Clinton vs. Reagan

This subject was posted a while ago, but perhaps it can be revisited:

Both Presidents took office during stagnant economic times, and presided over great economic growth. Both endured scandal during their term. So which President will history say did the greater good for the United States - Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton?

i don’t know about “History”, after all, it’s not written by one guy.

My money’s on Clinton over the long haul, though. Clinton’s record is, in certain respects, the best of all time.

But I freely confess that I am not able to discuss this in any great detail. I will leave it to others to whip out the facts and figures.


Sigh … I’m not sure “greater good” even comes into it. I don’t have the facts and figures at hand either, but they both presided over increasing gaps between the haves and have-nots. I believe, however, that Clinton did less harm, if only because he didn’t try to pass off prosperity as a virtue and poverty as a vice.

I think the Clinton era will get more play on the economic front, but not because of anything he did. Instead, it will be attributed to the growth of the web and technology.

As for Reagan, again, I think any economic “credit” will be overshadowed by the end of the Cold War and the fall of Communism. He did win the Nobel Peace prize after all. If you’re willing to expand “the greater good” to include things like that, RR wins hands down.

That, IMHO, will be how its distilled for the masses. Academics, of course, will prattle on for decades and decades about the details. After all, they gotta justify their six figure salaries, tenure, and year long sabaticals.

According to Newsweek Magazine, last November I think, the Clinton administration spent 19.5% of GDP, while the Reagan administration spent 23% of GDP. Reagan cut taxes but borrowed record amounts to cover record spending. The Reagan administration borrowed more money than all US presidents combined.

Ronald Reagan didn’t win a Nobel Peace Prize. Mikhail Gorbachev did, but not Reagan.
No U.S. President has won the Peace Prize since Woodrow Wilson did in 1919.

Cute bit of statistical fact, Bunny, but meaningless unless GDP just happened to be exactly the same, in real dollars, during both administrations. Something tells me that ain’t the case. Aren’t we sitting on a massive surplus? Wouldn’t this indicate a possible change in GDP, GNP, etc.? Since you offer the spending numbers, could you pull your nose out of that liberal rag and do a little research, so as to bolster your point by quoting the GDP numbers, please?

Anyhow, the Clinton administration didn’t spend anything, nor did the Reagan administration. Congress does all that. Reagan asked Congress to cut taxes, sure, just as Clinton proposed and received from Congress what’s been called the largest tax increase in U.S. history. And, of course, the Reagan adminsistration borrowed nothing; Congress borrowed a bunch while he was in the White House.

The past eight years put me in mind of Don Henley’s song, “Dirty Laundry.” Bill Clinton is, by his own admission, a fornicator, a liar, a perjurer, and an obstructor of justice, the latter two in the literal criminal sense. I wince when I recall the press pukes referring to Reagan as the “Teflon president.” I REALLY get in a bind when I think back on how the exact same press pukes helped Slick Willie get elected and how they helped to protect him for eight years.

Any honest historian would have to note the economic plusses during both administrations. Both presidents presided over turnarounds in our nation’s economy, though the reversal in the early eighties was certainly sharper. The differences between the two administrations lie elsewhere.

In 1980, the U.S. was shamed, jeered, ridiculed as powerless, was in fact fading in its impact on the world. The Iranian hostage ordeal defined what and who we were as a nation. The best of our military couldn’t even manage to fly a few helicopters across a desert on a rescue mission without smashing into one another and killing soldiers for nothing.

By 1988, all that had changed. By 1992, with the continuation of Reagan’s executive policies through the Bush administration, the U.S. had become the only superpower, a status we enjoy today. We’re not the biggest and baddest kid on the block; we’re the ONLY kid on the block worth talking about.

Since 1992, we’ve been treated to a series of scandals the like of which I’ve never known in my lifetime. Beginning with the aborted closed-door attempt to nationalize our health-care system, we proceeded to the Whitewater real estate deal, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, on and on, and all the while dealing with stupid policies regarding gays in the military (“don’t ask, don’t tell,” or something like that…) and a remarkable abandonment of a core constituency – organized labor – with the administration-backed passage of NAFTA. Does anyone recall the time when Bill Clinton tied up a major airport because he decided he needed a haircut?

I have to say that I liked where we were in '92 a lot better than I like where we are now. The economy would have taken off, Bill or no Bill, and I’m glad he had the wisdom – or maybe blessed ignorance – to keep his grubby fingers out of the pie, but I sure could have done without the shame of having a low-life in the White House for the past eight years.

End of rant.

I think history will show that neither men were as bad as their detractors believed, nor as good as their supporters believed.

I think you have to judge each president in terms of challenges each on faced and how they responded to those challenges.
Economically when Reagan came in there was high unemployment, high interest rates, and high inflation. AT the end of his term all of these problems had been solved and there was a period of record economic growth.
Clinton came in during a recovery when there was low interest rates, low inflation, low unemployment, and a healthy rate of growth. At the end of his term all those are still here although there are signs of a possible recession.

In foreign policy when Reagan came in the USSR had just invaded Afghanistan, there were communist insurgents trying to overthrow governments around the world. The USSR and its satellites were spending billion of dollars on weapons trying to enslave mankind. At the end of his term global communism was on the retreat and in leass than a year the Berlin wall would fall.
Clinton inherited a world mostly at peace. The US was the only superpower. There were some hotspots around the world such as Somalia, Iraq, Israel, parts of Africa. The former communist countries were trying to change to democratic market economies and were having difficulty in the transistion. At the end of his term everything was pretty much the same. Some hotspots had cooled down and others heated up.

In domestic policy Reagan was unable to restrain the spending of Congress, but was able to pass tax reform, keep Social Security solvent for a little longer and restore the confidence of the American people.
Domestically Clinton’s health care initiative failed, Social Security and Medicare reforms were delayed, and tax reforms were delayed. Clinton’s mishandling of his first two years when his party controlled Congress led to the Republican control of congress, which is something Reagan was never able to achieve. This congress was able to reform welfare, cut taxes and end the deficit.

All in all I think that Reagan left a dramatically changed world for the better while Clinton was more of a caretaker president.

The amount that Congress spent over and above the Presidential request was about 16% each year that Reagan was in office. You cannot triple the debt at 16% successive increases in eight years. Congress is ultimately responsible for the money spent by the nation, however Reagan was a willing contributor to the excesses in which Congress indulged.

I want post, I really do…
…but I’m laughing so hard I haven’t been able to read any of this thread past this point:

I’ll be back later when I catch my breath again.

George Will had a pretty vocal column recently about the Clinton legacy (

He writes

I literally can’t think of one valuable thing Clinton did while in office. The only positive thing that can be said was that he didn’t stand in the way of American enterprise. Sure dirtied up the position though.

I know, I’ve made this posting before, but it bears repeating.

The similarities between Reagan and CLinton are, in many ways, astonishing:

  1. They are both ADORED by ideologues in their parties, and LOATHED by ideologues in the other party, even though neither did ANY of the things their ardent admirers hoped for (and their enemies feared)!

  2. Both had wives who were even MORE despised by their opponents than they themselves! (Many considered Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton the real, evil powers behind the throne)!

  3. Both served two full terms, and were enormously popular with the American people- even though surveys showed the American people disapproved of almost everything they did!

  4. Both led scandal-ridden administrations. And yet, no matter how scandalous, outrageous or criminal their behavior, the American people LIKED them, so there was never any real punishment for their crimes. All they had to do was smile and say, “I had no knowledge of that,” and the people were ready to forgive and forget.

  5. Both had the quality that Pat Schroeder called “Teflon.” Anyone who tried to hold them accountable for their misdeeds (Lawrence Walsh, Ken Starr, et al.) ended up with egg on his face, looking like an impotent idiot, while Reagan and Clinton’s popularity soared.

  6. Both had fine upstanding men (preppies, sons of respected Senators) as Vice President, men whose records indicated that they were FAR more honest and capable than the Presidents they served, and were AT LEAST as ideologically pure… but somehow, nobody liked them, and party ideologues who SHOULD have embraced them never fully trusted them.

First thing Bush did… hired a cleaning crew. :slight_smile:

Tbone, you’re actually expecting ol’ Brian to do some real research to support his “facts”?

I don’t remember when Reagan was in office. I’m too young. But I do know I’m ashamed of having had Clinton as our president for 8 years. Sure, he was a smart, good political operator…but that’s not always a good thing, is it?

In his first couple of years he was able to submit fiscally sound budgets and get them past the solidly Democrat Congress, despite starting his term with a (relatively) weak economy.

He pretty well stalled out after that.

Presidents are remembered in the context of the times they presided over. Presidents who served during periods of stability fade into obscurity.

By this standard, Reagan will be remembered as one of the great presidents, if for no other reason than that he presided over the collapse of the cold war and could take some credit for it. Clinton, on the hand, presided over a period of peace and tranquility, and thus will wind up a footnote in the history books, probably with an asterisk beside his name having to do with impeachment.

This may not be fair, but it’s the way it is. Note that Reagan is ALREADY used as the ‘benchmark’ for greatness. The OP itself did that - in trying to determine if Clinton will be remembered as a ‘great’ president, why did the OP choose Reagan as the comparison? Why not LBJ? Or Eisenhower? Because it’s already a given that Reagan WILL be remembered as a great president. This is unprecedented for a president who is still alive. When Reagan passes on, you can expect to see him elevated another couple of notches in the public memory.

Sam Stone:
Actually, I chose to compare Reagan and Clinton because of the superficial similarities between two recent Presidencies (two-term presidencies, ecomonic growth, scandal, personal popularity). I hope posters with more insight than I can go into the actual long-term impact each President had on the country, and which may be considered the more successful.

Here’s an editorial from Atlanta which concludes that history will view Clinton quite favorably, and will give him more credit for our economic prosperity than most Republicans are currently willing to concede.

There’s one fundamental difference between Clinton and Reagan – Clinton didn’t need to consult any astrologers about what to say or what to do.

And I have to ask, who really believes the Lewinsky impeachment will be a big blot on Clinton’s record? Historians of the future will rightly note that it was nothing more than a political witch-hunt, driven by a GOP that was desperate to find something to smear Clinton with. No one is going to argue that trying to keep an affair secret was worse off than selling arms to Iran, for instance…