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Unappreciative.

Once again this month we've turned over much of our Letters space to correspondence dealing with The Progressive's appraisal of Bill Clinton's performance as President of the United States. And once again some readers take us to task for failing to appreciate and applaud Clinton's achievements. They ask why we keep picking on the President, why we don't seem to understand that he's a great deal better than George Bush and Ronald Reagan, why we don't recognize our responsibility to support him, endorse his program, and do what we can to help him get reelected in 1996.

Since this month's Comment section - as well as much of the rest of the magazine - is again unsupportive (to put it mildly) of Bill Clinton and his works, I want to assure those readers who urge us to refrain from what they call Clinton-bashing that yes, we do read your mail and think about it. And if we don't embrace your analysis, it's because we find it utterly unpersuasive.

Why do we keep picking on Bill Clinton? Because he's the only President we've got. That's why we picked on George Bush and Ronald Reagan, on Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, on Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, when each of them occupied the White House. In an era - it didn't start with Ronald Reagan - when the U.S. Government has engaged in bloody imperial adventures abroad while practicing malign neglect of its own people's needs at home, we see no reason to act as cheerleaders for whatever President happens to be in office, be he Democrat or Republican.

Don't we understand that Clinton is better than Bush and Reagan? Of course we do. He's better especially in his rhetoric, which sometimes expresses genuine concern for human beings in a way that could never have been coaxed from his predecessors' speech writers. And he is better in a few - but only a few - of his appointments; others have been no better, and in some cases worse.

We concur with those readers who remind us that Clinton did, after all, raise such issues as health-care reform and gay and lesbian rights to the forefront of national consciousness. But we're constrained to point out to our critics that having raised those issues, Clinton reversed field and went into headlong retreat, so it is likely that the final result of his efforts will be regression rather than progress.

Even on those few accomplishments for which the President deserves unqualified applause, nagging questions instantly arise. For example, he recently lifted the twenty-year U.S. trade embargo against Vietnam, taking the first step toward rectifying a wretched injustice against a nation that has suffered horribly from U.S. aggression. Why does the embargo remain in effect against Cuba, which in its own way has also been a tragic victim of American vindictiveness?

Why, after announcing the withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from Somalia, did Clinton needlessly delay that withdrawal until more lives - Somali and American - had been lost? Why, after piously intoning the need for "change" that reflects the ending of the Cold War, did he pledge to Congress that there would be no further cuts in military spending? Why did he hastily and on the flimsiest of pretexts send missiles to kill Iraqi civilians in Baghdad? Why does he menace the government of North Korea for allegedly developing nuclear weapons, while maintaining total silence about the nuclear arsenals of Israel and other U.S. allies, and about our own determination to maintain nuclear stockpiles of insane proportion?

What became of Bill Clinton's promise to push for an increase in the miserably inadequate minimum wage? In what way does his zeal for capital punishment differ from Bush's or Reagan's? How does his pledge to end "welfare as we know it" depart from the cheap-shot rhetoric of every small-town pol who wants to shave taxes by further immiserating the poor?

Okay, say Clinton's defenders, but he's doing the best he can. The national mood is conservative. Congress is reactionary.

We don't think so. We believe that the United States has, after China, the world's largest one-party system: a single party with a right wing that calls itself Republican and a slightly less right wing that calls itself Democratic, both committed to serving the interests of corporate capitalism. We believe that if Bill Clinton were the paragon of political enlightenment he and his supporters claim him to be, he'd be attempting to create a constituency for real - not phony - change, even if it meant taking on the reactionaries in Congress and the media and the society at large.

And we believe that since Clinton obviously won't rise to that challenge, we have no choice but to try.
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Title Annotation:Bill Clinton's broken promises
Author:Knoll, Erwin
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 1, 1994
Words:787
Previous Article:Trick or Treason: The October Surprise Mystery.
Next Article:Readers sound off on Bill Clinton and The Progressive.
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