ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos interviewed his former boss on “This Week” Sunday morning. The entire twenty minutes (video link to follow) appeared to be an opportunity for President Clinton to defame the current administration while pumping up his own legacy. Assisting this goal was Stephanopoulos who, regardless of what his former employer said, didn’t once challenge the accuracy of any of Clinton’s numerous misstatements of fact:
“Now, what Americans need to understand is that that means that every single day of the year our government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina and our tax cuts. We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a conflict, a military conflict by borrowing money from somebody else.”
This is patently false, and the fact that Stephanopoulos didn’t challenge it is extraordinary. After all, most of us learned in grammar school that America borrowed large sums of money from the French to finance our Revolution against the British. As such, our nation was born borrowing money from another country to fund a conflict.
Most recently, throughout the Cold War of the ’70s and ’80s as our nation was running regular deficits, much of our treasury bonds, notes, and bills were being purchased abroad, particularly by investors, banks, and insurance companies in Japan and Germany. In addition, as we were selling such treasuries during the first Gulf War, foreigners were also purchasing our debt then. Yet, Stephanopoulos chose not to bring any of this history up.
“We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover my tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina. I don't think it makes any sense. I think it's wrong.”
This is either an intentional misrepresentation, or the former president has forgotten what happened during his administration as has his former employee. When Clinton took office in 1993, the gross federal debt was $4 trillion. When he left, it was $5.6 trillion. That means that on his watch, the gross federal debt grew by $1.6 trillion, which also means that countries like Japan, the U.K., et al were purchasing our treasuries while he was president as well. Yet, I guess there wasn’t anything wrong with that back then.
Stephanopoulos then urged the former president to agree with the media concerning George W. Bush being a racist:
“The problems with race tied to poverty. I know you don't think there was any conscious racism but we saw one more time blacks and whites looked at this event through very different eyes. What can President Bush do about that, and looking back, do you think there's anything more you could have done as president?”
Clinton answered with some more misrepresentations:
“For example, we had the lowest African-American unemployment ever recorded, the lowest African-American poverty rate ever recorded. We had the highest home ownership, high highest business ownership and this is a matter of public policy.”
The unemployment statement is technically accurate, yet a tad misleading from the standpoint that African-American employment is higher today than it was under Clinton. Today, there are 15.5 million black employees in America; in December 2000, there were 15.1 million.
As for poverty, Mr. Clinton is correct from the standpoint that when he left office, black poverty was lower than it is today. However, this is also misleading in that six out of the eight years Clinton was president, black poverty was much higher than it is today. In fact, during his tenure, black poverty averaged 27.5 percent as compared to its current 24.7 percent. In reality, under Clinton, black poverty was only lower during the two stock bubble years of 1999 and 2000. As such, not only does this statement conveniently neglect 75 percent of his presidency, it uses as a benchmark a period when all economic data were distorted.
As for black homeownership, according to the Census Bureau, this rate was 47.2 percent in 2000 as compared to 49.1 percent at the end of 2004. As it has been well-publicized during the recent housing boom that homeownership has continued to set new records year after year, it is almost impossible to believe that Stephanopoulos didn’t mention this…or maybe not.