Double Standards: Bill Clinton and the “Anybody But Bush” Movement

If the Democrats take power this November they will probably continue the same policies as Bush. We know this because Clinton did basically the same thing when he was in office. To think otherwise is to ignore history and the Democrat's record. The "Anybody but Bush" (ABB) movement is founded on a basically irrational hatred of Bush that completely ignores the record of the Democrats the last time they were in power. The ABB movement practices a double standard: when Republicans do something it’s wrong but when Democrats do the same thing it’s okay (or didn’t happen at all). In party politics it is always the other party’s fault, never the system’s fault. If a Democrat were in office and implemented the same policies Bush has most of the ABBers would support him. We know this because Clinton implemented many of the same policies ABBers criticize Bush for, yet they didn’t develop the same kind of hatred towards Clinton they have towards Bush. Most outright supported Clinton and the minority who didn’t support him did not develop the kind of irrational hatred towards Clinton they have towards Bush.

Double Standards: Bill Clinton and the “Anybody But Bush” Movement

by Morpheus

Infoshop News |

If the Democrats take power this November they will probably continue the same policies as Bush. We know this because Clinton did basically the same thing when he was in office. To think otherwise is to ignore history and the Democrat's record. The "Anybody but Bush" (ABB) movement is founded on a basically irrational hatred of Bush that completely ignores the record of the Democrats the last time they were in power. The ABB movement practices a double standard: when Republicans do something it’s wrong but when Democrats do the same thing it’s okay (or didn’t happen at all). In party politics it is always the other party’s fault, never the system’s fault. If a Democrat were in office and implemented the same policies Bush has most of the ABBers would support him. We know this because Clinton implemented many of the same policies ABBers criticize Bush for, yet they didn’t develop the same kind of hatred towards Clinton they have towards Bush. Most outright supported Clinton and the minority who didn’t support him did not develop the kind of irrational hatred towards Clinton they have towards Bush.

There are major continuities between Clinton’s policies and Bush’s policies, even if their rhetoric is different. These continuities also illustrate the flaw in thinking that putting a Democrat back in office will be a big change for the better. The last time a Democrat was in office he did pretty much the same thing the current occupant is doing, so given that the current nominee doesn't disavow Clinton there’s no reason to think the next Democrat in the White House will be much different.

Bush’s environmental record isn’t very good, but neither was Clinton’s. During the 1992 election campaign Clinton and Gore promised to shut down the East Liverpool Incinerator in Ohio, which spews toxic chemicals into the air a quarter of a mile away from an elementary school, but once elected they refused to do so. The Clinton administration’s enforcement of the Endangered Species Act was lax--he weakened it through several means, including the “no surprises” and “safe harbors” policies. Funding of mass transit continued to decline under his administration.

Clinton ended the ban on production and importation of PCBs, stopped the phase out of Methyl Bromide (a toxic pesticide and ozone layer depleter), supported the weakening of the Safe Drinking Water Act (by allowing increased levels of arsenic and lead in drinking water), signed the Salvage Rider law (which cut down thousands of acres of healthy forests), signed the Panama declaration (which weakened protection for marine mammals including dolphins and whales), supported international distribution of Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), supported mountain top removal strip mining, continued subsidies to the sugar industry in Florida (which poisons the Everglades & diverts water away from wildlife that needs it), and lowered grazing fees on public land.

Clinton also supported the World Trade Organization (WTO), which weakened or removed environmental protections, including the weakening of the clean air act and the removal of part of the Endangered Species Act's protection of sea turtles. In 1996, former Sierra Club President David Brower wrote, "President Clinton has done more to harm the environment and to weaken environmental regulations in three years than presidents Bush and Reagan did in 12 years."

Many in the ABB movement attack Bush for reducing civil liberties through things like the PATRIOT Act. Yet, all the Democrats in congress but one, voted for the PATRIOT Act and Bill Clinton supported many measures that reduced civil liberties and expanded the police state. He signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the forerunner to the PATRIOT Act. It allowed the INS to deport immigrants based on secret evidence, made it a crime to support the lawful activities of any group the state department labeled a “terrorist organization,” and eliminated federal constitutional review of state death penalty cases (making the execution of innocent people more likely). Much of the PATRIOT Act consists of things that Clinton was unable to pass during his term.

Clinton encouraged the militarization of the police, including a program to put 100,000 more cops on the street. This lead to political repression, seen at Seattle in 1999, and more recent protests, as well as a general increase in police brutality, such as the police torture of Abner Louima and the 1999 murder of Amadou Diallo (who was shot 41 times by police claiming they thought his wallet was a gun).

Clinton supported Internet censorship, signing the Communications Decency Act - which the Supreme Court fortunately struck down on first amendment grounds. When he ran for election in 1992, Clinton pledged to free political prisoner Leonard Peltier, but Peltier was still in prison when Clinton left office. The rate of capital punishment increased under Clinton, as did the rate of incarceration. Clinton’s expansion of the prison system, due mainly to the “war on drugs,” caused the United States to imprison more people than any other country in the world, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of population. All of this was done at a time when crime rates were decreasing.

Democrats attack Bush over the poor state of the economy, but the economy actually started going downhill at the very end of Clinton's administration, in late 2000. The stock bubble of the 1990s caused the recession and it occurred while Clinton was in office. Clinton's boom was founded on corporate fraud from the likes of Enron and WorldCom. The corporate crime wave occurred mainly while Clinton was in office, whose administration was just as complicit as Bush. It was just exposed while Bush was in office. The reason most Democratic leaders haven't attacked Bush over this is because they're just as much in bed with these criminals as the Republicans. Most of the benefits from Clinton's boom went to the wealthier sections of society. Economic inequality increased under Clinton, just as it has under Bush. None of this excuses the Bush's handling of the economy, his administration's response to the recession it inherited from Clinton has been awful, but there are strong continuities with the Clinton administration.

Liberals often criticize Bush over his tax cuts for the rich and generally waging a class war in favor of the rich, but Clinton did the same thing. Clinton reduced the capital gains tax rate in 1997. This disproportionately benefits the rich--a large percentage of their income comes from capital gains while most Americans make little or nothing from capital gains. Corporate welfare (subsidies and tax loopholes for the rich & big business) greatly increased under Clinton's administration; in his second term alone corporate welfare rose by over 30%. Clinton also attacked the poor by, among other things, abolishing the Aid to Families with Dependant Children program ("welfare reform"). The increase in poverty under Bush is, in part, due to this class war against the poor by Clinton, which undermined the social safety net. After winning election in 1992 Clinton made Lawrence Summers an official in his administration and later appointed Summers his last Treasury Secretary in 1999. Before Clinton was elected, in 1991, Summers, then chief economist for the World Bank, issued a memo reading:

"Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]? ... I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. ... I've always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted ... The problem with the arguments against all of these proposals for more pollution in LDCs (intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons, social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.) could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalization."

Some Democrats attack Bush over outsourcing, but Clinton supported NAFTA, GATT, the WTO and "free trade" generally, which caused outsourcing to swell from a trickle to the current flood. Under Clinton the budget for the federally funded Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) increased by over 30%. OPIC gives loans and guarantees to companies intended to encourage investment in "developing" countries, which tends to encourage outsourcing. For example, Kimberly Clark transferred 600 jobs to other countries as a result of this funding and Levi Strauss transferred 100 jobs overseas for the same reason. In other words, the government gives loans to companies, through OPIC, to ship American jobs overseas and Clinton increased OPIC's budget from under $100 million to $3 billion. Under Clinton 14% of OPIC's loans went to Citibank. Robert Ruben, one of Clinton's Treasury Secretaries, became director of Citibank after leaving office. Under Bush OPIC's budget decreased to $800 million. The problem with outsourcing is not that it "steals American jobs," as nationalists argue, but that it replaces relatively high paying jobs with lower paying jobs, causing the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. Clinton's policies were even more pro-outsourcing than Bush's.

Bush's policies on the media tend to favor the concentration of the media into a few large corporations. So did Clinton's policies. He signed the 1996 Telecommunications Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which encouraged media monopolization at least as much as Bush.

Bush has a poor record on gay rights, but Clinton's record (if not his rhetoric) wasn't much better, as shown by his signing of the Defense of Marriage Act and his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

On abortion, Clinton signed an order banning any American funds to pay for abortions overseas. Bush only expanded this to include cutting off funds to any group that offers abortion as an alternative. Under Clinton the number of abortion providers dropped to the lowest in 30 years. A large number of counties don’t even have abortion providers. This effectively denies many women the choice to have an abortion since having no abortion provider around means you obviously can’t choose to have an abortion.

Clinton’s foreign policy could best be described as “cruise missile imperialism.” ABBers attack Bush for his alleged unilateral “go it alone” foreign policy and for invading Iraq on false pretenses. Both were largely a continuation of Clinton’s policies.

Clinton increased funding for the military. He also bombed more countries than any other peacetime president, including Yugoslavia, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. In 1998 he bombed alleged terrorist training camps in Afghanistan (which were built by the CIA for Islamic terrorists in the 1980s) supposedly being used by Osama Bin Laden, and a factory in Sudan Clinton alleged was producing chemical weapons for Bin Laden. No proof that this factory was producing chemical weapons was ever provided. It was later proven that the plant was actually a medicine factory. This bombing probably resulted in thousands of deaths (there was no investigation so we can’t know the exact number) because the source of medicine for many Sudanese was cut off.

When Bush invaded Iraq, he went to the UN and attempt to get international support and UN approval to invade Iraq. He failed to get that support and invaded anyway but he at least tried to get UN approval. When Clinton attacked Yugoslavia in 1999 he didn’t even try to get UN approval, he just bypassed it completely in favor of a unilateral assault. Nineteen nations, all of NATO, technically signed up to the war, but the US (with UK assistance) took the lead role and did most of the fighting, just like Bush’s “coalition” in Iraq. Most of the world was against the war--there were even small riots in front of US embassies. Unlike the Iraq war, the US did have the support of West European governments, but the rest of the world was against it (some were extremely upset). One of the administration’s slogans was “multilateral when we can, unilateral when we must,” which is virtually the same as Bush’s policy.

In Yugoslavia the government was fighting a war with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which advocated independence for the Kosovo province of Yugoslavia. The official pretext for Clinton’s bombing of Yugoslavia was that it refused to sign up to the Rambouillet peace accords and was committing “ethnic cleansing” (genocide) in Kosovo as part of the war. These pretexts were disproved, just as the pretexts for the Iraq war were disproved. Clinton intentionally sabotaged the peace negotiations between the KLA and Yugoslavia, which the US mediated, by inserting the infamous “Appendix B” into the Rambouillet accords, requiring Yugoslavia to allow NATO “peacekeeper” troops to occupy the entire country (not just Kosovo). Obviously, Yugoslavia is not going to agree to just let the US take the whole country over.

During the war all sorts of allegations were thrown around about hundreds of thousands of Kosovars being massacred, rape camps being set up, mass graves littering the province and so on. NATO’s own investigation after the war was over failed to find any proof of these accusations. There were atrocities, as in almost every war, but nothing even remotely approaching genocide. NATO’s bombings killed more people than the so-called “ethnic cleansing” which allegedly motivated it. Just as there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there was no ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Furthermore, the CIA later admitted that it began supporting the KLA even before the bombing started. In other words, Clinton intentionally instigated the whole conflict, using the KLA as a proxy army to attack Yugoslavia and create a situation where he would have an excuse to bomb the country.

Clinton’s policy towards Iraq set the stage for the invasion of Iraq. In 1998 Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which made regime change in Iraq official US policy. Clinton waged a terrorist car bombing campaign against Iraq, whose targets included school buses, and attempted to overthrow the Iraqi government via coup. Madeline Albright, who later became Clinton’s secretary of state, said in a May 1996 interview on “60 Minutes” that she thought the death of 500,000 Iraqi children due to sanctions on Iraq was “worth the price.”

Clinton repeatedly bombed Iraq throughout his term. In 1998 Iraq stopped cooperating with weapons inspectors, claiming they were being used by the US as spies. Clinton had the inspectors withdrawn and launched Operation Desert Fox, a major bombing campaign against Iraq much larger than his previous bombings of Iraq. Afterwards the US continued bombing Iraq on an almost daily basis until the invasion. A later UN investigation found that Iraq’s allegations were true; the US was using the inspectors to spy on Iraq. Bush merely escalated Clinton’s aggression against Iraq from a low intensity war to a full-fledged invasion, an escalation that probably would not have been possible had Clinton not been laying siege to Iraq for his entire term. Clinton’s bombings of Iraq were completely unilateral, without UN approval and carried out solely by the US and UK.

Clinton’s pretexts for all this were the same pretexts used by Bush to invade Iraq, but with more emphasis on weapons of mass destruction and less emphasis on Al-Qaeda. On February 4th, 1998 Clinton said, "One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line." On February 17th, 1998 he said, "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." In his defense of Operation Desert Fox on December 16th, 1998 Clinton argued that, “Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons” and that, “The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government.” On February 18th, 1998 Secretary of State Madeline Albright said, “Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.” Clinton’s National Security Adviser Sandy Berger warned, “he [Saddam Hussein] will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.”

The state department kept Iraq on its list of states that it claims “sponsor terrorism” every year Clinton was in office. Part of a 1998 indictment of Osama Bin Laden by Clinton’s Justice Department read, "Al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq." The use of the fact that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a dictatorship in order to demonize Iraq and justify aggression towards it has been a staple part of US war propaganda since the Gulf War and continued to be so under Clinton. All the lies used by Bush to justify conquering Iraq were inherited from Clinton.

Senator Hillary Clinton voted for the invasion of Iraq and her husband agrees with her stance. Bill Clinton supports the war; he only differs with Bush in that he thinks it would have been better to wait a little longer before invading. In a June 2004 interview he told Time magazine, “I have repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq ... I don't believe he went in there for oil. We didn't go in there for imperialist or financial reasons” and that “You couldn't responsibly ignore [the possibility that] a tyrant had these [weapons of mass destruction] stocks. I never really thought he'd [use them]. What I was far more worried about was that he'd sell this stuff or give it away. ... So that's why I thought Bush did the right thing to go back. When you're the President, and your country has just been through what we had, you want everything to be accounted for.” He also claimed after the weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998:

“there were substantial quantities of botulinum and aflatoxin, as I recall, some bioagents, I believe there were those, and VX and ricin, chemical agents, unaccounted for. Keep in mind, that's all we ever had to work on. We also thought there were a few missiles, some warheads, and maybe a very limited amount of nuclear laboratory capacity.

After 9/11, let's be fair here, if you had been President, you'd think, well, this fellow bin Laden just turned these three airplanes full of fuel into weapons of mass destruction, right? Arguably they were super-powerful chemical weapons. Think about it that way. So, you're sitting there as President, you're reeling in the aftermath of this, so, yeah, you want to go get bin Laden and do Afghanistan and all that. But you also have to say, well, my first responsibility now is to try everything possible to make sure that this terrorist network and other terrorist networks cannot reach chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material. I've got to do that.

That's why I supported the Iraq thing. There was a lot of stuff unaccounted for.”

During the 2000 election Bush, unlike Gore, was against “nation building” (taking other countries over, like in Iraq and Afghanistan) but that was obviously thrown out the window. Gore called for increasing military spending by $10 billion over the next ten years, while Bush only wanted to raise it by $5 billion over the next ten years. According to Clinton foreign policy adviser Strobe Talbott, "the Bush administration was right to identify Iraq as a major problem. A President Gore ... would have ratcheted up the pressure, and sooner or later resorted to force." Subjected to the same political pressures as Bush and surrounded by advisers like Talbott, Gore would have probably reacted to events in a manner similar to Bush. Those who argue that Gore would have been less aggressive than Bush and would not have invaded Iraq are arguing that the more aggressive & militaristic candidate would actually have been less aggressive & militaristic, which is fairly absurd.

The invasion of Iraq was the outcome of geopolitics and a changed domestic situation, not which man occupied the White House. After the Gulf War the US laid siege to Iraq with sanctions and bombings. As this siege progressively degraded Iraq’s military an invasion became more likely, because defeating Iraq’s military in a war became easier & cheaper the more the siege degraded it. At the same time, attempts to overthrow the government and install a pro-US one through terrorism, coups, etc. continually failed. The failure of these covert attempts to topple the government and the decreasing costs & risks of an invasion created pressure to invade Iraq, which, given enough time, would eventually lead to an invasion. This process was accelerated by 9-11 because it decreased domestic opposition to wars in general and enabled the government to decrease opposition to the invasion by scaring the public with fantasies about how Iraq was working with Al-Qaeda to launch terrorist attacks on the US. The same pretext of “fighting terrorism” could be used to keep US bases in the region for as long as the government wanted. 9-11 accelerated many of these trends, but they were still basically a continuation of Clinton’s policies.

The Bush-haters position is not founded on the policies Bush has implemented, which they complain about. If it were they would be Clinton haters, too. Most ABBers’ positions are based primarily on a blind irrational hatred of the other party and, partly, also a reaction to the different media images of Clinton & Bush. When Clinton ran for office he claimed to advocate a mildly liberal reformist platform, once in office he abandoned it and went with a conservative program. Today, most leaders of the Democratic Party don’t even pretend to support that mildly populist reformism Clinton espoused in 1992. To think that the next Democratic administration will be any different is asinine. Clinton’s administration gives us many examples of what we can expect if the Democrats take power this November: more of the same.


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