Was Bill Clinton a good president?
via AP

Was Bill Clinton a good president?

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President Bill Clinton's legacy has been debated by historians and citizens alike. Some argue Clinton revitalized the Democratic Party, pushed bipartisan policies and balanced the budget, leaving the U.S. with a surplus. But others say Clinton's legacy shouldn't be remembered fondly. Welfare reform, NAFTA and the 1994 crime bill all happened on his watch. Not to mention the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which has been reevaluated in the age of #MeTooDo you think Bill Clinton was a good president?

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David Greenberg, professor of history at Rutgers University, argues Democrats should applaud Clinton's legacy rather than run away from it. As people continue to urge Clinton to go away, Greenberg feels Democrats actually have a lot to learn from his legacy.

The booming prosperity over which Clinton presided, combined with his progressive tax and distribution policies, meant that for the first time since the 1960s, the lowest quintile of earners saw their lot improve during his presidency.

Clinton achieved a number of domestic and diplomatic achievements while in office, but more importantly, he revived a dying Democratic Party. With the exception of Jimmy Carter, Democrats lost every presidential election from 1972 to 1988. Bill Clinton made the party great again or, at the very least, competitive.

Clinton did much more than survive. He made the Democratic Party viable again in presidential elections. He reoriented liberalism, retaining its core commitments to a mixed economy, a welfare state, civil rights, civil liberties, and an internationalist foreign policy - while also acknowledging where its past policies on welfare, crime, and other issues had lost the confidence of the American people. He recognized the coming of globalization and sought new policies to deal with its challenges. His programs contributed… to peace and shared prosperity, declines in violent crime and out-of-wedlock births, and a liberalizing national temper on culture war issues. Race relations improved steadily, according to both whites and blacks.

But author of "Listen, Liberals" Thomas Frank argues Bill Clinton is no hero. Monica Lewinsky scandal aside—and in the light of #MeToo, there's a ton to unpack there—Clinton gave us welfare reform, the 1994 crime bill, NAFTA, financial deregulation and, as MSNBC's Mika Brezinski would argue, a precursor to President Trump.

Evaluating Clinton's presidency as heroic is no longer a given... After the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the corporate scandals of the Enron period, and the collapse of the real estate racket, our view of the prosperous Nineties has changed quite a bit. Now we remember that it was Bill Clinton's administration that deregulated derivatives, that deregulated telecom, and that put our country's only strong banking laws in the grave. He's the one who rammed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through Congress and who taught the world that the way you respond to a recession is by paying off the federal deficit. 
Mass incarceration and the repeal of welfare, two of Clinton's other major achievements, are the pillars of the disciplinary state that has made life so miserable for Americans in the lower reaches of society. He would have put a huge dent in Social Security, too, had the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal not stopped him. If we take inequality as our measure, the Clinton administration looks not heroic but odious.

Clinton is no hero, and Democrats would be wise to stay as far away from him and his legacy as possible.

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