THE BLOG
01/17/2008 12:04 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Open Letter to Senator Obama: What Exactly in the Clinton-Era Nineties Did You Not Like?


Dear Senator Obama:

I admire your campaign theme that aims to look to the future, dedicated to real change, and to rising above partisan politics. The reason I am supporting Senator Clinton is that I believe she stands for all those things too -- but is more experienced than you and ready to be president from day one. Though I have doubts that you are as ready as she is, I certainly believe you are more ready than any Republican running.

But one thing you keep saying confuses me. As you campaign on the theme of change and looking to the future, I have heard you frequently say that you don't want the country to go "back to the nineties."

So my question is: What exactly about Bill Clinton's presidency in the nineties do you not want to go back to? Could you please be specific?

-- Do you not want to go back to the days when Bill Clinton took billions of dollars of inherited deficits and converted them to one trillion dollars of surplus?

-- Or not want to return to the creation of 23 million new jobs and the most extended period of growth and prosperity in many many years?

-- Or not return to a time when America's relationships with the rest of the world were positive and inspiring -- leading to peace in Ireland, the end of genocide in Bosnia, and inspiration to the third world for American values of human rights and democracy?

-- Or not see the first Democratic president reelected to a second term since FDR; who had finally positioned the Democratic Party as competitive to win the presidency, winning over his two elections such "red states" as Georgia, Colorado, Montana, Tennessee, Arizona, New Mexico, and Kentucky; and who brought the Democratic Party from a party that had lost five-out-of-six presidential elections mostly by landslide parties to a mainstream party of the middle class who could compete for the presidency once again?

Most Democrats would love the next Democratic president to be as successful as Bill Clinton was. Do you agree? President Clinton's job approval rating when he left office in January 2001 was about 65%--one of the highest approval ratings for a second term president since modern polling was invented. Is that what you don't want to go back to if you were elected as the next Democratic president?

I know you are referring to the "divisions" of the nineties that you don't want to re-live, and there certainly were plenty of them. But do you blame Bill Clinton for the hyper-partisanship of the Gingrich-DeLay Congress? For the tens of millions of dollars spent by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr investigating a 20-year year-old land deal, in which even Mr. Starr finally concluded after all that money and all those innuendo headlines that the Clintons were not responsible for any wrongdoing?

I hope you are not blaming the Clintons for the virtually entirely partisan House impeachment vote, resulting in Mr. Clinton's acquittal in the Senate -- where even a Republican-majority controlled Senate could not muster a majority vote for conviction.

Yes, there were serious hyper-partisanship in the congress in the nineties -- mostly, from the Republicans. But I assume you are not giving credence or blaming the Clintons, or specifically, Senator Hillary Clinton, for that divisiveness? Or are you? If so, many Democrats would be disappointed to hear you say that explicitly.

I'm not saying all was perfect during the Clinton years. Senator Clinton is the first to say many mistakes were made -- for example, as she often says, she learned from her mistakes in the way she handled the national health insurance proposal. But Senator Clinton understands and is committed to a campaign looking to the future, with the experience to make real change happen.

By the way, I was proud to be a Democrat seeing you, John Edwards and Senator Clinton last night on the MSNBC Las Vegas debate. That high level debate focused on the issues. This is what Democrats want. We also believe accurate information about each of your past records, statements, votes -- and non-votes -- is neither "negative" campaigning nor personal attacks.

They help voters make more informed decisions about each of you. Better now to air all facts about your records than let the Republicans use their attack and "swift boat" innuendo machine in the fall with just a few months till the general election.

Sincerely,
Lanny J. Davis

Originally posted at The Hill's Pundits Blog