The day before former President Clinton’s library was dedicated in Little Rock, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democrats’ front-runner for the party’s 2008 presidential nomination, gave Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren her first sit-down interview since her party got pummeled in the last election. If Mrs. Clinton aspires to become president, it would be helpful for her to get her facts straight.
The junior senator from New York could begin by settling upon a consistent explanation for what happened to her party on Nov. 2. From one moment to the next in the interview, Mrs. Clinton offered two diametrically opposite views of the Democrats’ electoral debacle. Mrs. Van Susteren asked, “What happened?” Mrs. Clinton replied: “Clearly, we didn’t do a very good job.” Later she understandably lamented that “two groups where we lost ground were women and Hispanics.” After Mrs. Clinton complained about the spiraling budget deficit, Mrs. Van Susteren asked why the Democrats didn’t win. Here, Mrs. Clinton did her 180: “Well, Greta, I think that we did a great job.” So, which is it?
In addition to some help with rhetorical consistency, the Wellesley and Yale Law School graduate could use a course in contemporary American history. “[W]e have had a president who has been the first in our history to take us to war and cut taxes at the same time,” she asserted, forgetting, we suppose, President Lyndon Baines Johnson. The 1964 tax cut, which President Johnson signed on Feb. 26, reduced income-tax rates in two phases. The range of individual tax rates was reduced from the existing 20 to 91 percent to 16 to 77 percent in 1964 and to 14 to 70 percent in 1965. Corporate tax rates were also reduced over the same two-year period from the existing 52 percent to 48 percent.
Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964, essentially granting the president a blank check in Southeast Asia. Then, as the second phase of the tax cut was implemented, Mr. Johnson increased armed forces in South Vietnam from 23,300 troops at the end of 1964 to 184,300 by the end of 1965. Armed forces killed in action increased by nearly 10-fold in 1965, rising from 147 in 1964 to 1,369 a year later. So, President Johnson took the nation to war in 1965 even as corporate and individual income-tax rates were declining. Immediately after income-tax cuts had been implemented, combat deaths began to soar, reaching more than 5,000 in 1966, nearly 10,000 in 1967 and nearly 15,000 in 1968. (More than 90,000 members of the military were wounded in 1968.) We review the escalating casualty list because it relates to a second area of presidential misinformation cited by the Democratic front-runner and aspiring commander in chief. “We’ve never unseated an incumbent president during wartime. That’s just a given,” Mrs. Clinton asserted, explaining why John Kerry did not win.
Interestingly, Mrs. Clinton used the pronoun “we.” It is interesting because it is very doubtful that Hillary Rodham would have made the same remark — “We’ve never unseated an incumbent president during wartime” — on March 31, 1968, the day President Johnson announced he would not be seeking re-election. Less than three weeks earlier, in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary, antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy delivered what proved to be a politically fatal blow to the president. As an incumbent president — albeit one running as a write-in candidate — Mr. Johnson just barely defeated Mr. McCarthy; but Mr. McCarthy captured 20 of the state’s 24 convention delegates. With Mr. Johnson sufficiently bloodied, Robert F. Kennedy, Mrs. Clinton’s predecessor as the carpetbagging junior Democratic senator from New York, joined the presidential race on March 16.
As it happens, Hillary Rodham herself traveled the short distance from Wellesley, Mass. to neighboring New Hampshire to campaign for Mr. McCarthy during the winter of 1968. Effectively debunking her own assertion in the Fox News interview, she personally participated in what proved to be a successful effort to “unseat an incumbent president during wartime.”
Mrs. Clinton also complained in the interview about “huge tax cuts” that are “shifting the tax burden rather dramatically away from those of us who are most able to bear it to the middle class.” Again, she got it wrong.
Among other things, the 2001 and 2003 individual income-tax cuts doubled the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000; added the 10 percent tax bracket (chopping the income taxes of married couples and singles by $700 and $350, respectively); virtually eliminated the marriage penalty, saving tens of millions of married couples an average of about $1,500 per year; and reduced the quintessentially middle-class marginal income-tax bracket from 28 percent to 25 percent. Contrary to Mrs. Clinton’s assertion, according to an August analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in 2004 the share of individual income-tax liabilities of the second quintile (representing 21 to 40 percent of the household-income stream) will fall from 1.5 percent under 2000 tax laws to -0.1 percent under current tax laws. The comparable income-tax share of the third quintile (41 percent to 60 percent of the household-income stream) will fall from 6.4 percent to 5.4 percent. For the fourth quintile (61 percent to 80 percent), the income-tax share will fall from 15.3 percent to 15.2 percent. On the other hand, the income-tax share of the top 10 percent of the income stream will increase from 63.5 percent under 2000 tax law to 66.7 percent in 2004, following the 2001 and 2003 income-tax cuts.
That makes Sen. Hillary Clinton 0 for 3 on the accuracy scoreboard. Whatever it is, baseball, felony convictions or political rhetoric, Madame Senator, three strikes and you’re out.