Magazine article Insight on the News

Bovard Examines the Clinton/Gore Excesses

Magazine article Insight on the News

Bovard Examines the Clinton/Gore Excesses

Article excerpt

Investigative reporter James Bovard has reviewed the Clinton administration's abuse of power and also its dangerous efforts to expand the role of government.

In his powerful new book "feeling your pain," free-lance investigative reporter James Bovard takes on the whole eight years of the Clinton/Gore era and details the administration's misuse of power and its enormously successful effort to expand the role of government in our lives.

In a Wall Street Journal review of his last book, Freedom in Chains, Bovard was dubbed "the inspector general of the modern state," and it's a name that fits. In the 19 chapters of his new work, he reviews almost every effort of the Clinton administration, from AmeriCorps (Clinton's attempt to mimic Kennedy's Peace Corps) through Clinton's bombing in the Balkans to bring justice to Serbia, and finds all of them very hollow indeed.

In Bovard's view, "The Clinton administration built its `bridge to the 21st century' by filling every sinkhole along the way with taxpayer dollars." Its "recipe for progress," he claims, was "more commands, more penalties and more handouts." In addition, the Clinton/Gore people "consistently acted as if nothing is as dangerous as insufficient government power."

"Some folks have become fixated on Clinton's personal misdeeds and these are things we should pay attention to," Bovard tells Insight. "But it's so important to see all the things that are going on: The way the Clinton administration is stretching government power and setting precedents for even more abuse in the future."

Insight: When did you begin to clue in that Clinton wasn't a New Democrat at all, that he was a very "big-government" Democrat indeed?

James Bovard: First of all, my impression of the whole idea of a "New Democrat" is that it's something wildly over-sold. It basically means Democrats who aren't openly in favor of welfare rights and who aren't openly pro-Soviet. I was on to Clinton during the '92 campaign, because I thought he was a fraud from day one. He was making so many promises that I thought all those promises necessarily meant bigger and more intrusive government.

Insight: Which of the many Clinton/Gore abuses and excesses do you regard as the most egregious?

JB: AmeriCorps is certainly the most colorful and the most entertaining, which is why I put it first in the book. I was trying not to give people the impression that this is just another hellishly hard to read public-policy tome. There are so many things in the last eight years that have been as funny as they possibly could be.

The whole idea of AmeriCorps members going door to door in Mississippi to sign people up for food stamps has its comic value, for example. And in San Diego, AmeriCorps recruits conducted an "Undergarment Drive" in which they collected used bras, panties and panty hose for a women's center.

And some of those AmeriCorps education grants! They had this big program for assistant teachers down in Mississippi and AmeriCorps was bragging that these folks were going to be teaching students how to read. It turned out that the assistant teachers themselves only had to read at the eighth-grade level!

I've talked to people who told me that they'd read the first few chapters of some of my earlier books, but they couldn't go on because they were too depressed. That's not the kind of response I look for. There's so much wonderful comic relief in public policy.

Insight: Were you surprised by the extent of the government's abuse of power under Clinton/Gore?

JB: I was surprised by some of the specific cases: like Waco, like the Elian Gonzalez raid. It was fascinating to see the kind of lies made after a raid like that. There was such a concerted effort to make Americans think that the government had not used force because no one had gotten shot and to sell the idea that it was simply an expression of federal care for children. …

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