Will Clinton End Democratic Party?

Article excerpt

When Nature was dishing out the ability to blush, Bill Clinton did not hold out his plate, so he will come to his party's convention here unencumbered by embarrassment about the disparity between the presidency he promised and the one he has produced. If he is re-elected, that will be largely because the country believes, accurately and contentedly, that he has been notably inconsequential and that a second term will be even less consequential than the first.

Four years ago his campaign featured the promise of a finishing filigree on the Great Society - universal health care. A Congress nearing completion of four decades under Democratic control would surely enact a Democratic president's request for the largest new entitlement since Social Security. The Democratic Party's happy days would be here again because it would have returned to the Rooseveltian and Johnsonian recipe of programs benefiting the broad middle class, not just the needy.

However, Clinton's health-care proposal catalyzed the 1994 elections that cost Democrats control of Congress. And now Clinton is campaigning unblushingly as, he insists, the proud partner of the GOP-controlled Congress in repeal of a New Deal entitlement, Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

Acknowledging the power of fanaticism during the French Revolution, Mirabeau said of Robespierre, "He will go far, for he believes all he says." Proving the power of cynicism in our time, Clinton has gone far toward re-election because he seems to believe nothing he says. And look what is being said about him.

The media have lately made much of Republican strife concerning abortion policy - policy that has not been altered by either a Republican-controlled Congress or a Supreme Court that includes seven justices appointed by Republican presidents. However, concerning the immediately practical question of welfare, Clinton accepts legislation that has provoked one of his party's most distinguished members, Pat Moynihan, to an acidity unmatched in Republican arguments.

"The current batch (of liberals) in the White House," says Moynihan, "now busily assuring us they were against this (the end of the federal entitlement to welfare) all along, are simply lying, albeit they probably don't know when they are lying. …