Talk:Bill Clinton vs. George W. Bush/2006

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The following discussion was moved from Talk:Bush neoconservative, as it seemed more about comparing Bush and Clinton than about whether or not Bush neoconservative was a legitimate term.

Midian says

Under President Clinton, a similar list [of supported causes, presumably -W.] could apply to most Democrats. Does that make them "neolibs", "socialists", or is the Democrat party just really that far left?

  • the US Invasion of Iraq (And Haiti, and Somalia, and Bosnia)
  • President William J. Clinton
  • the precedence of presidential authority over constitutional law
  • the actions of the president are above the law (sexual assault, perjury, etc.)
  • big government spending for political ends

Midian 12:06, 30 August 2006 (EDT)

Woozle replies

I'm not sure I am understanding some of your points above. Overall, you seem to be saying that there was a similar breakaway cabal during the Clinton years, and so there should be a similar term for them. However, during the Clinton administration there was not, as far as I am aware, such a huge gap between Democratic/liberal ideals and the actual actions of elected officials in the Democratic party (including Clinton) as there is now between Republican/conservative ideals and the actual actions of elected officials in the Republican party -- especially at the very top. If I need to spell out the details of that gap, please let me know.

Replies to other specific points, which may not be on target because I'm not sure what you're getting at:

  • The US did not invade Iraq under Clinton, and The Gulf War (we fought Iraq but did not invade) was approved by the UN. My understanding is that the Bosnia thing was also approved by the UN, went extremely well (having actually been planned beforehand), cost not a single American life, put Europe at peace for the first time in 3000 years, and greatly improved foreign impressions of America to the point where they still love Clinton over there, even after all the nonsense we've pulled under the Bush regime. Hardly the actions of a cabal. (I'm guessing that you also don't approve of Clinton's actions with regard to Haiti and Somalia, but I need more information.)
  • Clinton did not, as far as I am aware, ever claim that presidential authority should be above the law -- not ever, and certainly not to the extent that Bush is openly doing now.
  • Clinton may have abused the appeal of his rank as president for personal gain (very personal -- not monetary, just sexual favors, and as far as I know he never actually abused his power as president, despite numerous Republican investigations which did not result in a single indictment), but this seems very minor compared to Bush's blatant abuses of power. (Again, let me know if I need to spell this out... much of it is on the George W. Bush page.)
  • As I understand it, Bush is far more guilty of "big government spending for political ends" than any previous president, much less Clinton.

It seems relevant to have a term to distinguish this specific bunch of so-called conservatives from real conservatives because they really only pay lip-service to a few favorite conservative causes (gay-bashing, prayer, worshipping the flag...) without actually being conservative at heart (saving money and cutting taxes, the rule of law, not engaging in "empire-building"...). Although obviously not a conservative myself, I would take Bush Senior or even the Reagan administration over these guys; at least they were arguably sincere.

Would you rather have a leader who is dishonest in his personal life, or one who is dishonest about his intentions for the country? Would you rather have a leader who can't keep his pants on, or a leader who deliberately leads his country towards disaster?

On the wrong road

Just because Bush (43) is a horrible president doesn't make Clinton squeeky clean. Clinton's "personal life" was put on display by HIM in the White House. Sexual harassment in the workplace would get any normal businessman fired, and the company sued for millions in damages if it did not react quickly enough. Then perjuring himself during his deposition while under oath, using his position to obstruct justice. The only reason he was not impeached was the vote on party lines. To impeach the president would have given the Democrat party a black eye, so they went against the law and allowed Clinton to be above the law.

Setting the precedent for the president being above the law, is it any wonder why the Republicans, with a majority in the House and Senate think they can do the same?

The Democrats really shouldn't complain about the road we are on when they are the ones who took the wrong turn in the first place. I can only hope that someday we get back on the right path, but the mixed apathy and disdain of the populace for politics and politicians will prevent that from happening anytime soon. Midian 13:31, 1 September 2006 (EDT)

Woozle replies

Clinton was exhaustively investigated (under a conservative-led Congress) regarding several accusations, as were a number of others associated with him; this resulted in not one single conviction. He may not have been squeaky clean personally, but his professional conduct was able to withstand the most hostile scrutiny and emerge essentially unscathed.

In response to other issues you raise:

  1. How did Clinton set a precedent for the President being above the law? He did not, as I understand it, use his Presidential powers to evade investigation of any of the things of which he was accused; he apparently lied under oath, but it doesn't take Presidential powers to do that. You say he used "his position to obstruct justice"; I have heard this accusation with regard to Clinton before, but have never been clear on the details (feel free to start that page).
  2. It sounds like you are arguing that Clinton placed the presidency above the law, and therefore he was the one who "started it", and therefore it is the Democrats who "took the wrong turn in the first place". If this is the case...
    • I need to see more specifics on the suggestion that Clinton placed the presidency above the law; it is a point which is arguable but far from settled.
    • Even if Clinton did make the first move in this direction, GWB has taken it to an entirely different and much more dangerous level. Excusing Bush's actions on the basis of Clinton's is like one boy saying it's ok that he shot someone with a gun because another boy took it out of the drawer. Equating Bush's actions with Clinton's is similarly like equating the act of shooting with the act of taking out the gun.
    • Even if you argue successfully that Clinton's bad behavior is morally equivalent to Bush's corruption, all you are saying is "Clinton did it first!", i.e. two wrongs make a right.

Relative Moralism

That's the main problem with relative moralism. Two wrongs don't make a right, but when one wrong is redefined to be right, then a second, equal or similar wrong is just as right.

President Clinton's obvious and blatant lying in court, defined as Perjury, which is illegal, was brushed aside strictly due to partisan politics, placing the president above the law. So now the line has moved, it is acceptable for the president to lie.

Bush's lies can be said to be worse, or not, than Clinton's lies, but lies are lies, and now the president is allowed to lie as he or she wishes due to precedent (the basis of most of our legal system).

Moral relativism? Not unless you're a hardline absolutist...

Nobody said – or, at least, I am not arguing – that Clinton's actions were "right". I am mainly saying that Bush's are of a far worse and more serious level of badness.

Clinton's mistakes (correct me if I'm leaving anything out) were:

  • mismanagement of his personal life, in a highly unprofessional way
  • allowing said mismanagement to become public
  • lying about what happened

The first two parts were mainly harmful to himself. You could say "adultery is wrong", and his adulterous actions therefore harmed society, and I wouldn't disagree with you – but I would also argue that the harm is a drop in the bucket, and could have been overlooked if he had been honest and apologetic from the first.

The lying, however, I would agree with you (if I'm understanding you correctly), was of more significant harm to society as a whole. It reduced people's trust in the office of the president (which hasn't been all that great for at least the past decade or two) and opened the door for presidential lying to be brushed off more casually.

I think it's quite unfair to say that he "placed himself above the law", however. There were countless inquiries into the matter, and whether or not he told the truth during the proceedings, he surely acknowledged the validity of those proceedings, and the laws supporting them, by responding and appearing as requested to answer charges. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall him ever saying "I don't think The President of the United States should have to answer this sort of question."

Furthermore, I can understand (at least a little) someone in Clinton's position – having made an embarrassing personal blunder and wanting not to look like an idiot – panicking under pressure and trying to pretend it didn't happen. What I can't understand is someone in Bush's position, where the issue was not personal at all but a matter of policy. Lying to the American people in order to rush into a war which should have been carefully planned is calculated deception. Courts generally make a distinction between impulse crimes and calculated crimes; Bush's lies are impersonal, calculated, and without remorse. Clinton apologized, when the truth finally came out; where are Bush's admissions and apologies? Where does he even openly and honestly address the questions, if he truly believes what he says?

Also, mainly for the sake of accuracy: the history of presidential lying goes back long before Clinton. Take Nixon, for example, though I'm sure he wasn't the first. Not that this makes it okay; I just don't think Clinton deserves to be the poster-boy for presidential immorality.

My argument is based on on a matter of degree; I suppose you could call that moral relativism, but it seems more like "being sensible" to me. If you allow for no degrees of badness in lying ("lies are lies"), then would you also say that jaywalking on a Sunday afternoon is as bad as a liquor-store holdup because "crime is crime"? Precedent may be the basis of much of our legal system, but our legal system also does take severity into account (hence different sentences for different crimes). And if "lies are lies", then shouldn't Bush be impeached as well? Or are the new presidential standards supposedly set by Clinton acceptable to you?

--Woozle 19:40, 13 September 2006 (EDT)