The latest pissing contest to occupy Washington’s political landscape involves President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton over just who is responsible for the corporate greed that led to accounting scandals that have sent the stock market into the crapper.
Bush says the Clinton administration’s cavalier attitude towards truth and obsession with money led to a corporate culture where facts became a disposable commodity. Clinton says Bush, who dumped a large pile of stock before Harken Energy tanked, shows he was part of the problem.
Newly released records show Bush knew Harken was in deep financial trouble and sold his stock before normal investors found out. In the financial world, that’s called “insider trading.” The Securities and Exchange Commission investigated Bush’s action and decided not to pursue the matter (which is different than saying he was innocent of using inside information to save his financial butt).
Yet while Bush made a profit while others lost big time on Harken, he wasn’t President of the country at the time. Clinton deserves a big share of the blame because, as President, he exemplified the attitude that existed not only in corporate boardrooms but also in many other parts of society.
Bill Clinton’s legacy (if you can call it that) is built on lies, instant gratification and winning at all costs – the exact ingredients that led corporations to overstate earnings, hide expenses and go for the fast buck.
As President for eight of the 10 years of the go-go nineties, Clinton set the tone for America. That tone came from a man who stood up in front of the American people and lied outright by declaring that he “did not have sex with that woman” and then came clean only when the DNA evidence left him no other choice.
Clinton risked everything for instant sexual gratification from an intern, but his problems went far beyond his sex drive. His win-at-all-costs approach to all things governmental and political meant destroying lives, manipulating history for short-term gain and setting an example that anything was permissible in pursuit of victory.
The greatest example of his legacy could be found at a junior high school in the Washington suburb of Arlington where, during the last year of his presidency, a group of 12 and 13-year-old girls admitted performing oral sex of young male students because “even the President said it wasn’t really sex.”
A survey of high school students that same year showed a majority of teenagers in the country felt lying about their actions were acceptable because the President did it.
“Rightly or wrongly, the President sets the moral tone of the nation,” says political historian Donald Settles. “Americans look to their President as an example. If that example is a bad one, it trickles down and becomes the norm for society.”
Sociologist Anne Martensen believes Bill Clinton proved Democracy was alive and well in America in the 1990s.
“According to most polls, a majority of Americans during that decade admitted cheating on their spouses, lying to their bosses and/or friends, cheating on expense accounts and taxes and other lapses in morality,” says Martensen. “If the polls are true, it means Bill Clinton was the perfect President to represent the majority in this country.”