Reality Show: Hillary and The Donald Share Top Billing

Paul Greenberg
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Posted: Jul 23, 2015 12:01 AM
Reality Show: Hillary and The Donald Share Top Billing

Don't know much about his-tory....

--Popular song of the past

In separate but equally bizarre performances, two presidential candidates showed up in Arkansas last weekend, Hillary Clinton at a Democratic rally in North Little Rock and Donald Trump in Hot Springs, where exotic acts have long been welcomed.

As she went down her usual list of talking points (Republicans are the Party of the Past, Democrats the Party of the Future), Hillary Clinton did say something striking -- at least to those of us who can still remember the 1980s. That was the decade when the disastrous Carter years finally drew to a merciful end, and Ronald Reagan was giving the country a new beginning.

The conventional wisdom at the time was that the United States had entered a period of decline, and there was no way this over-the-hill B-movie actor was going to reverse it. It did take a little time, not to mention a lot of persistence and faith, but a president those in the know had dismissed as just "an amiable dunce" pulled it off.

By the end of his term, Ronald Reagan had managed to end the Cold War and the Evil Empire with it. And the nuclear threat that had hung over the world for decades was gone. It was one of the great triumphs of American foreign policy, and it was achieved without a shot being fired. Some dunce.

The Gipper also presided over what may have been the longest, most sustained period of peacetime economic expansion in American history. Thanks to his tax cuts (in both individual and corporate income tax rates) and other incentives for investors, small business, and savers in general. What was first ridiculed as Reaganomics would later be hailed as the Reagan Recovery.

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The economic results of Ronald Reagan's eight years in the White House speak for themselves: Some 20 million new jobs were created. The inflation rate plunged -- from 13.5 percent in 1980 to 4.1 percent by 1988. Unemployment fell from 7.6 to 5.5 percent. The net worth of middle-class American families, those making between $20,000 and $50,000 a year, grew by 27 percent. And the prime interest rate fell by more than half, from an unprecedented -- and disastrous -- 21.5 percent in 1981 to 10 percent by the summer of 1988. And the Reagan Revolution went from wild hope to accomplished fact.

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That may be what the history books say, but that's not how Hillary Clinton remembers it. Speaking to her partisan audience Saturday, she dismissed all that as just "trickle-down economics," which she described as one of the worst ideas of the 1980s: "It is right up there with New Coke, shoulder pads and big hair." Ah, yes, big hair. Which brings us back to Donald Trump, her costar in last weekend's Arkansas Reality Show.

The Donald followed his appearance in Hot Springs by claiming John McCain, a genuine American hero, wasn't. Because he was shot down over North Vietnam and got to spend five years as a guest of the Hanoi Hilton, lucky guy. (The Donald himself never served a day in uniform, which somehow came as no surprise.)

Don't know much about his-tory....

Are voters here in Arkansas really going to go for Hillary Clinton with her talk about the terrible inequality of American life? Yes, they will, says a former Arkansas governor, Mike Beebe, but "she has to connect."

And just how are folks here in Arkansas supposed to connect with a presidential candidate who's been favored all her life by having the right friends in the right places, and no compunction about accepting their favors?

Hillary Rodham Clinton could be the poster child for American inequality. As a corporate lawyer, she collected $64,000 a year on top of her generous salary at the Rose Law Firm for sitting on boards like those of Wal-Mart and TCBY. (TCBY's chairman once explained that she was there to assure the company "was in good grace with the people in power.")

Talk about having the right connections: After she invested $1,000 in cattle futures, it had become $100,000 within a year, with a profit of almost 10,000 percent. How did she do it? Well, she explained, she'd studied the stock market at her father's knee while growing up in a fashionable Chicago suburb.

But as it turned out, most of those outrageously profitable trades had been made at the direction of her friend Jim Blair, counsel to Tyson Foods, and executed by Red Bone, a sharp commodities trader who knew how to assign the profits on margin calls to Miss Hillary and the losses to others.

Even the reflexively liberal New York Times noticed that "at every turn of their financial life," the Clintons "were receiving financial favors from individuals who had something to gain from having friends in high places." They still are. Their worldwide network of foundations accepts donations -- huge ones -- from every foreign government and corporation that'll contribute. And they're not about to give the money back, however tainted its sources. It's all for a good cause, they say. Indeed it is: theirs.

This is the presidential candidate who complains about income inequality. And who is going to connect with the average Arkansas voter. How does she expect to get away with it? Maybe because she's confident the rest of us ...

Don't know much about his-tory....