Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Via Zandar, I see that Bill Clinton is nursing a grudge about a five-month-old remark by Rachel Maddow:

Bill Clinton flashed irritation at MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and other liberals Monday for failing to appreciate the successes of his presidency.

"One of the leading television commentators on one of our liberal cable channels said I was the best Republican president the country ever produced, which would come [as] quite a surprise to the Republicans, half of whom still think I’m a closet communist," Clinton said during an appearance with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Yes, Maddow did say that -- five months ago, in a discussion with The Nation's Chris Hayes about, of all things, President Obama's decision to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling. (This was well before the BP disaster.) Heather at Crooks & Liars noted this at the time:

Chris Hayes did a really good job of laying out why this is a really lousy political strategy if that's all it amounts to because it allows the debate about what is the "middle" of American politics to continually be shifted to the right. He feels the one lesson learned during the health care debate is that the administration has nothing to fear from the liberal wing of the party since they're always going to cave in no matter how far to the right their policies shift and that sadly the end result is we get bad legislation enacted. Rachel Maddow added this.

Maddow: Well and what we end up with is what we ended up with in my opinion in the two terms of the Clinton administration which is that Bill Clinton was probably the best Republican president the country ever had if you look at the policies that he passed.

So we know Bill Clinton takes offense at this when it comes from a liberal. Oddly, he's never (as far as I know) complained about the guy who said the same thing in 2007:

In his memoir, [Alan] Greenspan praises former President Clinton for erasing the federal budget deficit and for pursuing trade liberalization. In an interview last week, Greenspan called Clinton "the best Republican president we've had in a while."

Yup -- that was in a Fox News interview with Neil Cavuto. Not only did Greenspan say that about Clinton, he put Clinton in the same category as Richard Nixon:

GREENSPAN: ... My basic problem is my concern about the Republican Party in which I have been brought up. And this is not the fiscal policies of the Republican Party of Goldwater, which I so strongly supported.

CAVUTO: So, they abandoned you, you didn't abandon them?

GREENSPAN: Well, I don't want to say anybody abandoned anybody, I'm just basically saying that I think we've lost our way.

CAVUTO: But you like Bill Clinton?

GREENSPAN: I thought Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we've had in a while.

CAVUTO: You put him up there with Richard Nixon in terms of brilliance, right?

GREENSPAN: Both of them had all sorts of problems ...

CAVUTO: OK, all righty.

GREENSPAN: ...but, as far as IQ is concerned, both are terrific.

That apparently was just fine with Bill.

And, well, why not? Like the current president, and like the right-tacking ex-prime minister in whose presence he took the swipe at Maddow, Clinton has always sought to be praised by the people who hate him and tended to slight the people who supported him.

Alex Pareene of Salon says:

It is kind of weird that Clinton still gets offended by this kind of talk, considering that the entire point of third-way politics was that if Democrats just became a little bit more like Republicans, voters would like them. But he and Blair bonded over the idiotic political idea that if both sides hate you, you're doing something right. The liberals thought he was a sellout, and the Republicans called him a communist -- that means he was juuuussst right.

I'd say it's more like "if your side hates you, and even one or two people on the other side throw you a bone of faint praise, even if it's long after that praise can actually help you politically, that means you're doing something right."

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