  • bruce on September 06, 2012 11:38 AM:

    and yes, the parallels will continue when Obama is re-elected and undoubtedly impeached by the House over something absolutely ludicrous, and the press will pretend it's serious...

  • June on September 06, 2012 11:42 AM:

    And the gobsmacking lies continue from the first openly psycho presidential ticket in our nation's history. Paul Ryan's large eyes constantly belie how much of a pretender he knows he is. Mitt Romney has that eternally constipated expression that says, "Are you buyin' it? You buyin' the swill I'm sellin'? 'Cause this is all I got, and Mama needs a new car elevator!" What a disgrace on the part of our nation's press that these two are treated with any credibility at all.

  • Memekiller on September 06, 2012 11:43 AM:

    Clinton was ultimately more effective because although he preferred compromise, he wasn't freaking blind and could see the writing on the wall. He could counter-punch better than anyone and didn't roll over.

    Ultimately, it is Obama's blindness when it comes to fairy Grand Bargains that keeps him from being as successful.

  • Lifelong Dem on September 06, 2012 11:56 AM:

    Republicans and Bill Clinton worked so well together that Republicans shut down the federal government. Twice. Because they didn't want to negotiate. Or because Newt was insulted on a trip on Air Force One.

    I've forgotten the reasons. But not the shutdowns.

  • Danp on September 06, 2012 11:57 AM:

    Both the Economic Stimulus package and the ACA were shaped by bipartisan compromise. Even though only 3 R's voted for the former and none voted for the latter, the rules of the Senate especially gave even those who voted not a tremendous amount of influence. And they used that influence to make both bills as ineffective as possible without having to vote for any part of either.

  • Bokonon on September 06, 2012 11:58 AM:

    Any time you evaluate an argument or claim by the GOP, you have to assume bad faith and manipulation.

    The GOP doesn't say things for their truth value. Heck, they don't even level with their own party faithful about their own policies and agenda. They say things strictly for their political effect and media impact. This is how they juggle their diverse (and divergent) constituencies, and keep the flock together ... and capitalize on the short attention span of the American public.

    That's why you see spectacles like Mitt Romney simultaneously vowing to repeal Obamacare to one audience, while separately touting the benefits that Romneycare has had for women in Massachusetts (in an effort to win over female voters), while separately going out and implying to editorial writers that "repeal" of Obamacare doesn't necessarily mean repeal, and that this is just crude rhetoric for the rubes, and nothing that radical or awful will actually happen if Romney becomes President ... and so on. It is impossible to take any of these conflicting messages at face value.

    Same with touting Bill Clinton as a great guy, and getting all misty eyed about the good old days of bipartisan cooperation and dialogue with the guy THAT THEY CALLED A RAPIST AND A MURDERER AND A CRIMINAL AND THAT THEY TRIED TO REMOVE FROM OFFICE.

  • Peter C on September 06, 2012 11:59 AM:


    This is why we need to make this a 'wave' election. We've got to make the election about lying. We've got to tie the Repulbicans to their 1% standard-bearer (Richy 'corporations are people too' Romney). We've got to re-elect the President, AND regain the House, AND kill the filibuster.

    THEN, we've got to get rid of 'Citizens United' and nationalize/reform voting systems (with VVPAT) and outlaw gerrymandering, (after we kick-start the economy).

  • Anonymous on September 06, 2012 11:59 AM:

    It’s easier to rewrite history, even the history most of us witnessed with our own eyes.

    Or as Joe Klein wrote this morning:

    The most disappointing thing about the Romney campaign is how often it insults the intelligence of the American people.


  • Celui on September 06, 2012 12:18 PM:

    Yes. Lying is the real word to use here. Local radio, which tends to be apologist Republican, is pointing out that Clinton's speech was filled with accuracy, with truth, and was entertaining, especially when he moved away from his prepared remarks. As for me, I'm hopeful that President Obama will continue the fact-based accomplishments of his first term and contrast these with not only the platitudinous lies of the GOP, but then pepper the opposition with examples of how they, time and again, have refused to work with him, and have essentially held the American citizenry hostage to demands to engorge the 1%. Look at the many examples, beginning with McConnell's proclamation. Look at the refusal of the House leadership to meet with an "own plan" to discuss common ground. Look at the 'Party of NO' for the past four years. The aisle crosses from both sides, folks. And, so far, the Democrats have done a lot more to cross that aisle than the Republicans. All this because of the fear of Tea Party backlash and Norquist promises fueled by Citizens United money. And, now, we're back to the beginning: Lying in the fact of facts.

  • citizen_pain on September 06, 2012 12:23 PM:

    To expand on Peter C's suggestion -

    Just the other day I read (here maybe) that the republicans said something to the effect of, elect us, or we'll make it impossible to govern.

    Well, I say from this point on the democrats need to start hammering home the fact that it is the tea party dominated house of representatives that is holding this country hostage, and if any real change is going to happen, they HAVE to be voted out.

    This meme must be repeated again and again and again.
    My simple 2 cents.

  • TCinLA on September 06, 2012 12:36 PM:

    The mendacity of the Republicans at a moment like this is enough to once again bring up rumination on why it is that the Lee Harvey Oswalds never get the right one.

  • terraformer on September 06, 2012 12:45 PM:

    But we know all this to be fact.

    And the political pundits and writers know all this to be fact.

    But since Washington is "wired for Republican control," the pundits and writers have to speak and write as if all this is conjecture, or is open to interpretation, or that the "jury's still out."

    If the media would report facts instead of intentionally obfuscating facts as so much fog, then there really wouldn't be any contest this year.

  • gdb on September 06, 2012 12:49 PM:

    Memekiller is correct.. "Clinton was ultimately more effective because although he preferred compromise, he wasn't freaking blind and could see the writing on the wall. He could counter-punch better than anyone and didn't roll over.

    Ultimately, it is Obama's blindness when it comes to fairy Grand Bargains that keeps him from being as successful."

    But also, BHO started out with Repub policies for Health Care, Stimulus, etc etc that indeed were less effective than Keynesioan stimuli,single payer health care, etc, etc... So you start out with weak positions, compromise down (in advance) from there, and fold at most every opportunity --- and you have a problem. And why the incompetant BHO barely leads the insane Mittens--- and will lose if the economy turns down b/w now and October 31. In fact, better it turn down before November and we get Mittens failing to deal with the worsening of the current Great Recession--- than BHO and the Dems facing thsat worsening next year. In that case, the Repubs will run against BHO as the Dem's Hoover for a generation.

  • T2 on September 06, 2012 12:59 PM:

    @gdb......Clinton faced a strong GOP opposition, that's true - hey, they Impeached him.
    but the early 90's version of the GOP is popcorn compared to the ideological StoneWall that is today's GOP. Never in our history has one of the two parties absolutely refused, admittedly at that, to compromise or cooperate on ANYTHING. Regardless of whether the ideas in question were originally GOP ideas to begin with. Regardless of the damage to the nation as a whole. That is what Obama has dealt with.

  • emjayay on September 06, 2012 1:47 PM:

    A Wall Street-fueled housing bubble isn't like other kinds of bubbles. People don't live inside stocks and bonds. A tech bubble crash for example affects the jobs of a certain segment of mostly young, educated people. A housing bubble crash affects construction workers and Home Depot employees and homeowners. Plus of course, this Bush crash was way, way, bigger than anything since the Great Depression, which it could have been another one of without the bailouts and stimulus.

    OK, not a brilliant or complete analysis. But as Uncle Bill pointed out last night, housing prices are starting to inch up in some of the hard hit areas. I'm betting a corner is now just finally being turned and things will start getting clearly better, unless Europe and China start dragging the world economy back down. If effing Romney is in charge, he will take all the credit, even if he knows it has nothing to do with him, in his corporate raider post-truth lying way.

    He won't be able to do as much immediate financial damage as his policies might appear to be going to, because they don't add up in the first place. Romney- Ryan will not be able to lie their way into getting everything they want passed, once the numbers are actually filled in. It's, you know, arithmetic.

    They will however, get all the anti-gay, anti-environment, anti-consumer, anti-children, anti-health care, and anti-women stuff passed.

  • JM917 on September 06, 2012 1:48 PM:

    @ Celui:

    Right on!

    If (as I realistically expect) Obama is reelected but the Repugs hold the House and gain in the Senate, there will be four long years of grinding deadlock, with Obama unable to do anything except use his veto to block Congressional nonsense and his eloquence to remind us of better times coming.

    Before the four years are up, I fully expect the Repug House to impeach him, and he'll survive the Senate only because it takes 2/3 to convict.

    My hope is that Obama and the Dems hang in there long enough for demographic changes to continue working their slow magic (e.g., more and more of my own generation dying out) and for the worst efforts of Repugs at the state level to disfranchise the poor and the non-white.

    Sadly, real progressive change is going to be delayed until Hillary's (or O'Malley's, or Castro's, or who's) first or second term, in 2017-2025. The alternative--electing R&R and the Tealiban in 2012--is just too horrible to contemplate.

    Unless... Bill Clinton, Obama, and a thoroughly aroused Democratic Party can mobilize enough oomph to drive the whole damned, lyin' Repug crew down into Lower Slobovia where it belongs in 2012.

  • skeptonomist on September 06, 2012 2:17 PM:

    "Obama...has the worst economic record of any president in modern history."

    This may be the worst lie of all. Or did they mean to say that Obama has the worst record since the last Republican President, George W. Bush? Or does "modern history" begin in January 2009? What will Glenn Kessler say about this?

  • EnnisB on September 06, 2012 2:17 PM:

    Biden says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything…

    For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back...

    Greg Sargent - Michael Grunwald’s book “The New New Deal”.

    President Obama wasn’t blind. He and Biden understood that they were dealing with terrorist and crafted legislation in accordance with that understanding.

  • Kathryn on September 06, 2012 2:45 PM:

    Thanks T2, I really don"t believe that any president has faced more opposition and hostility than Barack Obama to say nothing of an organized country wide campaign of hate that has distorted his very being from his inauguration to today. Thousands of viral, false emails, FOX News coverage, Rush Limbaugh and the rest welcomed him to the White House, it has not abated for over three years. All have sought to not just disagree but to demonize and distort his every word and move. They have successfully convinced a sizable percentage of the population that the president is unamerican, not native born, a socialist who wants to harm the country. So even Bill Clinton, discounting every lie they've uttered, standing firmly with Pres. Obama cannot change the game plan of demonizing the black guy. It's been race from the beginning and obvious to all susceptible to the message, a black man does not deserve to be president of the United States and he must be destroyed, We cannot let this evil win, volunteer, contribute, if you can, and vote.

  • BJ smith on September 06, 2012 2:58 PM:

    If more people were political addicts, like most of us, what the repubs have done would be a definate game changer & would turn people against them, irregardless of their party. Imagine hurting like so many of us & finding your local guy was working NOT for you & our country at such a devastating time, but to defeat our new President at any cost. It sticks in my craw like a bone. It is too much to hope that we vote those bastards out.

  • Peter C on September 06, 2012 3:18 PM:


    With Congressional approval ratings at all-time lows (in the low teens!), it is not too much to hope. Incumbents have NEVER been as unpopular as they are now, for good reason.

    With the selection of Ryan, the election is now framed as a choice between Obama and the Republican House.

    We've got to work for the entire ticket. We've got to take back the House and keep the Senate. The Republicans are doubling-down on the power of money and the power of lies. We've got to double-down too and go for all the marbles.

    These two conventions have been a good start.

  • T-Rex on September 06, 2012 4:02 PM:

    Personally, I still think the worst lie to come out of the Romney/Ryan camp was the claim Romney made in his acceptance speech that Republicans united behind Obama and were willing to support him. And he followed that whopper with a sad-faced claim that he was "disappointed" that Obama had "failed." George Orwell would be speechless at such a display of doublethink. Romney has lapped the Ministry of Truth in "1984."

  • MuddyLee on September 06, 2012 4:03 PM:

    Before there was Obama Derangement Syndrome, there was Clinton Derangement Syndrome (I used to read the Weekly Standard as well as Washington Monthly back in the 90s.)
    Clinton stood up to Newt et al during the government shutdown crisis and won the propaganda battle. Maybe in the 2nd term, Obama can be tough on some republican asses. Hold up funding to the republican states and house districts until he gets at least some cooperation. Appoint LIBERAL judges to the federal bench and take the issue to the people if the Senate won't confirm. Have the IRS try to revoke the tax exempt status of Rove's "social welfare" PACs. Attack Citizens United, Rush Limbaugh, and Grover Norquist and anybody else who has called him a "socialist" - don't give them a chance to try impeachment.

  • gdb on September 06, 2012 4:15 PM:

    Kathryn. Be careful what you wish for. Neither party is going to seriously reform without a devastating loss. And THAT is not in the cards for Repubs in 2012. It is for the Dems if they lose.

    Dems need to learn how to play chess or bridge-- not roulette or War, where each round of play does not influence the next round. As many Keynesians have been predicting and the CBO recently confirming, the economy WILL almost-certainly turn down next Spring--- if not before if the EU collapses. Whoever is Prez and his party will suffer greatly-- perhaps for a generation to come. Do you really wish in retrospect that Al Smith had won in 1928???