INS AND OUTS OF POWER
Jane Galt has a great post
about the parties in and out of power. The crux of it is Jane's Law: The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.
She also goes on to explain her belief that Clinton's impeachment was done right: Clinton should have been impeached, but should not have been removed from office. While I don't precisely agree with her and believe that Clinton should indeed have been removed from office, her explanation of the entire situation is stellar:
I am the only person I've ever met who actually thinks we got about the right result in the impeachment. We impeached the guy, to say "No, you can't just commit perjury", but we didn't remove him from office over a minor civil suit. (Although Democrats who are planning on deluging me with elegant arguments about how he shouldn't have had to answer those questions -- I agree with you, except for one little thing, which is that he signed, with great fanfare, the law that made it so he had to answer those questions. As far as I'm concerned, therefore, he's the only guy in America who should have had to answer such questions under oath.)
But I could see how you wanted him impeached, and I could also see the argument for not impeaching him. It was a judgement call.
Except that a substantial portion of the Republican Party seemed, long before, to have lost all judgement. They were insane on the subject of Clinton. It wasn't enough that they disagreed with him politically; nothing would do but that he be the AntiChrist. They flooded the airwaves and newsprint with vituperative rants about the veriest trivialities of his administration. They raged impotently at the people in America -- THE FOOLS! -- who couldn't see that Clinton was the AntiChrist, even though it was as plain as the nose on your face. Every tiny shred of news about Clinton, no matter how innocuous, was waved about as evidence of his perfidy. I recall listening to some radio commenter go on and on about some Rose Garden ceremony for some law that was, as laws go, blandly heartwarming though ultimately useless, rather than, say, totally antithetical to basic concepts of liberty. The radio host used this law, which was so boring that I can't remember its topic except that it had something to do with kids and learning, as proof of Clinton's inherent evilness. How dare he cavort with children in the Rose Garden when, as we have already seen, he's EEEEVVVVVIIIIILLLL.
This was my conflict during the entire process. I was a Clinton defender and later apologist for most of his presidency. In fact, my very first column for the Daily Cougar outlined why I viewed impeachment as a mistake. In my generally tempered style, I fell short of explaining what I really thought: Republicans were insane.
And even though I now agree that there were grounds for Clinton to be impeached and removed from office, I still believe that they were. Not those that thought that lying under oath was an impeachable offense, of course, because I'm one of them. However, that's just the charge that they caught him one. Republicans had been aiming to get him removed since the 1996 election for whatever it was they could find. An investigation of a land deal became an investigation of marital indescretions resulted in impeachment on a crime that had not yet been committed when the investigations began. I don't say this because I think it lets Clinton off the hook because I obviously don't believe it does. Instead, I want to look at how irrational it all was and how they innoculated Clinton to the point that the public rallied behind a confessed adulturer, liar, and perjuror.
Bill Clinton was accused of everything from murder to treason. The former charge is thoroughly discredited and the latter is specious at best, but the point is when you accuse a man of being the Satan incarnate, discovering that he is an adulturer, liar, and perjuror just doesn't seem so bad.
They had spent so much time trying to charge so much against the man that by the time actual wrongdoing was discovered, the people were sick of it.
On political grounds, Republican criticisms of Clinton's politics were equally inept. I remember a classic political cartoon that explained it all in a nutshell:
Republican: Bill Clinton is liberal, liberal, liberal!
Arrow to Panel 2
Democrat: Isn't it great to have a president that stands up for what he believes in?
Arrow to Panel 3
Republican: Stands up for what he believes in? Bill Clinton has never stood up for anything in his life!
Arrow to Panel 4
Democrat: Doesn't that just go to show how nice it is having a president that is so open to compromise.
Arrow to Panel 5
Republican: Compromise? Bill Clinton is taking credit for all our ideas!
Arrow to Panel 6
Democrat: How wonderful it must be for you that Bill Clinton supports Republican initiatives.
Arrow to Panel 1
The Republicans tried to attack President Clinton on every front at once to the point that the attacks were mutually exclusive. I don't know if it was irreconcilable hatred of the man or a desperate attempt to see what will stick.
Whatever the case, the parallels with Democratic criticisms of President Bush. Whereas Republicans vascilated between Bill Clinton having no principle and being a liberal hatchetman, Democrats do so between the notion that Bush is this machiavellian prince and that he's a moron (or smirking money or empty hat). Bush may well be defeated in 2004, but it will be despite, not because of, the Democratic's undisciplined, unfocused opposition to him.
In the post-Watergate era, only two elected presidents have not been re-elected: Jimmy Carter and George H. Bush. In both cases the economy weighed very heavily in their defeats. More than that, the opposition was able to make the case that the problem was the man in the White House and that replacing him would amount to change. More than even that, the case against them was very focused on their job performance. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that neither were hated by the opposing party nearly as much as Reagan and Clinton were. To put a finer point on it, Carter and Bush were difficult men to hate on a personal level so they were able to approach the situation with more level-headedness. Or maybe they were difficult to hate because they were inept.
Either way, at the present time Bush is more reminiscent of Clinton and Reagan. The Democrats lack a unified theory. Is Bush a conservative firebrand out of touch? Is he a machiavellian prince without any principle other than politics (note: you are running against Bush, so don't say "well Rove is this way and Bush is that way and together they unite to form the Axis of Republican Evil!")? Is he inept and his incompetence is to blame for percieved failures in Iraq and on the economy?
Lieberman presently strikes me as the only candidate who has a chance primarily because he's the only one who has picked an answer (ineptitude) and run with it. Unfortunately for him, his answers on foreign policy are largely incompatible with the Democratic primary electorate, so he will not win the nomination. Edwards is the only candidate that has to potential to have a chance because he hasn't closed any doors yet so he could make a case that he would be better than Bush on both foreign and domestic policy. Given his lack of experience, it's an uphill climb, but his lack of exprience also serves to explain why he hasn't developed a comprehensive plan, as opposed to John Kerry, where every new thing he says that contradicts something he's previously said serves as yet another example that he is a victim of a Gorean identity crisis and given that just about everything he has said this point has been already contradictory of something else, I just don't think there's much hope.
Bob Graham also could win, but by all indications he has appeared to have lost his mind, so I'm not sure what to say about him. Gephardt is running on the economy. He didn't get the memo.
Of course, the above analysis is in large part dependent that Iraq is not in the middle of a civil war that we're involved in and we're not in the middle of the Second Great Depression. If that's the case, everyone who isn't named Sharpton, Braun, or Kucinich could concievably win.
But praying for rain is not a political strategy.
So to wrap this post around, the point is that unbridled hatred only serves to insulate the party that's in power. The "insanity" of Republicans prior to impeachment innoculated Clinton when wrong-doing was demonstrated. Similarly, the current "insanity" of Democrats is innoculating Bush for 2004.