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Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush—Servants of Davos Man.
Former President Bill Clinton is the latest Establishment type to praise former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for his repackaging amnesty. [Bill Clinton Praises Old Foe Newt Gingrich, Newsmax.com, November 26, 2011] It’s less surprising than it might seem: both, along with former President George W. Bush, are bought-and-paid-for servants of Davos Man.
The truly dominant ideology of our times isn't anti-governmentism, it's globalism. It's so suffocating that at the elite level even an ex-President can only peck at it without daring to call it out by name.
Indeed, the most interesting aspect of Clinton’s recently-published Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy is the subterranean but still noticeable conflict between Clinton's devotion to his globalist paymasters and his still-sharp political instincts that tell him that American patriotism wins elections.
It’s a struggle. But he manages.
Nobody would call Bill Clinton a profound thinker. While shallow, however, his range is certainly broad. For example, he concludes Back To Work with 46 scattershot suggestions for improving the economy, such as:
- “To support the insourcing movement, we should increase the number of empowerment zones and expand the reach of the New Markets Initiative”.
You have to give Clinton this much credit: he does not bore easily. Bush and Clinton were both born in 1946, but Bush has retired, while Clinton is still out there on the conference circuit sitting through Powerpoint presentations. He gives the impression that he's actually interested in, say,
- "21. Speed up the issuance of new energy efficiency rules for the most common household appliances" or
- "33. Increase the role of the Small Business Administration (SBA)."
Clinton endorses the Obama policy on immigration, but only as #41 out of 46:
- “41. Keep pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, and in the meantime grant more H-1B visas to immigrants in STEM fields until we have enough qualified citizens to fill the openings.
(VDARE.com links added to quotes thoughout). To my eye, he sounds less enthusiastic, more pro forma, about claiming that “the immigrants who fill the STEM jobs “ will somehow create jobs for Americans than he does about his priority #12:
- "At least paint the roofs white."
(Needless to say, Clinton makes no mention of the anti-unemployment immigration moratorium policy option, nor does he even show awareness of the wage and job displacement consequences of increasing the labor supply through legal and illegal immigration.)
In contrast, it's hard to imagine either Bush or Obama sitting still for this wonkery without at least feeling the urge to flip on ESPN to check out the latest scores.
Yet because Clinton's prose style is so non-magisterial, it's hard to feel much confidence that he's really thought through all these issues himself, rather than just becoming excited by some self-promoters' ideas that he heard about at Davos or Aspen.
Inevitably, Back to Work is poorly organized. The usual way to write a policy book is to argue for some small number of organizing principles, then show how these ideas can be applied in practice. Perhaps this leads to too much ideology, but at least it leads to better books. Clinton's brain is so random, however, that he mostly works in the opposite direction: throw out a bunch of ideas and let the reader try to figure out if there are any unifying theme. (Another point of similarity with Gingrich). That's perhaps not necessarily a bad way to be President, but it's a lousy way to write a book.
Clinton's one big assertion is that the "anti-government" ideology he associates with Ronald Reagan and the Tea Party is wrong.
Instead, he reiterates, government and business should cooperate. He attempts to demonstrate this by tossing out lots of proposals he's heard about from rich guys like his old co-campaign manager Terry McAuliffe about how the taxpayers should help out businessmen.
A lot of rich interests have handed Clinton a lot of cash since he left office. Since Hillary became Secretary of State, Bill has had to disclose his income, although that hasn’t seemed to slow him down. Last year, he was paid $10.7 million for giving 52 speeches.
I, personally, listened to many Clinton speeches for free in the 1990s, and those struck me as enough for one lifetime. It has never occurred to me since to that I would want to pay to hear another one. But, apparently, a lot of organizations think giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the husband of the Secretary of State is in their best interests.
Perhaps Mr. Clinton has figured out some rules of thumb for distinguishing between public-spirited projects and Solyndra-style rip-offs of the taxpayers. But if he has, I didn't notice him sharing them in Back to Work.
Clinton and Bush were opposites in managerial style. Especially after he hired Dick Morris for his re-election run, Clinton emphasized a profusion of micro-issues, such as school uniforms.
As President, Bush tried to reproduce his minimalist success in Texas, where he had run on just four issues: limited government, local control of schools, “family values,” and individual responsibility..
But Bush’s grand strategy in the White House mostly turned out to be: Invade the World, Invite the World, In Hock to the World. (Houston sportswriter Mickey Herskowitz, initially signed to write Bush's first memoir back in 1999, revealed in 2005 that as early as 1999, Bush had expounded to him the political advantages of invading Iraq.)
Still, although Clinton and Bush had different cognitive styles, on substantive issues they were often surprisingly close. Clinton praises Bush for being: “… genuine in his commitment to diversity in government, to improved learning in public schools, to immigration reform, and to doing more to help poor nations fight AIDS.” On the big questions of ideology in the 21st Century—globalism v. patriotism and elites using concern for the poor and diverse to exploit the middle class—Clinton and Bush (not to mention Gingrich and Obama) are mostly in agreement.
The plain fact is that the money is just too good for a public figure to displease global elites. More details: Since leaving the White House, Clinton has pocketed $75.6 million in speaking fees—with $44.9 million coming from abroad. Considering how much the international conference circuit loves both Democratic ex-Presidents and black mascots such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Obama has a shot at pocketing a billion dollars during his retirement.
Clinton claims that the Tea Party's message is "You're on your own". In contrast, his motto is "We're all in this together."
Yet Clinton does seem vaguely cognizant that “We’re all in this together” hardly jibes with his expressions of fashionable utopian anti-nationalism. On p. 14, he writes, "Because the world is still organized around nations ..." echoing his should-have-been notorious statement on September 10, 2001 that he "supported the ultimate wisdom of a borderless world for people and for trade."
On his book’s back cover, Clinton expounds upon his philosophy of American exceptionalism:
"... America at its core is an idea—the idea that no matter who you are or where you're from, if you work hard and play by the rules, you'll have the freedom and opportunity to pursue your own dreams and leave your kids a country where they can chase theirs."
This is the just the same jejune propositionism that George W. Bush put forward to con the gullible.
In contrast, the reality is that I don't want my kids to have to compete with anybody from anywhere—especially if these foreigners are unlikely to follow the rules.
Turning the United States of America into the world's swap meet sounds very good for the handful of people who lend Clinton their private jets, but not likely to be terribly good for me and mine—and most Americans.
Still, some of the more interesting proposals in Back to Work would be unsettling to the editors of The Economist magazine. For example, in a paragraph praising the sainted Steve Jobs, Clinton writes:
“… I think most Americans respect people like Steve Jobs, who made a fortune producing products or services they wanted to buy like the iPad and the iPhone (though we wish they were made in the United States).”
This parenthetical remark (my emphasis) might just be a jibe at his former Vice-President Al Gore, who is on the Apple board. But still it’s interesting—because it’s uncool. As a good globalist, you aren’t supposed to worry that Apple, a vastly fashionable and profitable company, does very little manufacturing in the United States. That’s just the fault of those useless American workers.
I would have liked to have seen Clinton take on the Apple cult by making the innocent suggestion that Apple should manufacture in America its highest margin products, such as the $2499 MacBook Pro with the 17” screen.
Similarly, Clinton twice brings up a bizarre but obscure recent incident in which the city of Los Angeles asked for bids for new high speed trains from European manufacturers. One offered to build a plant in Los Angeles and employ Los Angelenos, while the other intended to import the rail cars from abroad. [Rail car bid in doubt, firm makes new offer, by Maeve Reston, LA Times, May 28, 2009] But, to Clinton’s incredulity:
"... the federal government told Los Angeles that since federal money would pay for the fast trains, the very different impacts on the local economy of the two proposals could not be considered in awarding the bid! ... This is nuts."
That certainly counts as a peck at the globalism ideology. But it’s pretty pathetic.
Someday, some politician might finally say: "America is exceptional to me, because it's my country."
But I'm not holding my breath.
[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His book, AMERICA’S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA’S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]