It was not surprising that the Clintons made outspoken remarks about America's sluggish economy in recent weeks. As military victory in Iraq became more and more certain, domestic issues were brought back into focus. Democrats who have been outgunned by the administration on foreign affairs are happy to shift the debate to economic subjects where the president seems weaker--no surprise there. What was surprising? First, that the Clintons' remarks were contradictory, and second, that Bill Clinton has leapt to President Bush's defense on the economy.
The former president, in a noted April 15 appearance at the annual conference of the Conference Board, sounded bullish on the American economy. He called for a measured perspective on America's troubles. "On balance," he said, "you should feel very positive about the arc of history and the trajectory on which we are moving." Of course America faced economic problems, but "there will never be a problem-free era as long as people are alive on this planet." Overall, he concluded, "the trajectory of the world is, I think, positive since the end of the Cold War and while there were problems underneath the rosiness of the 1990s, there's a lot of rosiness under the problems of this decade."
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, held fast to the party line: Things are bad, and it's all Bush's fault. The junior New York senator spoke harshly at an April 28 Democratic party dinner in Southington, Connecticut. Today, "there is an unease" in America, she said. The root cause of the problem? "We are, unfortunately, reaping the bad consequences of a wrong economic policy." And of course, there was the obligatory reference to FDR's predecessor. In her opinion, the Bush administration had put forth "the most wrong-headed economic policies that we've seen since Herbert Hoover."
Recently, James Carville entered the Clinton fray. In an appearance on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, Carville took Hillary Clinton's remarks one step further. "Senator Clinton said it was the worst administration in economics since Herbert Hoover," he said. "I think that's defaming the Hoover family."
Carville, like President Clinton, is surely no stranger to political disagreements in his own marriage. Perhaps if he wants to get on the right side of Mary Matalin, his wife, he should get his talking points from his old boss.
David Hackett is an intern at The Weekly Standard.