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Nostalgia for the Clinton Years

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Remember when Bill Clinton thought it was a good idea to write laudatory letters to the Daughters of the Confederacy? That was in the long ago epoch of 1994. And those were good times.

“For 100 years, the United Daughters of the Confederacy has maintained and built upon the wonderful legacy of your founders. The strength of your organization today is a testament of the vision of your founders and to your commitment to your shared goals.”

“I congratulate you on your achievement, and I extend best wishes for many years of continuing success,” he concluded.

I suppose at some point we can bring in the argument of not reading too much of our current values into the past. Except that in 1994, it should have been anathema for anyone to say anything nice to a neo-Confederate organization except upon its disbanding and donation of the group’s assets to civil rights organizations. So I can’t give Clinton a pass here.

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  • jim, some guy in iowa

    I wonder how many “letters” like that go out over the President’s signature in a week

    • Lee Rudolph

      And of those, how many are robosigned.

      • rea

        Note, though, that someone was careful to draft the letter to praise the founders of the organization (founded 1894), not the founders of the Confederacy.

    • Mike G

      Meh, it’s a robo-letter. Politicians of all stripes churn these out by the thousands, so generic as to be meaningless.

      If they find one where Clinton writes, “Confederate flags and slavery were awesome, long live the South, yeehaw!,” it would be noteworthy; otherwise not.

  • Nobdy

    Clinton was from Arkansas and his whole thing was being a Democrat that Southern Whites could swallow, as well as being extremely charismatic and telling people what they wanted to hear.

    It’s like how much more Clinton could this be? None more Clinton.

    I am not saying he deserves a pass for it but it was extremely predictable and in character.

    I think a lot of rosy affection for the Clinton years is just because the economy was great, the cold war was over, and it felt like we were headed for an American tech utopia where everyone was going to be richer and happier. It was before 9/11 and the great recession. Our biggest fear was Japanese businessmen buying Rockefeller Center.

    Clinton’ actual list of accomplishments is rather thin and compromised by bad laws like welfare reform don’t ask don’t tell and of course NAFTA.

    • Philip

      It also helped that the next president was so awful that almost anyone would have looked amazing by comparison.

      • matt w

        I call it the Peter Gabriel Theory (or maybe the David Lee Roth Theory).

      • joe from Lowell

        Remember when Gerald Ford died during the Bush presidency, and the media and official Washington spent weeks raving about what a great president he was?

        Man, that Gerald Ford – now there’s a president, I tell ya!

        • BigHank53
          • I must disagree with LBJ. Walking and farting at the same time is not an achievement that requires any brains whatsoever.

            • joe from Lowell

              Nah, it’s just that the great ones make it look easy.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      is the next step talking about Richard Nixon as the last “real liberal” President? Clinton wasn’t the greatest President by any means but, as anyone who’s read this site steadily should understand, most Presidents can’t be easily separated from the Congresses serving at the same time

      the government churns this kind of thing out by the ton. Twenty, thirty years from now someone will come up with a robo-letter “signed” by Obama congratulating the National Cattleman’s Beef Association for something and wave it around like it proves something, too. If Erik had a letter handwritten, or with the old time dictation note at the bottom, I’d think he had something. As it is, there’s plenty of other ways to make the point Bill Clinton sold out his major constituencies when he felt the need- without the ” he was a closet confederate” hyperventilating

      edit: if this proves *anything*, it’s how deeply ingrained into our government deference to the confederates has been

      • This rotoletter thing is ridiculous because it’s not like the administration is sending these letters out to offensive groups. I don’t think the KKK got these letters. Or the American Communist Party. It is sending them out to groups they find nonoffensive. And that’s the point.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          (deletion of long-winded bullshit)

        • Lee Rudolph

          It is sending them out to groups they find nonoffensive.

          I think that it’s more likely that it is sending them out to groups that have gotten someone in the office of some Senator or Representative to ask someone in the office of the President to send a letter.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            that was probably the one part I shouldn’t have deleted

          • Again, not every group gets these letters. There are standards here. In 1994, neo-Confederate organizations did not fall below those standards.

            • Barry_D

              “Again, not every group gets these letters. There are standards here. In 1994, neo-Confederate organizations did not fall below those standards.”

              Yes, for getting a roboletter.

              Erik, why don’t you show us where that bar was?

          • rea

            Oddly, Wikipedia tells us that there was a huge dispute in ’93 over UDC and its claim to own the Confederate flag:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Daughters_of_the_Confederacy

            So its not as if the organization was respectable back then.

        • Barry_D

          “This rotoletter thing is ridiculous because it’s not like the administration is sending these letters out to offensive groups. I don’t think the KKK got these letters. Or the American Communist Party. It is sending them out to groups they find nonoffensive. And that’s the point.”

          Where a low bar is drawn, and anybody not obviously under that bar gets a letter.

      • Nobdy

        Nobody thinks Clinton was a closet confederate, he was called our first black president for a reason, but he also wasn’t the type to stand up and denounce something like this, or even refuse them a letter. And of course this wasn’t close to his biggest misstep, I listed some of those, and obviously he was better than what came before or after.

      • Aaron Morrow

        I feel like it should be possible to remember that Clinton was more liberal than the other nominees in 1992, as well as the Presidents before and after him AND remember that he felt it necessary to attack rap music, but didn’t have the guts to go after Ice-T for talking about literally fighting back against police brutality.

      • joe from Lowell

        anyone who’s read this site steadily should understand, most Presidents can’t be easily separated from the Congresses serving at the same time

        Srsly. Imaging describing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – the policy imposed on Clinton by Congress to undo his action allowing open service – as one of Clinton’s accomplishments!

        Imagine describing welfare reform – no qualifiers, the whole concept as a Bill Clinton production, despite his three vetoes – as a Bill Clinton accomplishment!

  • Derelict

    My God! You’re right! BOTH sides do it! So something something ignore the stars-n-bars display and something magic ponies.

    What exactly is the point of this post beyond “Look! Yet another flaw in Bill Clinton’s presidency!” or “Look! Even a Democrat was praising people associated with treason!”

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    Obama should write a letter also, too:

    “Dear Daughters of the Confederacy,
    I just finished checking with the FBI domestic counterterrorism group, and they say that you are ‘Mostly Harmless’, so congratulations!”

    • njorl

      There is a difference between the daughters of the confederacy and other “heritage” groups. They did a lot of promotion of terrible cultural icons, but they did little actual intimidation, and they even did some legitimate charitable work. Most “heritage” groups were completely bereft of any redeeming qualities.

  • ASV

    FuturamaNotSureIfSerious.gif

  • joe from Lowell

    Except that in 1994, it should have been anathema for anyone to say anything nice to a neo-Confederate organization except upon its disbanding and donation of the group’s assets to civil rights organizations.

    Lots of things “should be,” Erik. The fact is, it wasn’t anathema – more like mandatory.

    1994 actually was a long time ago. I know guys our age don’t like to admit that.

    • Rob in CT

      21 years ago. I was just entering college. Yeah, it kinda is a long time ago, innit?

      • joe from Lowell

        The release of Nevermind is farther away from us in time than from Sergeant Pepper.

        • njorl

          That millennial rollover makes the arithmetic too hard. I just group everything since Reagan as “recently”.

        • Hogan

          I’ll bet you have a whole collection of those.

          • joe from Lowell

            You would be correct.

            Blue Monday was released 32 years ago. That’s 30 years after Sh-Boom.

    • KmCO

      The thing is, 1994 wasn’t actually that long ago. Yeah, we were all younger–I was still a child–but we’re talking 20-21 years ago, not 50 years. But politically (and in many ways, culturally), 1994 was a whole world ago.

      • joe from Lowell

        Politically and culturally.

      • Barry_D

        Somebody pointed out that if the demographics of the US vote were the same in 2008 as in 1988, McCain would have won the presidency after the white votes were counted. There wouldn’t have been enough non-white votes to put Obama over the top.

  • divadab

    Like it or not, many Southerners are proud of their heritage. Regardless of the motivations for the civil war, Confederate soldiers fought with honor – these are peoples’ ancestors, for fuck’s sake – how can you expect people not to honor their ancestors?

    Respect and honor. Valor and sacrifice. These are virtues to be encouraged, not brayed at with disrespect and ignorance.

    • These people have lots of ancestors going back centuries. Why focus on the 4 years when they committed treason to defend slavery?

      Can’t say I would expect anyone here other than Jennie to defend neo-Confederate organizations.

      • Origami Isopod

        You haven’t been paying much attention to Divaderp, then.

      • Jackov

        国内では、帝国を務めた私たちの勇敢な先祖のすべてを尊重します。

        – 安倍 晋三

      • divadab

        I’m not sure I was defending any organization – just making a more general point about how men engaged in an evil cause can still in their individual action demonstrate virtues such as honor, courage, mercy, and so on. As such, are they not worthy of honor from their descendants?

        These are emotional matters and I think vilifying people for trying to honor their ancestors (in whatever ignorant and obnoxious way they can come up with – these are not tremendously intelligent people even by divaderp’s apparently low standards) – what does it accomplish? Are we really still at war? Really?

        • Yes, we are at war against white supremacy.

    • Malaclypse

      Respect and honor. Valor and sacrifice. These are virtues to be encouraged, not brayed at with disrespect and ignorance.

      Also, why did anybody get upset when that nice Mr. Reagan paid his respects at Bitburg?

      • divadab

        He was just acknowledging publicly the ancestors of his program.

    • sharculese

      A couple of years ago one of my mom’s coworkers found out that the land he worked on and much of the area around it used to be his family’s plantation. He didn’t think for a second that these were people he had to honor; he was just regular plain old horrified.

      Honor is a reward for doing honorable things; passing on genetic information doesn’t come close to clearing that bar.

      • divadab

        SO you assert that no Confederate soldier acted with honor and is therefore worthy only of horror? Really?

    • PohranicniStraze

      As a genealogist, I’ve been surprised how few people know anything about their ancestors before their great-grandparents, if that far back. I would guess that, for 9 out of 10 of the people with confederate flag decals on their pickup, if you asked them to name a particular ancestor who fought in the war, they couldn’t do it.

      I have at least 10 confederate veterans from 4 states in my direct ancestry, including my direct male-line ancestor who was a confederate sniper wounded and captured at the Battle of Shiloh. About the best spin I could put on their service is that they lived at a time when many people still identified more closely with their states than with the country as a whole, so when their state went to war they did too. I would never delude myself into thinking that made their cause particularly just, honorable, or worthy in any way.

      • BigHank53

        There was a draft. You were fighting for your state, like it or not, unless you were willing to abandon your property and family and leave the CSA. And you didn’t get caught on the way and hung as a deserter.

        • brugroffil

          Or if you were rich enough or owned enough slaves. Couldn’t have the gentlemen out fighting a war for their own cause!

          • divadab

            Here’s how it worked – you could hire a man to honor your obligation to serve in the military – in both the CSA and the USA. Abraham Lincoln did just this. Many Southern men also did this but not serving meant you basically had to leave town in disgrace.

        • Jackov

          If southerners were willing to give up their property the Civil War likely would not have occurred.

          You never hear about white southerners honoring their ancestors who fought for the Union Army – ~115K men including a host of officers – so there should be a non-trivial number of descendants. Nor do they talk much about the bravery of the ~100K men from the South who fought in the USCT.

          “We had many regiments of brave and loyal men who volunteered under great difficulty from the twelve million belonging to the South.” Ulysses S. Grant

    • joe from Lowell

      If there was a Daughters of Civil War Veterans group that included descendants of both sides, that would be different.

      That this group was founded to express an exclusively Confederate identity, separating themselves from the Union side, just as their ancestors did, makes it about more than those values you mention. Doing that turns the effort to honor Da Troooops into an exercise in honoring the Confederacy, in exactly the way that the “Support Da Troooops” rallies of 2003 turned an effort to honor people in a branch of public service into a rally for the Iraq War.

      Honoring military people always carries the implication of honoring the cause they served. You have to be really careful with your symbolism and commentary if you want to distinguish the two and remove the political cause from your message.

      This group didn’t do that; they did the opposite.

    • Like it or not, many Southerners are proud of their heritage.

      But they are obviously wrong to be.

      Regardless of the motivations for the civil war,

      Really? We are expected to ignore the cause for which they fought? A cause many of their fellow white southerners fought against?

      It’s one thing to be caught up in a conscription. But I few of the officer fall into any kind of excusable class.

      Confederate soldiers fought with honor

      You mean like at Fort Pillow? Or is massacring POWs because they are black honorable?

      – these are peoples’ ancestors, for fuck’s sake – how can you expect people not to honor their ancestors?

      Eh. We see examples in this thread.

      Frankly, it’s a pretty moderate effort for most people not to honor their far off ancestors. I’d hazard that most neoconfederates don’t actively do specific ancestor honoring/worship. Instead, they participate in a modern social movement which claims that celebrating treason in defense of slavery is justified by…something! Heritage!

      But this is unconvincing to say the least.

      Respect and honor. Valor and sacrifice. These are virtues to be encouraged, not brayed at with disrespect and ignorance.

      This is clearly a bunch of random nonsensical smoke. It’s not hard to trace the origins of the neoconfederate movement and it’s clearly not grounded in any reasonable historical fact. It’s a bullshit propaganda line that is trivial to debunk in detail. Plus, it is put in the service of continual efforts to marginalise, oppress, and spit in the face of black Americans.

      If we compare the contributions to the US of its black population both forced and free to that of the confederates it is a soaring mountain next to the deep pit of slavery, murder and destruction which the confederates dug.

      The US has, obviously, done a lot of bad things (let’s just put Native American genocide out there as an example). We shouldn’t celebrate those bad things as if they were good. We should celebrate the good things and acknowledge the bad.

      Similarly, there is no honor or respect without truth. What acts of nobility some southern soldiers may have done is tarnished by lumping it in under the spectacular lie of neoconfederate Heritage.

      • divadab

        I should say that I had members of my family who fought on both sides in the Civil War and also one who hired a man to take his place in the Army of the CSA and moved to Canada saying “This is not my war.”

        I have an emotional reaction when people blanket condemn a group of people because they were citizens of a country that engaged in an evil enterprise. I mean, just as in CHina still today that you must be a member of the Communist party to get ahead, so also did it work in Nazi Germany. Does that make all members of these parties totalitarian fuckers who, along with all their families, deserve universal condemnation and shunning?

        The DOC are mostly nice old ladies who get together to make quilts and talk about their grandchildren. Aren’t they entitled to be proud of the virtues and sacrifices of their warrior dead? DO they still own slaves?

    • Rob in CT

      Bullfuckingshit.

      • divadab

        Ya well I don’t hear an argument, tough guy

    • Aaron Morrow

      And that’s the secret origin of the Ku Klux Klan.

    • njorl

      The Confederate army had the highest rate of desertion of any army in US history. Lee estimated that a third of his army deserted just prior to the battle of Antietam. It wasn’t just cowardice, though. It was primarily because the southern officer corps treated their soldiers like crap – expecting them to march without boots or fight without ammunition – and had little regard for discipline.

    • KmCO

      Of course there are many people who are proud of their Confederate heritage, but that heritage is, at heart, one of dishonor, cruelty, and, oh, slavery. They shouldn’t get a pass for a vague sense of “honoring the past,” especially when to do so is to completely minimize and dismiss the experiences of the black people living in that Confederacy. How come, when people talk of the importance of honoring the ancestry and “legacy” of the Confederacy, it is only the hegemonic white Confederacy that is seen as worthy of honor and deference?

      • divadab

        I’m not saying honor the bad – rather honor the good – but I am hearing absolute condemnation of all: “Of course there are many people who are proud of their Confederate heritage, but that heritage is, at heart, one of dishonor, cruelty, and, oh, slavery.” Therefore not in any respect honorable, to restate – a blanket condemnation.

        I reject this absolutist approach as inhumane. Totalitarian. Un-American. (At least pre-Reagan un-American).

        Men engaged in an evil cause can be nonetheless honorable and virtuous. Do you likewise condemn all the soldiers who fought in the Iraq war, a criminal enterprise?

    • DrS

      Plenty of southern culture to be proud of, but slavery, treason and white supremacy are not those things.

    • wengler

      They fucked off from the US because they got angry at an election result. But they weren’t content to just leave and go somewhere else, no. They tried to make everyone else around them go with them. And when they didn’t they shot them. Like the Nueces Massacre.

    • brugroffil

      there’s nothing honorable about what they did.

    • Origami Isopod

      Divadab: Stupidity now, stupidity tomorrow, stupidity forever.

      • divadab

        Ya well fuck you too – your name sucks balls just like you do.

        • ColBatGuano

          Ha ha. Are you twelve?

    • Mike G

      Since when does honoring your ancestors (for a dubious cause or otherwise) require a battle flag at the state capitol?

      Perhaps if the South were a less authoritarian, tribal and provincial culture they would recognize that their ancestors’ individual courage and loyalty to their hometowns was exploited by murderous assholes for an atrocious purpose, and be pissed at the overlords who manipulated them and led their region to ruin, instead of waving their flag.

      • divadab

        Ya well NASCAR causes brain damage. WHat can I say I’m Hitler’s nephew and I’m very conflicted about it.

  • Gwen

    The 20th century is now starting to look as ancient as the 19th century.

  • Gwen

    See, it’s too bad they’re not a respectable organization, like the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who oversee honest-to-god sacred symbols like the Alamo.

    I would be fully supportive of the UDC if their focus was on preserving gravestones or providing fair-and-balanced tours of battle sites, instead of waving the Confederate battle flag.

    • Ahuitzotl

      Sacred symbol? of what? Massive theft, treachery and dishonour? Oh, and more slavery, I shouldnt forget that

    • divadab

      Mostly they’re nice old ladies who get together to quilt and talk about their grandchildren and volunteer a lot in their communities. But they get offended when people tell them their ancestors were dishonorable scum. Buy a fucking clue.

  • Happy Jack

    A slagging for a birthday card to a ladies auxiliary? Pretty weak beer for a craft brew fan. There were worse things.

    For instance, the photo op before the Georgia primary. Clinton with his pals Sam Nunn and Zell Miller, just chilling in front of a group of black prisoners. At Stone Mountain of all places. Big Dawg talking about being a “law and order” Democrat.

    Now that’s how you get Fido writhing on the ground in pain, bleeding from the ears.

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