"Didn't Clinton essentially have a balanced budget? "
No, unless you believe in the "cooked books" approach to governance.
"The Republican party's lasting accomplishment has been to take us from surpluses, like forever, to deficits forever."
While I won't defend the pubbies for their feckless lack of fiscal restraint they are absolute pikers when compared to the dhimmicrats. No one can spend (other people's money) like the left.