By Robert Scheer
Out of respect for privacy, even concerning famous people, I wasn’t going to write about the marriage of Chelsea Clinton to a Goldman Sachs alum and budding hedge-fund hustler with the resources to buy a $4 million loft so soon after graduating from Stanford. Hopefully Marc Mezvinsky won’t follow in the footsteps of his financier father, “Fast-Talkin’ Eddie,” as they called him back in Iowa, a former Democratic House member who just completed a five-year federal sentence for dozens of fraud felonies.
Anyway, Chelsea also worked at a hedge fund, her mother dabbled in banking shenanigans in her Whitewater days and father Bill’s radical deregulation made it a lot easier for financial plunderers to stay on the right side of the law. So the Clintons and the Mezvinskys have a lot in common. I hope their children will do better, and I was going to simply wish them well until I read Tina Brown’s paean to power, “Why America Needed Chelsea’s Wedding,” in the trend-chasing Daily Beast, which she edits.
It was then that I realized that the revival of the Clinton legacy was on in earnest. Brown, a prominent Brit import, is an expert on refurbishing tarnished royalty, as she demonstrated with her gushing tribute to the Clinton wedding as “a happy throwback to the carefree 1990s.” So carefree that no one of importance, certainly not in the Clinton White House, took serious stock of the collapse of hedge funds like Long-Term Capital Management, a harbinger of disasters to come.
In what I assume was not self-parody, Brown stated that “the Clintons are enjoying political rosy-glow syndrome. In the light of what’s happened since—two grueling wars, the implosion of debt, 14 million unemployed … Chelsea’s wedding allowed us to remember all that prosperity, those continuous Clinton surpluses.” But not, as I the party pooper must add, the Financial Services Modernization Act and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which enabled the financial bubble that caused those 14 million to be unemployed.
This all reminds me of the pass given that last attempt at American royalty, when the legacy of John Fitzgerald Kennedy came to be whitewashed so that his reckless decisions to invade Cuba and Vietnam were not to be mentioned. One can hear the “Happy Days Are Here Again” Democratic theme song as Hillary Clinton comes to be nominated after Obama has failed to solve the dire economic problems that his predecessors—Bill Clinton as well as George W. Bush—left him.
But don’t dare tag Hillary with anything her husband brought about or even for what Brown calls the “two grueling wars” which Obama inherited and which Hillary voted for and now pushes as energetically as do the top hawks in the Pentagon. “No sticky wars then,” Brown writes, referring to the good old days of the reign of Bill. “Meanwhile, Hillary, pummeled and reviled during the campaign year of Obama worship, is now the popular member of Bam’s administration.” Hillary is never responsible for past adversity but only steeled by it, as are the newest family member and his mother:
“It clearly is an additional bond between these families that Marc and his mother, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, know something about the Clinton world they are joining with. Marc had to endure the press onslaughts when his congressman father Ed went to jail for fraud.” His mother, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, lost her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after voting for Clinton’s first budget, but Brown snatches victory from those defeats and personal travails: “There is character in this new family of Chelsea’s and an understanding of the harsh paybacks of public life.”
OK, so I have gone on too long about a column by one preening society writer, but it is irritating that the Clinton parents are getting off the hook while Obama, who is guilty of relying too heavily on Clintonista alums for policy direction, is somehow scorned. Without President Clinton turning the economy over to Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan and Lawrence Summers, there would have been no financial meltdown. Obama’s cardinal error was bringing Summers and another Clinton acolyte, Timothy Geithner, back into power.
Apologists like Brown gloss over the fact that it was precisely Bill Clinton’s scandal that brought Bush and the Republicans to power. When Brown writes that “the Lewinsky stain, the impeachment dramas, and the Starr witch hunt of the Clinton years seems like a crazy dream,” does she seriously mean to absolve Papa Bill from having brought such disarray into our politics? Can one forget that without that stained dress, Al Gore would have won the Electoral College as well as the popular vote?
Clinton nostalgia is dangerous nonsense, and for Democrats to go down that road is to avoid serious assessment of their own party’s role in the economic debacle that haunts the nation.
AP / Mary Altaffer
Former President Bill Clinton greets well-wishers as he leaves Gigi’s restaurant on Friday, the day before daughter Chelsea’s wedding, in Rhinebeck, N.Y.