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I have been thinking a lot about my old boss President Clinton the last few days. I still have a great deal of respect and affection for him, and remain a fan of his political skills and the many good things he did as President -- more than a lot of people realize. But one thing you always knew as a staffer of his was when he did make a mistake it was a doozy. And as his Bain Capital statement reminds us, he has always had an incredible blind spot for the Wall Street crowd.

The biggest political mistake of his Presidency was to allow himself to be seduced by the slick Wall Street guys who convinced him the further deregulation of the financial industry -- the repeal of Glass-Steagall and failing to regulate derivatives -- would be good for the economy. You would think after the crash of 2008 and all that it has wrought he would be wary of defending Wall Street again, but it appears his massive blind spot is still there.

In the 1992 campaign I was so proud to be part of, Bill Clinton promised to fight for the American middle class who “worked hard and played by the rules.” And he did fight for those middle class and working poor folks in much of his presidency. Family and Medical Leave; children’s health insurance; raising the minimum wage; the Brady Bill; expanding our national parks; standing up to Gingrich’s assault on Medicare, Medicaid, school lunches, Head Start, and education; lowering taxes for the working poor and raising them for the wealthy: all of those policies mattered greatly to millions of middle-class Americans’ real lives. But when Clinton let the big banks free to rampage at will in the economy, the American middle class he had been helping in all those other ways got crushed. It was a terrible mistake that sadly tarnished his legacy and wiped out much of the good he had done.

Now he is defending Wall Street again. Clinton said that Romney’s work at Bain Capital was “not bad work, but very good work” and that Romney’s business career at Bain was “sterling.” But Mitt Romney and Bain Capital made money by playing with a stacked deck -- stacked in favor of Wall Street and against those people in the middle class who worked hard and played by the rules. Bain used the facts that debt was deductible and that carried interest and capital gains were taxed dramatically less than regular workers’ taxes to make money while the companies they bought frequently got drained of their value. Romney got rich while firing and outsourcing workers and slashing their wages and benefits. Romney got rich even when the companies he bought went bankrupt because of the way the rules were stacked in his favor. He got richer while most of the rest of us got poorer. No, strike that: he got rich because most of the rest of us got poorer. Bain made most of its money by firing people and slashing their wages, not by creating new high-wage, high-quality jobs.

This was not good work, this was vulture capitalism by an utterly amoral man. No Democrat should be defending the company or its CEO Mitt Romney.

So why would Bill Clinton feel compelled to defend Bain, especially when he knows that the Bain critique is at the heart of President Obama’s re-election strategy? The Bill Clinton I worked for used to express outrage when any Democrat would criticize the campaign strategy we were using. My best guess is that old Wall Street blind spot is kicking in again: the Wall Street gang President Clinton is still close to are crying in his ear about how unfair it is that anyone would beat up on their way of doing business, and Clinton is trying to steer the 2012 political conversation away from a subject that causes this much discomfort to his good friends.

President Clinton, I hope you will see the error of your ways on this fundamental issue. Those middle-class people who work hard and play by the rules want you back on their side where you once were, not the side of the big banks.

You know what really haunts me about Clinton and the Wall Street bankers? When Clinton made one of those doozies of a mistake back in the late ’90s, that one with Monica Lewinsky, and the Republicans recklessly pursued their absurd impeachment strategy, I rushed to the  barricades to help out. I helped People For the American Way and the just-starting Moveon.org and many other groups run the big anti-impeachment campaign that turned the tide of public campaign, shocked conventional wisdom by helping win Democrats seats in the House in  the 1998 election, and defeated the drive for impeachment and conviction. I was proud to defend the constitution from the Republicans’ terrible abuse of power. But it was in that exact same period of time while I was fighting to save Bill Clinton’s presidency that Clinton was working with those same Republicans in Congress to pass the big banking deregulation bill that repealed Glass-Steagall. I have been haunted  wondering if people like me had focused on defeating that terrible banking bill instead of trying to save Bill Clinton’s presidency, whether the country would have been better off. I still think that impeachment push was a terrible travesty, but I also often think my priorities were wrong and I should have been fighting Clinton and Wall Street on their horrible legislation.

America’s voters are going to have to decide whether the kind of amoral business values that cause a few to get rich because the rest of us get poorer are what they want in a president. They are going to have to decide whether the kind of market and tax-code manipulation practiced by Bain Capital, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America is a good thing or a bad thing. But I sincerely hope that Bill Clinton doesn’t stay on the side of the amoral speculators and market manipulators. Come on back to fighting for the middle class, President Clinton.

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Comment Preferences

  •  EH (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens

    He's not that influential anymore, he does his own thing. He;s no Cory Booker or Ed Rendell

    He's perhaps not the best surrogate but I'd want him punching on my side.

    In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

    by vcmvo2 on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:02:46 AM PDT

    •  He and Booker made substantively similar comments (12+ / 0-)

      Generally, both the Very Serious People and the broader public pay far more attention to the utterances of a former POTUS than they pay to the utterances of the mayor of a medium-sized city.   I had never heard of Cory Booker before his recent comments, and I'd guess that >95% of the country has no clue who he is now.

      On financial matters, it's been clear whose side WJC was on for many years now.  Making the passage of W's NAFTA a major legislative priority of his first year in office raised some interesting questions about his orientation.  His signing a punitive welfare "reform" bill and a telecom dereg bill that made the airwaves safe for Clear Channel raised more questions.  The diary and the treatment of Brooksley Born, sadly, make it clear what happened in his 2d term.

      His recent CNN comments were indefensible:

      "I think he had a good business career," Clinton told guest host Harvey Weinstein, a movie mogul who is one of Obama's top fundraisers. "There's no question that in terms of getting up and going to the office and, you know, basically performing the essential functions of the office, a man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold."

      Adding that he has "friends" in the private equity business, Clinton suggested it was dangerous for Democrats to go after Romney's record at Bain Capital—adding that in private equity, "like anything else you try, you don't always succeed" in saving companies or making them more productive.

      "I don't think that we ought to get into the position where we say this is bad work," Clinton said. "This is good work."

      More important, these comments make it clear whose side WJC is on when addressing such questions.  He may be a very effective advocate for his side.  On financial matters, however, he has been on the wrong side for many years now.

      Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

      by RFK Lives on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:26:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Booker is no big dog (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ffour, Larsstephens

        I assume Bill has always held some "off" opinions on certian views but give me him in a fight anyday.

        Booker, rendell meh!

        In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

        by vcmvo2 on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:58:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh yes, he did so well fighting to get Hillary (0+ / 0-)

          the nomination, didn't he? Bill Clinton is out for Bill Clinton, always was and always will be. I actually think he even undermined Hillary's campaign. The Obama campaign should use him where they can, but never, ever trust him. While I also think the impeachment was bullshit, the basic premis is true, if you are going to cheat on your wife, you will cheat on anyone. Bill Clinton cheated on Hillary time after time. He may be one hell of a politician, but trustworthy, not so much.
          My personal feeling, yes he is in bed with Wall Street, but he holds a grudge and not so sure he wants the President to win a second term, it would knock him off his perch of being the only recent two term Democratic President.

          •  Well I like both of them (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            puakev, Larsstephens

            I support Obama whole-heartedly. In fact made calls for him just yesterday.

            Clinton did good stuff, some bad stuff but which President hasn't?

            His heart is in the right place, he does care about people- unlike the GOP. I really save my fire for them. Which is where I will spend it for the next 6 months. Obama will win - Big because I and assume we will work our asses off to GOTV.

            Harold Ford and the DLC has had it's day in the sun. They can pretend what they like that is over!

            In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

            by vcmvo2 on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 09:06:31 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The DLC is back. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Just Bob, RFK Lives, Aspe4

              It's called Third Way now, and Center Forward, and the Committee For A Responsible Federal Budget, and so on.  These people are not going away and their life's work is to gut the New Deal.

              The President is one of them in the sense that he listens to them while excluding those who disagree with them, as he did on the health care bill, and he adopts their beliefs as his own, as in the deficit fight.

            •  I don't dislike Bill Clinton, he is what he is, (0+ / 0-)

              he is looking out for Bill. Not that there is anything wrong with that, we all look out for ourselves, the question is to what degree, and does the looking out for yourself, hurt others. It as obvious to me, in that interview, Bill was trying hard to impress Harvey Weinstien, and he really did not give much thought to what he was saying and how the Romney campaign and the G.O.P. would use it every day to hurt the President. In that interview he also said, he liked Trump, I think that pissed me off more than anything else. Who freaking likes Donald Trump??? I think the same was true for Corey Booker, he was trying to make nice with his big money supporters, and didn't consider how he  made the President look. Booker makes ads for Christie, does he like or support Christie, I am not sure, but I think he does it just to improve his postion among voters. You need to figure out what side of the fence you are on, pick a side and go for it, you can not go anywhere or take others with you either if you are afraid to get off the fence.

            •  Isn't Clinton a Founding Member of the DLC? (0+ / 0-)
              Harold Ford and the DLC has had it's day in the sun. They can pretend what they like that is over!

              "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

              by Aspe4 on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 11:18:55 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Ignore the DLC it's dead (0+ / 0-)

                Obama never joined. There will always be "blue dogs" "third wayers" they're not important.

                We need to do what we need to do and that's GOTV for Obama and ignore the fools who only pretend they have power.

                In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

                by vcmvo2 on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 12:24:38 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Do you think Bill is triangulating again, hoping (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Vera Lofaro, Christy1947

        Obama loses so he and Hillary can be the savior of the democratic party in 2016.  Let's face it Bill's morals and Mitt's are about the same.  There is nothing that is not about Bill and the problem for Hillary is that HE is her blind spot.

        •  No! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens

          Unworthy CT. Bill Clinton is a loyal Democrat as has Hillary as Obama's hard-working Secretary of State.

          I'm proud of her and I think Obama is too! They Know Obama needs a second term. Just watch!

          In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

          by vcmvo2 on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 09:08:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Bill is loyal to Bill. Do loyal democrats sign (0+ / 0-)

            republican crap legislation(CFMA...sponsored and written by  Phil Gramm) designed to destroy our economy, do loyal democrats sign DOMA and NAFTA.  None of these are democratic in nature, maybe we should be more selective about who we call a loyal democrat.

      •  Clinton and Booker Represent the Modern Dem (0+ / 0-)

        party that worships Bain Capital as much as repugs do. Clinton and Booker's sin is simply that they defended the other team.

        "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

        by Aspe4 on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 11:16:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  He's not blind to the huge amount "speaking fees" (6+ / 0-)

    brings into his bank account yearly for being a "good boy."

    NOW SHOWING
    Progressive Candidate Obama (now - Nov 6, 2012)
    Bipartisan Obama returns (Nov 7, 2012)

    by The Dead Man on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:04:35 AM PDT

  •  "Blind Spot" Doesn't Even Hint At the Scale. (8+ / 0-)

    Here's what you guys actually accomplished --and this was measured before the corrections hit. Congrats on delaying them until the next guy's watch.

    The Clinton Admin more than any other single admin is responsible for launching recognition of the concept of the 1%.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

    His mistakes began far earlier than the late 90's. Look at the housing bubble around the time of Monica Lewinsky--it was already passing 100-year peaks.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

    I doubt there is enough viable of Clintonomics for it to be capable of being fixed. All it is is Reaganomics tweaked, the kinder gentler economic conservatism given a label by Bush's father.

    You have to repeal Reagan to begin to making the economy safe for the people and meaningfully democratic, but that is out-the-door too radical for Clinton or for the Democratic Party.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:06:40 AM PDT

  •  This was not a "bug" with Clinton..... (6+ / 0-)

    it was a FEATURE. People like Bill Clinton define "middle class" as people with excess money to invest. If you're "working class" (IOW, not much money to invest), BC was more platitude than reality.

  •  A solid requirement for being president (14+ / 0-)
    an incredible blind spot for the Wall Street crowd

    The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

    by xxdr zombiexx on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:17:03 AM PDT

  •  NAFTA, "Welfare reform" etc. (9+ / 0-)

    He's a classical neoliberal wanker. He was lucky because the tech bubbles kept people rolling on dough for awhile. His accolades of Rmoney fit perfectly well with his neoliberal perspective. The current occupant of the White House has the same views as Bill. It's too bad. I guess we're going to see how far down we can chop the middle class.

    The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. G.B. Shaw

    by baghavadgita on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:22:02 AM PDT

    •  Tech Bubbles and House ATM's (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eztempo, baghavadgita

      Enlisted the entire working middle class as water carriers for the oligarchy because 401K statements and home values (available as equity lines of credit) looked so sweeeeet!  Triple digit P/E earnings and sweetheart insider positions on IPO's of worthless NASDAQ princesses (reincarnated a decade and a half later as FaceBook).  The housing valuation boom was the biggest case of inter-generational theft ever!

  •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfromga, FiredUpInCA
    You would think after the crash of 2008 and all that it has wrought he would be wary of defending Wall Street again, but it appears his massive blind spot is still there.
    $80 million in Wall Street "speaking fees" since leaving office has a way of blinding the wayward.

    "It depends what the meaning of 'is', is"
    Platform of the Neo-Democratic Party
    Speaking out of one side of their mouth for the little guy, their nominal constituency, and the other for the plutocracy, their real constituency.

    by Sanctimonious on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:24:09 AM PDT

    •  Why Would He Be Wary When the Two Major (0+ / 0-)

      parties have no viable competition to argue for an alternative? It's extremely safe to side with Wall Street when you know your only opposition agrees with you.

      "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

      by Aspe4 on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 12:05:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Forget Clinton. Talk to Obama! (10+ / 0-)

    Why has Obama followed the same stupid path that Clinton did?  I worked against Clinton in the 1992 primaries because I thought he was too cozy with the banksters.

    Clinton's gifts to the banks came at the end of his presidency when he should have known better.  Obama's came at the beginning, while in the midst of an unbelievable crises.  I think Obama has learned from his mistakes, but has he learned enough?

    If Clinton hadn't repealed Glass-Steagall, you can be damn well sure Bush would have!

  •  amendment (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfromga
    America’s voters are going to have to decide whether the kind of amoral business values that cause a few to get rich [not excluding the President of the US...FILTHY RICH, to the tune of $80 million] because the rest of us get poorer are what they want in a president.

    "It depends what the meaning of 'is', is"
    Platform of the Neo-Democratic Party
    Speaking out of one side of their mouth for the little guy, their nominal constituency, and the other for the plutocracy, their real constituency.

    by Sanctimonious on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:31:44 AM PDT

  •  Isn't Chelsea married to a Wall Streeter? (0+ / 0-)

    The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes.- Marcel Proust

    by CoyoteMarti on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:21:53 AM PDT

  •  Bill Clinton became a multi millionaire (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TracieLynn, Aspe4, Roadbed Guy

    supporting the interests of the Wall Street Bankers, and selling his influence, once he left office.  He is not going to bite the hand that has so generously fed him.

    •  Not so sure it still is not feeding him (0+ / 0-)

      Is the Clinton Global Initiative simply a front for money laundering? Maybe some investigations are in order. His library cetianly was.

      •  I don't need to accuse him of actual (0+ / 0-)

        criminal behavior.   It is clear he cashed in on his public service, as many public servants do.   It affects his credibility with me on issues of vulture capitalists and their 'good work' and 'sterling' careers.  Mobsters can be good at their work and have very accomplished careers.  That is not a reason for praise.

        •  Maybe, I am comparing him with Jimmy Carter, who (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jfromga

          I didn't much support as President, but what he did after out of office has redeemed him.  On it's surface, the Clinton Global Initiative does good, but like with any other charity, how much of the money collected goes into providing that good. I guess I am always suspect of organizations that collect billions of dollars and say they are involved in curing every ill in our society. I think you need to pick one or two, and do them right, then move on to others.

  •  Clinton was a man of his times. (5+ / 0-)

    I think when he came into the office he was slightly ahead of his time, but defeats like gays in the military, and health care made him wise up.

    In my opinion Clinton was given lemons and he made lemonade.

    Really the only way he could make any progress is to cast himself as a "new democrat"

    At the time Clinton was president "liberal" was all bad and "conservative" was all good in the public eye.

    Although the dem congress was about as self serving as the one Obama confronted when the GOP came in Clinton knew he would have to work in their paradigm.

    So he had Alan Greenspan holding a knife to the countries throat just like the GOP congress is doing now.
    So Clinton went along with the budget cutting and deregulation and Greenspan kept interest rates low in return, which while it DID help the banksters and ultimately lead to the financial meltdown it kept the middle class in jobs and Clinton in the White House.

    Now thanks to the meltdown and OWS mostly the view of business/conservative as good and liberal as bad has softened somewhat.

    It is up to the democratic talking heads like Reich, Krugman and the various politicians to push this talking point more to get it to fully compete with trickle down.

    However you got people like Clinton, and also some other politicians that either are in red states or states where financial money is a big factor in elections and even in attacking the opponent they are going to feel a need to sugar coat their attacks on the 1% and banksters.

    This is  because of either the conditions of their state (conservative mindset prevails or financial money a factor in elections) or the time they came up politically in.

    I think rather than condemn them just like the gay folks did after the defeat if gays in the miltary back in the early Clinton years , we need to just keep pushing the debate in a way that would change public opinion and give those scared of the rich and banksters some cover.

  •  bill clinton was a dlc democrat (0+ / 0-)

    always was...always will be....quite preferable to any republican but never one to be loved or held up to some great standard.  thats why i supported brown in '92, then gave bill clinton a try in the general in 92; nader in 96/00;
    dean in 04 then kerry; and then finally hit paydirt with President Obama in 08.

    but politics is the art of the possible.....you have to judge presidents versus other presidents.  obama is the best president of the past 50 years; clinton is second best though distant.  LBJ could have been tops if he hadn't screwed up with Vietnam...

  •  Obama puts Hillary in his admin (0+ / 0-)

    But it's NEVER ENOUGH for the Clinton Mafia.

    Look at that greasy toad, Ed Rendall, literally praying that Hillary will run so he'll have something to do besides lick Chris Matthew's genitalia.

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