I think what's frustrating to me about Bill Clinton's remarks at the Aspen Ideas Festival isn't that he's stomping on what ought to be the Democrats' message (as Zandar says) so much as it is that he's clearly imagining that we still live in an America that's all but disappeared:
President Bill Clinton says the nation's corporate tax rate is "uncompetitive" and called for a lower rate as part of a "mega-deal" to raise the debt ceiling....
“... we've got an uncompetitive rate. We tax at 35 percent of income, although we only take about 23 percent. So we should cut the rate to 25 percent, or whatever's competitive, and eliminate a lot of the deductions so that we still get a fair amount, and there's not so much variance in what the corporations pay...."
What he's imagining is an element of a "grand bargain" that's essentially revenue-neutral but would strip away some inequities and imbalances. Obviously, he's talking about cosseting the only people in this society who aren't hurting right now, and obviously he's talking about something that wouldn't actually bring in extra revenue at a time when it's desperately needed, but in a sane political culture, what he's proposing might be one element of a resolution of these matters negotiated in good faith. And it might even be compatible with a demand for some other tax changes that actually would increase revenue, which Clinton says the White House should continue to demand.
The point, though, is that Clinton thinks we live a world of give-and-take. We don't, and everyone who sees clearly knows that. It sometimes seems as if we live in a country with two major parties -- Eisenhower Republicans and utterly crazy Republicans -- but what Clinton is hoping for (and President Obama also seems to be hoping for) isn't even Eisenhower Republicanism, it's Reagan Republicanism. Reagan raised taxes in the course of budget deals -- but even that is too far to the left for the modern Republican Party. And Clinton doesn't understand that.
You can tell Clinton is living in the past when you read some of his other remarks:
At another point, Clinton said about corporations: "When I was young, we were taught in law school that corporations were creatures of the state and had responsibilities to all their stakeholders -- their shareholders, their employees, their customers and the communities of which they were a part. Now, it's only shareholders. I think that's a pretty bad idea."
Yeah, you're right, Bill -- but that horse left the barn a long time ago (and part of its journey was on your watch).
And this is naive as well:
"But, y'know, I like the governors: I like Huntsman and Romney. Romney's a much better candidate than he was last time, because he's not apologizing for signing the health care bill. He's got another creative way of saying we oughta repeal Obamacare, but that's prob'ly the price of gettin' the nomination...."
Right -- I'm sure it's just to impress the base through the primary season. I'm sure, when and if he becomes president, he'll tack to the center. Just the way the last Republican president did.
Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick got some attention this past week for a Washington Post op-ed in which he recalled a Harvard reunion in 2003 at which Grover Norquist spoke:
... During his presentation, Norquist explained why he believed that there would be a permanent Republican majority in America.
One person interrupted, as I recall, and said, "C'mon, Grover, surely one day a Democrat will win the White House."
Norquist immediately replied: "We will make it so that a Democrat cannot govern as a Democrat."
We're way past that. Norquist and his ideological soul mates have made it so one can't govern -- or even legislate -- as a Reagan Republican.