August 1, 2012

Vex Popular

Hatched by Dafydd

Here's a fascinating election speculation from our friends at the Gallup Poll:

Former President Bill Clinton's popularity is polling at record highs, a factor that may give a boost to beleaguered President Barack Obama’s re-election bid.

Clinton, who will formally nominate Obama at the Democratic National Convention in September, is viewed favorably by 66 percent of Americans, tying his highest rating recorded in January 1993, Gallup found.

Gallup explains its reasoning thus; first, they show a graphic of Clinton's favorable ratings from inauguration up to today:



Bill Clinton's favorability

Then Gallup makes its wish-list argument:

Clinton's solid popularity with Americans today might help attract new support to Obama from outside the party, particularly from whites, men, seniors, and political independents -- all important voting groups that Obama is struggling with in trial heats against Republican Mitt Romney.

Clinton and Obama, together again. It can't miss!

But let's think again, starting with first principles: Where did Clinton's sky-high favorability come from?

Perhaps we can find some clues by examining its ups and downs throughout Clintonian history. Let's reflect upon Clinton's presidential and post-presidential career with a couple of questions; perhaps the answers will give us a clue to his popularity today:

  • Why was Bill Clinton's favorability so low in 1994, and why did he hit his nadir in late 2000?
  • Contrariwise, why did he hit a high point in 1996-1998, and why is his favorability so positive today?

By Gallup's account above, his favorability plummeted from 66% in January of 1993, when he assumed office, to 47% in late 1994, precipitating the Republican takeover of Congress in November of that year. What had happened during those two years? Bill Clinton made a campaign promise to be a uniter, not a divider; he swore he would work with the GOP; he ran as the darling of the Democratic Leadership Council of moderate, non-Progressivist Democrats. Then as soon as he was safely elected, Clinton swerved to the Left:

  • He raised taxes.
  • Pushed hard for universal government health care (remember "HillaryCare?").
  • Signed the "Brady Bill" gun control initiative.
  • Expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit, turning it into a brazen welfare program.
  • Pronounced the new "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy for gays serving in the military. (Personally, I wish he had simply gone to the mattresses -- perhaps a bad expression regarding this particular president -- in Congress to repeal the law banning gays from serving in the military, thus allowing them to serve openly; DADT was an engraved invitation to blackmail.)
  • And he slashed our national security and especially our intelligence services.

After the spanking Clinton suffered in the 1994 elections, he ping-ponged back rightwards:

  • He signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (a.k.a. Gingrich's welfare reform) in 1996, after being seen negotiating with the Republicans for many months.
  • He signed the Defense of Marriage Act, protecting traditional-marriage states from having to recognize the same-sex marriages of other states (forgot about that one, didn't you?).
  • And he signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, also in 1996, which appeared to most voters as a reasonable compromise between compassion for illegals who had lived here peacefully for many years, including children who had been brought here as infants, and a well-justified concern for border security and the sovereign right of every country to control immigration. (Again personally, I wasn't much impressed. All hat, no steak.)

Each of these was an example of Bill Clinton "triangulating," negotiating with the more moderate members of both the Democratic and Republican parties for a working majority, rather than aligning himself with either fringe. Lo and behold, Clinton's favorability rose steadily from 1995 to 1997, when his second term began. It continued high until 1998, when Clinton's favorability started its long decline to 42% in late 2000.

Since most voters opposed Clinton's 1998 impeachment, the GOP prosecution of the president probably raised his favorability leading up to it. Too, his "bloodless" Bosnian attack seemed successful at first; but by 1998, Clinton's feckless foreign-policy sacred cows finally came home to roost:

  • Bosnia and Kosovo turned into horrific stalemates.
  • Saddam Hussein went on a tear, slaughtering his own people with tanks, aerial bombardment, and poison gas.
  • Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom Clinton had practically shoehorned back into control of Haiti, was seen more and more as a ruthless and bloody dictator.
  • And of course, this period also saw a huge increase in al-Qaeda activity, culminating in their bombing of two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, each of which killed many Americans.

In other words, when Clinton was behaving in a bipartisan, moderate, and effective manner, voters loved him. But when he was partisan, radical, feckless, and incompetent, they despised him.

The correlation is too strong and exact to ignore; in the end, a strong majority disliked him, because they finally figured out that they'd been suckered. In reality, Clinton was always more liberal than he admitted; and voters finally realized he didn't have a dang clue what he was doing on any front, foreign or domestic.

But what about today? Why is he so retroactively popular? Two reasons spring to mind:

  • Lately, Bill Clinton has been keeping his mouth shut.
  • And when he does speak, he makes it clear that he is not Barack "Big Stick" Obama!

So let's collate all this data into a little packet of Clintonian Conclusions:

  • Bill Clinton's "favorability" is not a fixed quantity, nor has it much to do with the man himself. Rather, it reflects what he has been doing lately.
  • Therefore, his favorability can rise or fall precipitously if he changes his behavior.
  • Lurching back into partisan campaigning, after years of being a neutral "elder statesman," making sage pronouncements and staying "above the fray," definitely counts as changing his behavior.
  • In this case, by hitching the Clintonmobile to an angry, thin-skinned, radical, partisan President Obama, Clinton evokes the Bad Clinton of 1993 through 1994, not the Good Clinton of bipartisan cooperation and moderation in his liberalism.
  • Thus Clinton, by joining forces with Barack Obama, the wildly divisive Trillion-Dollar Taxman, makes it far more likely that Obama will drag Clinton's favorability downwards, rather than Clinton dragging Obama's favorability upwards.

The forceable recollecting of Clinton's sly, dishonest, corruption (remember his and Al Gore's campaign-financing and other financial scandals?) will likely highlight Obama's own liberal-fascist, crony-capitalist culture of corruption, funneling trillions in tax dollars to Obama's cronies and financial backers.

The Gallup pollsters make the amateurish mistake of thinking that Clinton's likeability oozes naturally from his DNA and will rub off onto anyone he buddies up to. But the reality is, by embracing Obama, Clinton will come to be seen as a political "parole violator." He will be swallowed whole by Obamunism, eventually to be spat under the bus... like everyone else who becomes an Obamic liability.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 1, 2012, at the time of 11:49 PM

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