Friday, October 24, 2003

Lionizing Reagan; Vilifying Clinton

Political parties need heroes to thrive and prosper. For years Democrats have boosted themselves on the memories of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. Republicans had a rougher time of it during this period. They wanted to forget about Herbert Hoover. Dwight Eisenhower was a great war hero, but he was kind of bland as a president. Then they had to try and forget about Richard Nixon.

So it is no surprise that Republicans are working overtime now to promote the idea that Reagan was one of the greatest presidents of all time. Their efforts in this respect have included trying to get Reagan’s image carved onto Mount Rushmore, replacing Alexander Hamilton on the 10-dollar bill with Reagan’s smiling visage, and naming buildings and monuments all over the country after him.

It is also no surprise that this lionizing of Reagan is a two-pronged strategy that also requires tearing down and vilifying President Bill Clinton at the same time. As with most issues, Republicans see this as a black and white issue. Reagan can do no wrong, and Clinton can do nothing right. Reagan is a larger-than-life figure of grandiose accomplishments who merits reverential treatment. Clinton is a despicable character who nearly wrecked the country and deserved to be put in jail.
To counter this kind of political gamesmanship, Democrats don’t have to place Clinton on a pedestal and worship him the way Republicans do to Reagan. But they do need to stand up and defend his policies that helped produce the longest period of economic expansion in U.S. history.
Here are just a few:
* In 1992, the deficit was $290 billion, a record dollar high. In 2000, the projected budget surplus was $167 billion -- the largest dollar surplus on record.
* 21.2 million new jobs created, the most jobs ever created under a single Administration -- and more new jobs than Presidents Reagan and Bush created during their three terms.
* The longest and fastest period of real wage growth in three decades.
* The lowest unemployment rate in three decades.
* Highest home ownership rate in history.
* Lowest poverty rate in two decades.
* Lowest crime rates in 25 years.
* Smallest government workforce since the 1960s.
* Lowest government spending as a share of GDP since 1974.

This isn’t a record that anyone should shy away from defending and compared to the accomplishments (or lack thereof) of our current president during the past three years they look really good.

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