Defending Clinton

All of this Democratic infighting has to stop. Infighting should only happen when a party has no real idea how to govern in light of the failure of its earlier policies. The Republicans, in 1952, needed a primary fight between Robert Taft and Dwight Eisenhower. Their last president was abysmal beyond belief, and the last two presidents of the opposing party were among the greatest in American history. Where to go from there was an open question, and one that needed to be answered by the party as a whole. The Democratic party in 2006 does not have that problem. Our last president was not a failure. He was our Coolidge: a perfect model of how to govern in peacetime. Between his well-conducted humanitarian interventions, his near-perfectly performing economy, and his excellent Supreme Court choices, he was in many ways the ideal modern president. And yet we’re still fighting. We’re still rejecting Clinton’s legacy and reverting to protectionism (by the way, Ezra, if you’re going to use DeLong as evidence against NAFTA at least watch him go more in depth and show that he’s not repudiating globalization by any means). We’re still having debates about whether Clinton’s Wilsonianism was the right foreign policy, even after its unqualified success in Bosnia and Kosovo. And for no good reason. Yes, Clinton should have crafted a simpler health care plan and passed it before NAFTA to get union support. Yes, he should have gone into Bosnia earlier and intervened in Rwanda. But other than those things, he made very, very, very few mistakes in policy. What are we fighting about? Why do we need to reformulate policy when we have a spectacularly successful one just seven years behind us?

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