May 8, 2016
QUESTION ASKED: Did we waste the ’90s?
I am with Clinton in this debate, but it isn’t hard to see the appeal of the counterargument that this was a decade — as Seinfeld, the iconic TV sitcom of the ’90s referred to itself — “about nothing.” The notion is that American society, liberated from the decades-long nuclear standoff with the Soviets, was allowed to exhale, and focus on frivolity. Even in the political realm, the Inquisition of Clinton for his sexual peccadillos (or the peccadillos themselves, if you insist) can be interpreted as an admission that this was a new era of lowered stakes, when politics wasn’t constrained by the exigencies of confronting existential threats.
Because those in charge buried their heads in the sand and ignored them, causing the bill to come due in the next decade for Bill Clinton’s excesses. 9/11 happened because Bill Clinton was too timid to capture bin Laden. (Just ask ABC.) The Iraq War happened because Bill Clinton and Al Gore demanded regime change in Iraq, but were too timid to make it happen themselves. The financial crisis of 2008 was the delayed hangover from Bill Clinton fundamentally transforming the banking system to force it to give home loans to those whose credit was far too risky to have mortgages.
And it seems rather odd to use 90s nostalgia as a cudgel to whip up votes for Hillary when she’s running against virtually all of her husband’s post-1994 centrist domestic policies.