And now, for the rest of the script: It’s a bit like New England weather! If you don’t like Maureen Dowd’s view, you can just wait a while.
On Sunday, July 13, Bill Clinton was letting his only child be drawn into “the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc.”
“The Clintons keep acting as though all they care about is selfless public service,” the irate columnist thundered. “So why does it keep coming back to gross money grabs?”
The Clinton Foundation was “wasteful and disorganized,” Dowd said. As she closed, she said that Bill and Hillary Clinton “need to protect their daughter...from their wanton acquisitiveness.”
That was Sunday, July 13. Seven days later—it was now Sunday, July 20—Dowd composed a silly love letter to the same Bill Clinton. Her piece was based on a two-point jump in Clinton’s approval rating, achieved over seven years.
We were struck by the change in the columnist’s apparent viewpoint. We were also struck by a recurrent theme which appeared in the comments to her column.
We refer to complaints about the way Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall. This has become a familiar, scripted complaint from the left. The complaint popped up several dozen times in the comments to Dowd’s love letter.
A few examples:
COMMENTER FROM MAINE: That all sounds very nice and warm, Maureen. More milk-and-cookies myth-making around bedtime. Clinton did well and does have a Teflon personality. But conveniently, we all seem to forget that Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which led to The Great Recession...Inevitably, it was left to a professor to wax most eloquent on this topic. The professor (of Arabic) wrote from Colgate:
COMMENTER FROM MASSACHUSETTS: I don't share in this taste. I think about DOMA and the repeal of Glass Steagall and all those scandals besides the Lewinsky one. I see Bill Clinton as having specific strengths, I don't find the whole package appealing.
COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK CITY: Revisionist history is wonderful. In our fantasy Clinton didn't dismantle Glass-Steagall, didn't pass NAFTA, didn't sign DOMA. He was such as nice cuddly guy. We are idiots and we deserve what we get.
COMMENTER FROM WEST OF THE GWB: And while the stock market soared, the irrational exuberance did not end well, especially after Bubba took care of his Wall Street backers by eliminating Glass-Steagall and deregulating derivatives trading.
COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK: Maureen leaves out the big one: the New Democrat cozying up to corporations and banks, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, deregulation, repeal of Glass-Steagall, leading directly to all the excesses and banking crimes and the real estate bubble and crash. The actual main cause of the Great Recession was, yes, folks, Bill Clinton.
COMMENTER FROM FLORIDA: I believe he lit the fuse and got out of town. As a globalist (NAFTA) he is as responsible for our state today as his successor. Teaming up with Gingrich and Gramm to repeal Glass-Steagall lit the fuse of our downfall. These were the greatest policy failures of the last half-century.
COMMENTER FROM OHIO: Does Bill Clinton really get a pass for NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and the prohibition of regulating financial derivatives? These were positives for corporatism and negatives for the 99% and for real, stable, and sustainable economic growth.
NEW JERSEY: People have short memories. Clinton was surely a master politician...But he single-handedly ended the influence of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in the Congress—welfare reform, Glass-Siegel ended, NAFTA...
COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK: [H]istory may not be as generous or as forgiving to former President Clinton as it may appear now.Some commenters seemed to think that Clinton has repealed Glass-Steagall all by himself. Others said he had joined with congressional Republicans—Newt and them—to accomplish this task.
And this may not be because of the “women, the cheesy behavior, the fund-raising excesses, the self-pity, the adolescent narcissism, the impeachment, the charges of racially tinged insults against Obama in 2008.” Nor is it because of Hillary. It is because of two decisions, one domestic and the other international.
The domestic decision is the agreement former President Clinton made with congressional Republicans during his administration, which set the stage for the passage of one of the most sweeping and destructive banking deregulation bill in American history: The lifting of all restraints on the operation of the giant monopolies within the financial system, which led to the devastating economic crisis of 2008.
Like you, like these commenters, we aren’t experts on the repeal of Glass-Steagall. To see Paul Krugman seem to say that this didn’t produce “the 2008 implosion of Wall Street,” you can just click here.
We aren’t experts on this topic. We do have a bit of expertise concerning the growth of scripted overstatement as the basic building-block of the American discourse.
Because we’re skeptics concerning script, even when it comes from the left, we decided to look up the vote which repealed Glass-Steagall.
Bill Clinton didn’t do it all by himself! Nor did he do it with Newt alone. The vote in the Senate was 90-8. The vote among Senate Democrats was 38-7 in favor of repeal.
We don’t know why people voted the way they did. But these are some of the famous Dems who voted to repeal Glass-Steagall:
Senator Harry Reid
Senator John Kerry
Senator John Edwards
Seven Democrats voted no; they were joined by Senator Shelby, the Alabama Republican. But a wide array of major Democrats voted in favor of repeal, including Ted Kennedy.
Why did people vote as they did? We have no idea.
But the claim that Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall is blowing up as an easily-memorized, all-purpose “progressive” script.
The story seems a bit more complex. As we keep becoming more like them, we thought you might want to know that.