John R, MacArthur, Harper's - Hillary and Bill Clinton are famously a political couple, an “entry” as it’s known in the vernacular. Their journey from supporters of the antiwar Senators Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern to friends of Wall Street grandees like Roger Altman and Steven Rattner is well documented. Nevertheless, Bill Clinton still does a pretty good impersonation of a progressive—as in his eulogy at Eugene McCarthy’s memorial service. So does Hillary Clinton. But it all rings hollow, since the Clintons long ago accommodated themselves to the money powers rather than fighting them. Scholars of the Clinton years in Arkansas can argue over what the young Governor Clinton was trying to accomplish in a southern state not known for liberal values. But Hillary’s willingness to serve for six years on the board of Walmart while her husband was governor is certainly evidence of a couple intent on advertising its openness to corporate and conservative values.
Once in the White House, the Clintons had a choice of how to launch their new administration. To be fair, Hillary wanted to address health care first, but Bill insisted on NAFTA. Whatever one may think of free trade as a theory, the way the Clintons practiced it has led to a huge industrial dislocation: factory closures all over the country and hundreds of thousands of jobs—Obama claimed “a million”—transferred to cheap labor Mexico.
NAFTA was the beginning of the end for organized labor in the United States, but with the next Clinton trade initiative, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, passed in 2000, U.S. companies raced to “communist” China as if it were the California gold rush. This record does not exactly square with the story of a Clinton couple holding aloft the mantle of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The Clintons’ retreat from the principles epitomized by the Roosevelts continued with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a regulatory hallmark of the New Deal aimed at discouraging the kind of bank speculation that brought on the crash of 2008. The administration’s 1996 “welfare reform” bill deprived millions of poor people, most of them minority women, of much-needed government subsidies and was praised by the unprogressive Newt Gingrich as “a major, major achievement.” I don’t find Hillary protesting those “achievements.”
And then there’s universal health care, abandoned as a goal during the Clinton Administration, and which Hillary now says is unrealistic.