Politics & Policy

Just Think, Everyone Was So Certain We Would Get Another Clinton Presidency

Just Think, Everyone Was So Certain We Would Get Another Clinton Presidency

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, when asked by Matt Lauer whether Trump’s Tweet accusing President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower is “presidential”:

I’m not going to say that – he is our president, Matt, and so what he does, faults and all, he’s our president. And so I want him to be successful. When these tweets come out, I mean, do I look at them and say, “Where did that come from?” Yes. But I don’t pick up the phone and say, “What are you doing?” I just know that’s who he is.

Is this how Democrats felt when Bill Clinton was president?

It’s easy to think of the 1990s as just a rollicking good time, a roaring dot-com economy, salacious sex scandals, and a comforting if illusory sense that the world was at peace. Certainly, our recent experience with the Obama presidency probably persuaded some Republicans that Bill Clinton was not the worst Democratic president of our lifetime and in fact there’s a good chance he was the best, depending on how long your life has been. Welfare reform, a budgetary surplus, crime dropping – in a lot of ways, times were good.

But there was this nagging problem of Bill Clinton lying habitually and breaking the law pretty regularly. The Lewinsky scandal is remembered the most, but there were plenty: firing the White House travel office staffers, the “accidental” access to the FBI files of prominent Republicans, the suspicion of financial misdeeds and fraud in the Whitewater Development Corporation, Paula Jones, the Chinese money in the 1996 campaign, the de facto renting out of the Lincoln Bedroom, the bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan…

Even when there was no crime proven, things looked odd and troubling and highly unusual for the White House. Vince Foster was the highest-level government official to commit suicide since Secretary of Defense James Forrestal in 1949. (And like Foster, there was a lot of speculation that Forrestal’s death wasn’t a suicide.)

During all this time, when Republicans objected to the behavior ranging from tawdry to illegal, most Democrats and plenty of apolitical Americans would just shake their heads with a smile and sigh, “Oh, that rascal! Our president is just incorrigible!” It’s not that they applauded much of that behavior; they just didn’t think it was worth getting upset about. If the economy was rocking and rolling, and everything else seemed to be going well, then we could all “compartmentalize” the way the president did and disapprove of him as a man but approve of the job he was doing.

There aren’t a lot of conservatives who like Trump making a shocking claim of illegal wiretapping and offering no supporting evidence. They just don’t see it as something worth getting that upset about. Trump is a vessel to enact their goals, and everybody knows this is the way he operates. The Red Sox used to say, “That’s just Manny being Manny.” This is just Trump being Trump. He’s karma for all the times figures on the left told lies and the fact-checkers were asleep at the switch.

Is this a good way to think of our leaders? Back in the 1990s, we were told that sophisticated Europeans didn’t worry about the character of their leaders; they simply focused upon results. At this moment, Democrats will scoff that character is destiny (let’s all pause to let Bill Bennett wipe the coffee from his screen) and there’s no comparison between the Clinton economy and the Trump economy.

Wait, what’s that noise? Do you hear the sound of joyful yelling?

Wait, my mistake, it’s the sound of a joyful Yellen:

Janet Yellen has a message for Americans: It’s finally safe to “feel good” about the U.S. economy.

“We have confidence in the robustness of the economy and its resilience to shocks,” the Federal Reserve chief said during a press conference on Wednesday.

Yellen, the normally-cautious economist, sounded a far more confident and upbeat tone than in the past. She said the Fed’s decision to raise rates is a signal that the “economy is doing well” and “people can feel good” about the outlook.

The Fed chief is particularly optimistic about America’s ability to add back millions of jobs after the Great Recession.

“Many more people feel optimistic about their prospects in the labor market. There’s job security. We’re seeing more people who are feeling free to quit their jobs,” Yellen said.

Asked about the big rally on Wall Street, Yellen declined to voice any concern about market valuations. Instead, she mentioned how higher stock prices could lead to stronger consumer spending.

Yellen joins a chorus of CEOs, small business owners and everyday Americans who are feeling more confident these days.

I know, I know, it can’t be the 1990s all over again . . . even if Twin Peaks is coming back to television, Zima is back, TLC and Sugar Ray are on tour, the fashion of that decade is returning . . . 

Those who do not study history are doomed

to use the same memes over and over again.

‘That Hype Is External to What We Did!’

Somebody’s having a bad week. It’s all the viewers’ fault!

Rachel Maddow says that if people felt let down by her story about President Donald Trump’s 2005 tax document it’s more because of the weight of expectation than anything she did.

The MSNBC host found herself in the odd position Wednesday of defending herself from criticism following one of the biggest-ever scoops for her show. Maddow’s show revealed, through reporter David Cay Johnston, two pages of tax return information that showed Trump earned $150 million in 2005 and paid $38 million in income taxes that year. Trump has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns.

Maddow’s tweet less than 90 minutes before her show that “we’ve got Trump’s tax returns” set off a social media frenzy. Although a subsequent tweet specified it was only two pages from one year’s returns, expectations were sky high.

Maddow told the AP that she never misrepresented what she had.

“Because I have information about the president doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a scandal,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s damning information. If other people leapt to that conclusion without me indicating that it was, that hype is external to what we did.”

Riiiiight.

Remember when Glenn Beck, then on Fox News, had an exclusive interview with the recently resigned “tickling” congressman, Eric Massa? Massa was claiming that he had been forced out, and that he was ready to spill the beans on all kinds of shady strong-arm tactics by Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel. Except once Massa was on Beck’s show live, he wouldn’t give any specifics. The interview grew more and more confrontational, as Beck began to get the feeling that Massa had promised detailed accounts of high-level wrongdoing and now didn’t have the goods. What followed was one of the most delightfully honest moments in television news history:

“America, I’m gonna shoot straight with you,” Beck said, looking into the camera. “I think I’ve wasted your time. I think this is the first time I have wasted an hour of your time, and I apologize for that.” He turned to Massa and added, “Because I think we could have spent a lot less time with you backtracking a lot. You’re a liar.”

That’s television accountability!

Evolution, Not Revolution…

A section of Ross Douthat’s column about the future of Christianity in America discusses an incremental approach, and it’s one that probably works well in a lot of areas of life where we find it difficult to live up to our own standards . . . 

 . . . one might also think of the Benedict Option not as an absolute demand – to the monastery, go! – but as an invitation to sort of religious ratchet, in which people start from wherever they are and then take one step toward a greater rigor and coherence in the way they marry faith and life.

If every Catholic high school or college were one degree less secularized and worldly; if every Protestant megachurch were one degree more liturgical and theological; if not every Catholic but more Catholics became priests and nuns; if not every Christian family but more Christian families decided to have a third child or a fourth or fifth; if not every young Christian but more young Christians looked at working-class neighborhoods as an important mission field; if Catholics and Protestants alike could imitate even part of Mormonism’s dense networking … all this would be a form of the Benedict Option in action, and both the churches and the common culture would be better for it.

Could we all be one percent better — however you choose to define it, whether it’s more faithful, more generous, more patient, more understanding, etc. – today than we were yesterday?

ADDENDA: See you at the National Review Ideas Summit today!

Scheduling issues interrupted the taping of the pop culture podcast this week. Peruse the archives…

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