Paul Krugman on Bill Clinton:
Paul Krugman talks to Mario Cuomo, Guardian Unlimited (Video): ...Cuomo: ...Now, when it came to Bill Clinton -and you certainly you know him well and know his work well. And I think you said in the book at one point that he didn't have any real strong liberal credentials, nor certainly conservative credentials. You couldn't label him as either.
Krugman: Well, you know, I was - I mean, clearly his values I would have described as liberal, but he didn't come into the strong view about exactly what the role of government should be. I don't know what you think; I think of it as a liability. I think in the end - not so much him. It's not a critique of him. I think that we did not have a well-defined progressive movement when he came into office, and that that was a great handicap - that the other side knew what they wanted and the people who voted for and supported Bill Clinton were not so clear on what they wanted and he didn't have a clear agenda as a result.
Cuomo: Yeah, and you made that point in the book that he didn't have an agenda and therefore he didn't leave a legacy, really. And I think you're right about that. But most people - I'm not sure you did - but most people, I think, would say he had a good record.
Krugman: Oh, he ... did a terrific job of governing, and you know, ...when Bush came to the White House, we forgot how important it is simply to take the business, to take the job of running the US government seriously. So you look at - Fema was a prized, a much-honoured agency under Clinton - fell apart. The veterans administration was a morass when he came to office - became the best healthcare system in America. ... I want that competence back, but I think we also need to have a clear direction.
Cuomo: See, that puts us in an interesting position. If we admit that he was competent and had a good record - and he had a very good record, he left us with a $5.4 trillion potential surplus - but that, you know, there was internet and globalisation, a lot of other things came to his aid, so there was coincidence working there. But if you assume, OK, he's not a real liberal. He wasn't markedly liberal or markedly conservative, and he winds up in good record, why don't we look for another such person now in 2008? Why should we look for a liberal?
Krugman: Well, partly because there was undone business. In fact, Clinton did fail to get us a universal healthcare system and that's terribly important and that was a huge missed opportunity. ...
And also some of his achievements, it turned out, were squandered. Wouldn't we rather that Bill Clinton had managed to put in place some new institutions that would make America a better place rather than pay off a lot of debt so that George Bush could come in and run it up again?
I mean, in some sense, you want a more enduring legacy because you want something that will persist. The great thing - again, I'm going to go into my FDR worship again - but the great thing about FDR is he created institutions - social security, unemployment insurance, minimum wages - that all survived till this day despite the assaults of people who wished that it had never happened.