The video below is the panel discussion on a pending government shutdown from PBS’ Washington Week show broadcast on November 17, 1995. It’s a fascinating example of the old adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.
The arguments were very much the same as today. The debt was a huge issue for the public; the debt clock had just been erected in Times Square and Ross Perot ran for President on the problem of the debt – he got almost 20% of the vote, which for a third party candidate in this country is enormous.
In that debate fifteen years ago – as seen by politicians and pundits – Clinton was seen as a compromiser and Gingrich as strong and unmovable. Gingrich’s House had made ‘compromise’ a dirty word which pleased the base in those days. The House Republican freshmen and sophomores were largely new and from outside government. They ran on standing firm about the budget and social issues, which were more dominant than today – the Religious Right had serious power.
The final outcome? Clinton won the public’s vote; at the end of the battle, he was more popular than he’d been when it began. Republican numbers plummeted and the journey to Gingrich’s ultimate disgrace had begun. Of course, neither Newt nor his congress were done. They went on to impeach Clinton, but he came out of that one even more popular.
Bill Clinton not only bested Gingrich – he beat the national debt too.
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