Don’t You Point Your Finger At Bubba

by Kiko Matsing

Bill Clinton Alan Greenspan George Bush

Well, well, well. Time Magazine names Bill Clinton one of the 25 people to blame for the current economic crisis, along with Alan Greenspan and George W. Bush. While Democrats harped at Bush’s “failed economic policies”–recall Nancy Pelosi’s grating bailout speech?–Dubya was faulted mainly for his lack of leadership when the crisis precipitated towards the end of his term (“Why did the financial collapse have to happen on my watch?”). By that time, he had been dismissed as a lame-duck president anyway. The roots, however, ran far deeper into the past, during Clinton’s tour-of-duty, when the major legislations that deregulated the financial market were signed into law.

President Clinton’s tenure was characterized by economic prosperity and financial deregulation, which in many ways set the stage for the excesses of recent years. Among his biggest strokes of free-wheeling capitalism was the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, a cornerstone of Depression-era regulation. He also signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which exempted credit-default swaps from regulation. In 1995 Clinton loosened housing rules by rewriting the Community Reinvestment Act, which put added pressure on banks to lend in low-income neighborhoods. It is the subject of heated political and scholarly debate whether any of these moves are to blame for our troubles, but they certainly played a role in creating a permissive lending environment.

(from Time, 17 Feb 2009)

Clinton promptly responded with a vehement denial: “Oh no. My question to them is: Do any of them seriously believe if I had been president, and my economic team had been in place the last eight years, that this would be happening today? I think they know the answer to that: No.” (from Yahoo! News, 16 Feb 2009)

“If I had been president?” The nerve. It’s always convenient to say “could have, would have, should have” when you’re on the sidelines. But wait, doesn’t this ranting deflection of blame sound familiar?

The 9/11 Comission also meted out blame on Clinton’s policies against terrorism that eventually failed to prevent the attacks.

The reports suggest that many of the Clinton administration’s policies also were ineffectual, revealing significant new details about as many as four missed opportunities to kill or capture bin Laden in 1998 and 1999.

(from Washington Post, 24 Mar 2004)

“If I were still president…” What?! When will this guy stop fantasizing about being president? I guess the Oval Office has its off-hours perks. The more defensive Clinton gets, as when he had his aides hack at the Path to 9/11 docudrama, the more pathetic he sounds in his attempts to salvage the legacy of his presidency. Despite his flailing though, history will be the last judge. He should just go the way of the elder Bush, who went gently into the shadows, not like that nutty fruitcake Carter.