Longing for the Clintons - Tom Purcell

I never thought I'd say it, but, boy, am I longing for the Clinton years.

Sure, the Clinton administration was rocky early on -- lots of stumbling and embarrassments. There was the travel office scandal, the Whitewater scandal, the White House security hack who pulled up FBI records on Clinton opponents. A handful of Clinton cronies got pinched and sent to the clink, but nobody much cared.

I remember, too, the agitation I felt when Hillary tried to nationalize our health-care system. But that effort helped pave the way for a massive Republican takeover in the House and Senate in 1994.

Initially, that made me happy. The Republican Congress combined with a pragmatic Clinton brought us restraint, a surplus and a commonsense welfare-reform policy.

The welfare-reform idea was simple enough: Give a man a hand up, not a handout, and while we're at it, let's teach him to fish. Critics said the poor would be destitute. The opposite occurred. The poor did extremely well. Their success reminded me of a bumper sticker: "Liberalism -- The haunting fear that somehow, somewhere, people are able to care for themselves."

For the most part, the Clinton years were a lot of fun. The economy did well -- the dot.com bubble was a great ride. Republicans, for the most part, acted Republican.

Better, the Cold War was over and nobody worried about much. We dropped bombs on people now and then -- we waged a war in Kosovo solely from the air -- but did nothing too messy that might make for scary images on the news.

Sure, there was that incident in 1993 with the World Trade Center -- a handful of radicals tried to blow the place up -- so we took them to court and sent a few of them to jail. Nobody knew then that seeds of 9/11 were being planted, in part, by our lawyerly response. Nobody seemed to know that the masterminds who arranged that terrorist strike decided they were safe -- and so they began planning a more fatal strike.

Nobody paid much attention in 1990's, either, when the Clinton Administration pressured government-sponsored organizations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to loosen their standards.

Fannie and Freddie buy up packages of loans that are originated by banks, thrifts, mortgage companies, etc., to enable lenders to lend more.

According to a 1999 New York Times article, the banks, thrifts and mortgage companies were also eager for Fan and Fred to loosen standards. Once they knew Fan and Fred would buy up the riskier loans they issued, they could issue more loans to more people and make more dough -- without taking on the increased risk.

Most folks didn't worry then that the change would be one of the causes of the financial mess we now find ourselves in -- a mess that would grow well beyond Fan and Fred and eventually swallow up many private institutions done in by their own greed.

No, most folks were fat, dumb and happy -- and amused. For entertainment value alone, we had a president who was the gift who kept on giving: "Monica Lewinsky was on 'Larry King Live,'" said David Letterman. "She really liked Larry King. Actually, she likes any guy with a desk."

Nobody much cared what our president did -- the impeachment thing was an annoyance -- so long as stocks kept rising and our collective nap went undisturbed. It's true the economy and the dot.com bubble started to tank in the last year of Clinton's term. It's true, too, that soon after Bill left, 9/11 would hit, we'd go to war and the Fed would unleash easy dough to try and stave off recession.

Unfortunately, conditions would be perfectly set -- a perfect storm of sorts -- to create and eventually explode a housing bubble that would cause our global financial system to melt down.

Who knows what is next. All I know is that I'm longing for the Clinton years. I'd give anything for a Monica Lewinsky scandal about now.

Tom is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons. E-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.