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Do Republicans Wear the Pants and Democrats Drop them?
By Jim Kempton
The Republican Party has the long-standing reputation of being the fiscally tough, low tax, financially responsible party of reduced government. When it comes to spending, so the perception goes, the GOP wears the pants.
More than a few of the 20th century Democrats have had a reputation for being philanderers while in the Oval Office, chasing skirts instead of managing pocketbooks. How accurate are the perceptions? The historical record (darn those pesky facts) shows this conventional wisdom is at least half right.
Franklin Roosevelt had a longstanding love affair with a woman during his years as President, and several more were rumored. He also saw the U.S. triumph over the totalitarian forces of world domination and led America out of the Great Depression. A beloved figure, Roosevelt’s Social Security Act, GI Bill of Rights and faith in the common man helped the vast majority of ordinary Americans raise their living standard to never-before-seen levels.
John Kennedy had affairs outside his marriage, including one rumored with Marilyn Monroe. He also stared down the Soviet empire, preventing them from putting nuclear missiles in Cuba, cut taxes and revived the economy to robust expansion.
Richard Nixon explicitly ordered thugs to break into the opposition party’s headquarters and steal their campaign plans to cheat on elections. He had FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover make an “enemies list” of his opponents and illegally wiretap them. His administration created a serious recession, but there was certainly no cheating from this Quaker on his wife, Pat.
Ronald Reagan raised taxes seven times, negotiated with the Soviets and increased taxes on the poor. His administration presided over an enormous growth in government expenditures, a severe recession and led to record deficits that continued to rise astronomically. Although previously divorced, he was true blue to his wife, Nancy.
Bill Clinton used the oval office to carry on sex with one of his interns. He also significantly reduced the size of government for the first time in the 20th century, while reforming welfare and presiding over the largest and longest economic expansion in U.S. history. During Clinton’s eight years in office, the Reagan/Bush deficit was erased and a $400 billion dollar surplus was amassed.
George W. Bush’s administration took a $400 billion dollar surplus and, while nearly doubling the size of the government, returned to record deficit levels of nearly $400 billion again. That’s without adding the unbudgeted Iraq war expenditures expected to reach over a $1 trillion. He is not given credit for his courageous stand on immigration but W‘s marriage to lovely Laura was solid and strong.
So let the record show: Democrats indisputably have a hard time keeping their pants on. But when it comes to fiscal responsibility, building a strong economy and containing deficits, they wear the pants well, and seem to keep their nations wallet at least safe as the Republicans.
Although he enjoys American battlefield heroes far more than the politicians, Jim Kempton is student of American political history. As frustrating as they are, he will none-the less put any American Presidents up against the rest of the world’s leaders anytime.
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