Bill Clinton-- Come Back Kid As The Payback Kid
It wasn't for naught that Bill Clinton was chairman of the virulently anti-populist/pro-corporate Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in 1990 and 1991, a position that has also been held by such anti-working family, corporate shills as John Breaux (LA), Joe Lieberman (CT), Evan Bayh (IN) and, most recently, Harold Ford (TN). The DLC was founded on the premise that economic populism can't work in America and that universal health care is not right for this country. Their hallmark positions have been cracking down on welfare, union-busting "free" trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA and privatization of Social Security.
Clinton was far from my first choice when he ran for president in 1992. Although reactionary Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey ran to the right of him, Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and former California Governor Jerry Brown all seemed like better choices than the Republican-lite Clinton. When George H.W. Bush managed to lose the election, he left Clinton NAFTA to ram through Congress. Clinton assigned Rahm Emanuel to rope in enough Democrats to pass the odious legislation and Emanuel bribed and threatened enough House members-- just as he's now doing for the Frankenstein bill known as the War Supplemental (which includes a suicidal $108 billion bailout for European banks). NAFTA passed 234-200, 102 Democrats roped in by Emanuel joining the 132 Republicans who favored it.
Since leaving office, Clinton's forays into Democratic Party electoral politics have served as something like a contrary indicator. He constantly involves himself in battles between reactionaries and progressives and, reverting to form, he always takes the side of the less progressive candidate. Last week we looked at his campaign against heroic progressive Jennifer Brunner in Ohio. Yesterday Politico's Alexander Burns looked at Clinton's interference in several primaries across the country-- always on the side of Establishment figures with corporate support, never on the side of grass roots candidates who stand with working families. Burns advances the theory that Clinton is primarily helping Democrats who supported his wife against Obama, a facile and naive assessment that only tells one part of the story.
His massive and ineffectual support for Virginia loser Terry McAuliffe fits both categories, of course. McCauliffe is a longtime Clinton family operative and was certainly the candidate of corporate America. Support for Kendrick Meek in Florida also fits both categories, a Clinton loyalist and corporate shill running-- at least when Clinton was campaigning for him-- against a grass roots progressive Dan Gelber who has since decided to run for Florida Attorney General instead. Ohio Lt. Governor Lee Fisher, like Meek, is a corporate-friendly moderate, facing a family-friendly progressive. Of course Clinton's raising money for Fisher. Clinton also helped one of the most right-wing, GOP-backing congressman in the country, North Carolina Blue Dog Heath Shuler, raise money for a Senate race that Shuler has since backed out of.
Clinton is also campaigning for corporately financed Kirsten Gillibrand in the New York Senate primary where she is likely to face at least two more progressive candidates, Jonathan Tasini, the Wellstone Democrat we spoke with yesterday, and Carolyn Maloney. Tasini challenged Hillary Clinton in her last primary race but Maloney was also a Clinton booster.
In Pennsylvania Clinton has a long-standing relationship with the grassroots-backed Joe Sestak but Clinton won't support him because he's up against a far more conservative opponent, Arlen Specter, backed by Clinton's Establishment allies (corporate Democrats Ed Rendell and Joe Biden) and many of the corporate donors who have fueled the Clinton political machine.
Yesterday the kids over at FDL were talking about another Democratic wanker without a fraction of the kind of clout Bill Clinton has, Heather Hurlbutt the so-called Executive Director of the so-called National Security Network. Jane Hamsher: "There's a special place in hell for think tanks that set themselves up to suck up donations from rich donors for the sole purpose of wrapping imperialist foreign policy in progressive rhetoric." No doubt Hurlbutt is sucking up to lots of undiscerning middle of the road donors-- and to Rahm Emanuel who clearly encouraged her to