Clinton Culture

By Scheer, Robert. | The Nation, February 7, 1994 | Go to article overview

Clinton Culture


Scheer, Robert., The Nation


On cable television's recent Comic Relief fundaraiser to aid the poor, Robin Williams said that if President Clinton can mend the economy and put people back to work, he doesn't care if Clinton also "fucks chickens." I was with him on that one; the President's alleged philandering is properly a matter between him and the First Lady. But Williams lost me when he added, in obvious reference to Whitewater, that he would support the President even if he did move some money "from place to place."

Like Williams, I assume that all the best people engage in financial hanky-panky and that they hire high-priced accountants and lawyers to make sure that their maneuvers fall within at least the gray area of the law. The problem here is a different one. The Whitewater caper is significant because, quite aside from any crimes that may have been committed, it reveals the pro-big business culture of the Clintons.

Williams and others who expect Clinton to deal seriously with the structural causes of poverty and unemployment will be disappointed. They are confused by the patina of sixties social concern that does attach to the Clintons. Yes, Hillary headed the Children's Defense Fund, which is a great organization, but her husband as Govenor of Arkansas pursued neoliberal nostrums that didn't help the poor. He is rock solid on a woman's right to choose but hardly pro-woman when it comes to the millions of women and their children who survive through a welfare system that he risks getting in the name of reform.

In Arkansas, a right-to-work state, Clinton pursued trickle-down economics, arguing tha if he could just entice enough runaway shops and tourists, the poorer classes would benefit. They didn't. Few jobs were created, and they tended to pay less than the average welfare benefit. He took his lead from the business community, which made up the fundament of his Administration then as now, and it failed to deliver.

Do I exaggerate? Not according to Hillary Clinton's March 1992 statement to a reporter defending her work s a partner in the Rose law firm in Little Rock. "For goodness' sake," she said. "You can't be a lawyer if you don't represent banks." that is as pure an expression of an ideology as one is likely to find in the pseudo-pragmatism of American politics. Her statement puts her in a certain professional class that requires a minimum six-figure income and the corporate client list needed to earn it. This in a state where six bucks an hour at the Sanyo plant in Forrest City is considered a good job that Governor Clinton managed to save [see Scheer, "Trouble Still in Forrest City," March 22, 1993].

The Clintons shared this class perspective with the key people they relied on in government. Their partner in the Ozark vacation property deal, James McDougal, was in Clinton's Arkansas administration until he got into the S&L business, failed and hired Hillary and her law firm to represent his bank, Madison Guaranty. Hillary Clinton trivialized the possible conflict of interest during the 1992 campaign, saying, "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas. . . . But what I decided to do was pursue my profession, which I entered before to go to Yale to know that there are many wash. You don't have to go to Yale to know that there are many socially worthwhile uses of legal talent short of covering the tracks of financial hustlers who, on a national level, end up costing the taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.

McDougal served in the Govenor's administration as an aide for "economic development." What kind of economic development are these people after? What sort of regulation were they interested in when Clinton appointed Beverly Bassett Schaffer, another lawyer who had represented Madison, as the state's securities commissioner? …

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