U.S. President Bill Clinton shades his eyes as he waits to be introduced at an event in Newport, R.I. in 1998.
Win McNamee/Reuters

Looking at the ’90s through rose-colored glasses

Updated
Former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R) was easily elected as Arkansas’ new governor this week, and he made an interesting boast yesterday in an interview with Wolf Blitzer. The governor-elect emphasized that he’s building a transition team, but he’s also “communicating with our Democrat colleagues in saying we want to work together.”
 
Hutchinson wants D.C. to do the same.
“I hope that Washington can learn from that, as well, and that there’s a lot of soul searching as to what the voters are trying to say. I think that President Clinton, who had a big loss in a midterm election, he reached out across the aisle.”
The detail that Hutchinson didn’t mention is that after President Clinton reached out across the aisle, Republicans impeached him.
 
The other detail that Hutchinson didn’t mention is that he was one of the impeachment managers, serving as a prosecutor in the U.S. Senate, demanding that senators undo the election and remove Clinton from office.
 
The former president’s name also came up during a White House press conference this week, when Fox News’ correspondent asked President Obama, “Why not pull a page from the Clinton playbook and admit you have to make a much more dramatic shift in course for these last two years?”
 
There are, of course, a couple of problems with the Republican push along these lines. To Hutchinson’s point, Clinton may have “reached out across the aisle,” but it didn’t stop Republicans from trying to destroy him. For that matter, Obama has spent the last six years reaching out across the aisle, practically pleading with GOP lawmakers to work constructively with him on any issue, and to date, those efforts have been rebuffed.
 
To Ed Henry’s point, it’s not at all clear what kind of “dramatic shift in course” is warranted. Much of the electorate is understandably disgusted by the breakdown of federal governing, but Obama remains far more popular than Congress, and the president’s policy agenda remains far more popular than Republicans’. The GOP didn’t make a ”dramatic shift in course” after they lost in 2006, 2008, and 2012, and I don’t recall the Fox News correspondent suggesting the party make one at the time.
 
Besides, Obama already tried a dramatic shift in course after the 2010 midterms, offering the GOP an overly generous “grand bargain,” only to discover Republicans wouldn’t compromise, even while the GOP was threatening to crash the economy on purpose unless their demands were met.
 
But the larger phenomenon remains the same: too much of the political world continues to look at the 1990s through rose-colored glasses.
 
Robert Schlesinger calls it “Clinton Nostalgia Syndrome,” and I get the feeling it’s growing stronger.
 
Asa Hutchinson was directly responsible for trying to force Clinton from office, and yet, now he’s praising Clinton for his bipartisan outreach. Fox News, which was created in the middle of Clinton’s presidency, attacked the Democrat every day for four years, and now holds him out as a model for Obama to follow.
 
In the 1990s, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) thought Clinton was a “jerk” who deserved to be thrown from office. Now Hatch believes, “[I]f it hadn’t been for some other difficulties, [Clinton] would go down in history as a pretty darn fine president.”
 
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) voted for four articles of impeachment against Clinton, but seems to hold him in high regard now.
 
This is all a bit silly. Republicans did everything they could to destroy Clinton’s presidency, just as they’ve done with Obama’s presidency. Looking at the 1990s as a model for bipartisanship and cooperative governing is sharply at odds with what actually happened in the 1990s.
 

Bill Clinton

Looking at the '90s through rose-colored glasses

Updated