The misplaced presidential priority was the campaign promise to balance the Reagan-Bush budget deficit for which reason the country had sold out to China and neglected preparing for the time when oil prices may not be cheap, even though Bill Clinton’s Vice President, Al Gore, had written a book on environmentalism as a United States Senator, called “Earth in the Balance.” Ironically, the Clinton presidency yielded a planet out of whack by the time they got done with it in 2000.
Bill Clinton had declared Pyrrhic victory in 2000 because he had not balanced the budget and his wife had campaigned in 2008 on the platform of rescuing his legacy from the vast right-wing conspiracy even as the rest of the world with which she is charged to work as Secretary of State is accusing the United States, quite justifiably, for being aggressively protectionist in foreign trade to keep its economic indicators humming at their expense. In the end, it all had collapsed and it would have happened no matter who had been elected president in 2000: Gore or Bush.
The economic crises since the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) crises in 1992 and the Mexican peso crash in 1994 to the 2007 housing collapse in the United States had together already cost as much as the entire gross domestic product of the United States in money supply: about $15 trillion and counting. The ERM crises yielded the eurozone by 2000 which is being tested in the current crisis but the rest have not yet produced similar stable currency mechanisms elsewhere.
Bush was foolhardy in how he had entered Iraq, but the moral clarity of his purpose could not have been clearer, besides its strategic (not tactical) ramifications had the tactics succeeded. Success in Iraq implies doing what no Republican had done since Nixon, including his oil man father: to finally get the country off oil-dependence by making the case for U.S national security in the freedom of other peoples around the world. It means, ending the dependence of the United States on oppressive foreign regimes to supply its energy needs.
The war in Iraq over which the Democrats in the United States had treacherously joined the European chorus everywhere has costed less than a trillion dollars and is being finally resolved to the benefit of Iraq more than to that of the United States, just as Bush had wanted for the purpose of ending terrorism, unlike his father’s better executed wars over oil. If U.S domestic energy policy reform succeeds, it will also be to the benefit of the United States in many more ways beyond oil.
Whether it is Obamacare or foreign policy, it is not a balancing act or a trade-off between principle and practice as Secretary Clinton had stated in a State Department town hall when questioned by a visiting scholar on human rights and diplomacy. To the contrary, principle is the purpose of politics. Practice must be always the embodiment of principle. Moral hazard, as a cardinal rule, must not be introduced into policy, whatever the circumstances, because this is not how the world works. For example, human rights in China are no different from human rights in Iran, and therefore, re-opening Iran to the United States should be no different from the Nixon-Kissinger opening of China.
Bush had diagnosed the problem correctly but miscued the execution. Clinton had gone wrong on both and he is atoning quietly in his retirement just as his lieutenants also are. Clinton’s only solace is that at least the times were good while they had lasted. If the president’s advisers can convince their boss that America’s economic atonement is necessary (which is what advisers are for), then perhaps they can stay (the same applies to Bernanke), because the purpose of forgiveness (not forgetfulness) is not to introduce moral hazard but to ensure that learning has taken place through atonement.
Otherwise, all the President’s men have to go to save both the presidency and the country from the twin cancers of complacency and hubris which are symptoms of imminent decline.