President Clinton's valedictory speech

Posted: Wednesday, August 16, 2000

The following editorial appeared in the Providence Journal on Wednesday, 8-16: President Clintons 50-minute-plus valedictory Monday night at the Democratic National Convention was an emotional, at times rousing, farewell. But he did very little to make the case for voters to choose Al Gore over George W. Bush. At stake, after all, is the future, not the past.

Understandably trying to present the last seven-plus years in the most positive, upbeat light, Mr. Clinton never directly dealt with the criticisms by Mr. Bush, nor with the behavior that led to his impeachment.

In any event, viewers did not have to hear Mr. Clinton rebut Mr. Bush to know that our economic well-being faces new challenges in the next administration. Sharp oil-price increases, the military rise of China, the collapse of Mideast peace talks and the continuing deterioration in the U.S. health-care situation are but a few examples.

A large issue of course is Mr. Clintons assertion: To those who say the progress of the last eight years was an accident, that we just coasted along, lets be clear: Americas success was not a matter of chance. It was a matter of choice.

But it is unclear what, if any, role the presidents choices had in the boom. Mr. Clinton was an amazingly lucky man when it came to the economy. He benefited from the end of the Cold War, the explosion of the Internet and the rest of the recent technological revolution and the Feds strong-dollar monetary policy. The latter was led by Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, a Republican, whom, it should be noted, Mr. Clinton was wise enough to renominate. (But then, the Fed-induced six-month recession in 1990-91 led to President Bushs defeat in 1992!)

Meanwhile, the election of a GOP Congress, in 1994, forced the president to accept the need to control spending even as global factors little related to Clinton-administration policies helped produce massive and unexpected tax revenues with which to eliminate the huge budget deficits.

What was most striking about the speech was how little it concerned the man he has knighted as his successor, Al Gore. He used four paragraphs in a 13-page speech to promote the candidacy of Mr. Gore, whose convention, after all, this was. It is often (over?) generalized that Baby Boomers are narcissistic. On Monday night, we received a strong demonstration of that, albeit with Mr. Clintons trademark eloquence.

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