Conservatives Long for Clinton, Perplexing Liberals

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Recently, a few media outlets have been reporting nostalgia among prominent Republicans for none other than Bill Clinton. In hindsight, they say, the guy's quite lovable—at least in a political sense. This has Democrats who recall some of the uglier fights of the Clinton years a bit confused. What's going on? Here are the key right-leaning quotes and the left-leaning response:

  • 'Conservative Investigative Attack Dog' Reflects  Benjamin Sarlin reports at The Daily Beast on David Bossie, who now heads Citizens United, the group that brought the controversial campaign finance and corporations issue to the Supreme Court. This gadfly of the Clinton years says he only hounded Clinton because "'we were worried he was a radical leftist who was in essence using that Southern governorship as a vehicle [to the White House].'" Now, writes Sarlin, "Bossie freely admits he was wrong, and gives Clinton full credit for working with Republicans to balance the budget and reform welfare." In fact:
As he gears up [to fight Obama], he admits to a little Clinton nostalgia. "If you look back now with the benefit of hindsight, oh how I wish he was president today compared to this guy in there now. That guy in there now is truly a radical."
  • Congressmen Pine, as Well  "'I enjoy Bill Clinton,'" The New York Times' Jennifer Steinhauer reports Republican Representative Paul Ryan as saying. "'The first two years of his term were one thing, but the rest of his presidency was tempered with moderation, and the nation benefited.'" Steinhauer points out that "there was that whole impeachment thing," which Ryan brushes off. She quotes a few others as saying similar things, though, and points out that though "selective memory" may be at work, there's indeed a "longing for a time when major bipartisan legislation, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, was possible."
  • Spare Me the Bipartisanship Talk  At the popular Balloon Juice blog, mistermix mocks Republican talk of bipartisanship as if it were some magic matter, caused by astrological alignment. He also pokes fun at what he sees as insufficient skepticism and self-awareness on the part of The New York Times article. "Bipartisanship is elusive," he says, "and, as President Obama has shown, it tends to recede when approached. Apparently, it is also followed by impeachment of the leader who brings it about, but let’s not let that unpleasant reality intrude on our 1,000 word thumbsucker."
  • Back to Reality  "Amid the wave of Republican nostalgia for Bill Clinton's moderate instincts," writes The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, "it's worth reminding people that Barack Obama's health-care plan was the moderate Republican plan that emerged as a counter-proposal to Clinton's big-government vision."
  • Or a Version of Reality  "The kicker," as Jonathan Chait sees it at The New Republic, "is that everything [David] Bossie thought was true of Clinton before he now believes is true of Obama," as reported in the Daily Beast article. He makes a prediction:
Conservative beliefs about Clinton and Obama roughly mirror their beliefs about various liberal social reforms. At the time of its enactment, Medicare was dangerous socialized medicine that wouldmark the first step toward the end of freedom in America . Today it's a cherished program that Republicans vow to save from Democratic cuts. Right-wingers villified John F. Kennedy; now they revere him. One day, Obama will play the same role in the Republican imagination that Clinton does today.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.