As I’ve written previously, contemporary assessments of presidents are difficult. Kevin Williamson thinks the upcoming election results will, as an unintended consequence, update the assessment of President Clinton:
The End of . . . Clintonism: The all-but-inevitable historic pounding that the Democrats are about to suffer is, of course, a repudiation of Obama’s overreach specifically, of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi model of unified Democratic government, Obamacare, stimulus, etc. It also, I think, spells the end of the Clinton economic aura. Since Carter, Democrats had had the worst sort of reputation when it came to the economy, and for good reason: Everybody remembered the gas lines, ridiculous stagflation, etc. And then along came Clinton. Amazing man, Bill Clinton: He inherited a recovery from George H. W. Bush, handed off a recession to George W. Bush, and somehow, in the middle, made himself look like an economic genius, claiming credit for the booming growth of the 1990s and the nominal budget surplus.
In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious that just as every investor looks like a genius while he’s riding up the bubble — and the dot-com stock market was a big one — every politician looks like a genius when the bulls are on the rampage. Clinton’s Big Government ambitions — see Hillarycare — got nipped in the bud well and early, and the Gingrich-Army monkey-wrench gang kept the Clinton machinery in check. But subtract the bubble and the whole decade looks a lot less impressive, and the Democrats’ campaign paeans to the Clinton economy do not sound as impressive in 2010 as they did in 2000. Americans are starting to internalize the meaning of bubbles, and to re-evaluate.