I wasn't a fan of Bill Clinton. I thought a more talented politician I have never seen, but corrupt to the core. My thoughts were that he was a demagogue who manipulated his way into the Oval Office; a guy who would lie when the truth worked better.
I may have to change my opinion. I was digging through some boxes of old books and ran across Bob Woodward's The Agenda. I read it years ago and had forgotten I even had it. So anyway I was flipping around and many of the names we see in the news today starting cropping up: Gene Sperling, Leon Panetta and the mayor of Munchkinland, Robert Reich. I kept it out and put it in the rotation.
Woodward describes in fairly good detail the nuts and bolts of Clinton's economic team; their backgrounds, their personalities and priorities, what they wanted to accomplish and the approach they took in dealing with the very minor (it turns out) recession of the early 90's.
I was struck by how focused they were (at least most of them) with the deficit and debt. I think Clinton wanted to show the country that not all Democrats were tax and spend profligates and he was determined to get the budget under control. The in-house debates between the Begala, Sperling, Reich faction as opposed to budget-hawks Benson, Panetta and Alice Rivlin (Clinton's first budget director) are as relevant as today's newspaper.
What I took from the book is that Clinton can read a spreadsheet. He wasn't opposed to spending a little money for patronage purposes (after all he did propose a 16 billion dollar "stimulus") but he understood for every dollar the government borrowed or taxed, that was one less dollar the private sector had to create jobs. The book also starkly defines and illustrates the differences between a pragmatic politician like Clinton and a ideological dolt like Barack Obama. It's clear to me there are no policy debates within the Obama Administration. I don't think Obama is too tolerant of views that go against his leftist precepts (probably confuses him). He just can't seem to grasp that good economics makes for good politics and the guy doesn't have the judgement or the experience to comprehend this fundamental fact. If you asked Bill Clinton I'm sure he would say what most of us know, the President's lesson will come in November.