Hogshit and Chickenshit

Michael Rogin

William Jefferson (‘Bill’) Clinton is not the man from Hope for nothing. And the major story in the American media this election year recounts his resurrection from the politically dead. Indeed, Clinton’s rise is matched in American history only by the equally spectacular fall of George (‘Desert Storm’) Bush, the collapse that put the Arkansas Governor in the White House in the first place. Newt Gingrich rode the Contract with America to victory in 1994, giving Republicans their first control of the House of Representatives under a Democratic president since 1946, and their first control of both houses of Congress since 1952. There are two ways to understand what happened next. From one perspective, the Gingrich revolution was a failure. Emboldened by Gingrich’s attack on medicare and the environment, his effort to finance a tax cut for the rich with the resources of middle America, and his forced closing of the federal government, Clinton finally stood up for principle. Having followed in the footsteps of Millard Fillmore (1850-3), arguably the most obscure and feckless president in American history, whose record of failing to veto an Act of Congress for hundreds of days Clinton was on the point of surpassing (and who had been denied renomination by his own party), Clinton transformed himself into Harry Truman, who turned the 1946 Republican triumph into a Democratic victory two years later.

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