“Perturbation: a disturbance of motion, course, arrangement, or state of equilibrium; especially: a disturbance of the regular and usually elliptical course of motion of a celestial body that is produced by some force additional to that which causes its regular motion” Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Today, November 1, 2016, President Obama’s approval rating is 54% per Gallup. Without a doubt, President Obama is a very popular president. In comparison, George H.W. Bush basked in the glow of the successful prosecution of the Persian Gulf War with an 89% approval rating at the beginning of the 1992 election season. At the time Bush was so popular that Democratic top tier contenders like Mario Cuomo waved off the opportunity to run and, in the vacuum, Democrats Jerry Brown (California Governor and reformer), Bill Clinton (Arkansas governor and centrist or New Democrat), Tom Harkin (Iowa Senator and populist), Bob Kerrey (Nebraska Senator with a business and military background), Paul Tsongas (Former Massachusetts Senator and fiscal conservative) , and L. Douglas Wilder (Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, African-American) signed up for the Democratic primary battles.
Perturbation in the Democrat-Republican binary star system appeared when Ross Perot, a cheeky, independent, Texas billionaire who eventually drew about 19% of the popular vote entered the race. If anyone had cared to listen, Ross Perot was playing to a large portion of America’s working class population afraid that the trade impact of NAFTA, the North America free Trade Agreement, would result in loss of American manufacturing jobs and the secondary fear of increasing national debt. Although on the ballot in all 50 states, Perot eventually sunk himself by withdrawing, then re-entering the race.
The Democrat-Republican binary star system was further vexed by an asteroid belt of candidates from the: Libertarian Party, New Alliance Party, Natural Law Party, U.S. Taxpayers’ Party, Populist Party, Lyndon LaRouche’s candidacy, Socialist Workers’ Party, Ron Daniels candidacy, the Workers League, the National Rainbow Coalition and a host of twelve others with party names like “Looking Back” and “Apathy” who had ballot access in one or more states.
Upon completing the primaries, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and the unlikely Texan, Ross Perot, pushed the election race’s gate. The anticipated horse race run on a nice and tidy closed oval track quickly morphed into a pack of hounds bawling across a field
after some poor raccoon. The race appeared to be George H.W. Bush’s to lose. Well, maybe not. Perot came out of the starting gate unyielding and, almost immediately, Bill Clinton past returned to haunt him. The economy continued to decline and became a weight on Bush’s back. Bush faltered. Perot, who lead the polls, became antsy and dropped out of the race. Everything changed when on July 16, 1992, Clinton delivered the acceptance speech of his life; forever changing the race’s dynamics. He announced the end of the Cold War and introduced a “new covenant” to America:
“…And so I say again: Where there is no vision, America will perish. What is the vision of our New Covenant?
An America with millions of new jobs and dozens of new industries, moving confidently toward the 21st century.
An America that says to entrepreneurs and businesspeople: We will give you more incentives and more opportunity than ever before to develop the skills of your workers and to create American jobs and American wealth in the new global economy. But you must do your part, you must be responsible. American companies must act like American companies again, exporting products, not jobs.
That’s what this New Covenant is all about.
An America in which the doors of colleges are thrown open once again to the sons and daughters of stenographers and steelworkers. We will say: Everybody can borrow money to go to college. But you must do your part. You must pay it back, from your paychecks or, better yet, by going back home and serving your communities…” Bill Clinton
Clinton received the biggest bounce in history from an acceptance speech and dubbed himself a ‘new Democrat.’ Clinton’s number surged from 25%, well behind Perot and Bush, to 55% while Bush’s number eroded to 31%. Clinton grabbed his running mate, Gore, and the Demo-hounds were in the hunt. Bush and his running mate, Quayle, tried to focus on foreign policy and Kuwait’s Desert Storm and hounded Clinton on his lack of foreign policy experience, his lack of military service, and his tawdry personal life. Lackluster at best the Bush campaign was boring and old, the Republi-hounds were almost out of the hunt until Perot re-joined the hunt. The Republicans breathed a sigh of relief and joined the race with new vigor despite Clinton dogging him with the “read my lips, no new taxes” gaffe from his first election.
The race was exciting and tight to the end. Four days before the election, the heavens opened and a great light bathed the Bill Clinton candidacy. Caspar Weinberger, the Defense Secretary during the Reagan/Bush administration, was indicted in the Iran-Contra Affair. The Iran-Contra Affair, a covert operation, began in 1985, during the Reagan administration. Complex back-door deals supplied weapons to Iran — a sworn enemy — in the hope of securing the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Hezbollah terrorists loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s leader. Per the Washington Times:
“…A special prosecutor raised new charges against Caspar W. Weinberger, who served as Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan, about the Iran-Contra probe. The charges appeared to contradict statements made by George H.W. Bush — who was running for re-election at the time — prompting Mr. Clinton to claim he was running against a “culture of corruption.”
“Newly disclosed notes on a White House meeting in January 1986 contradict President Bush’s assertion that he was unaware at the time that arms sold to Iran were part of an arms-for-hostages deal,” The New York Times reported Oct. 31, 1992.
“Mr. Weinberger’s notes say that at a meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 7, 1986, Mr. Bush, who was then Vice President, favored an effort to secure the release of American hostages by selling American antitank missiles to Iran. Iran was believed to have influence over groups holding the hostages in Lebanon. ‘VP Favored’ Deal,” The Times reported.
Mr. Clinton, at the time, “seized” on the revelations…”
That was that. The race was over, and Bill Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States. It is interesting to note that shortly after the election, the Caspar Weinberger indictment was overturned.
The last election of the Cold War was wild and crazy. Even then the American people were raising their collective hands for attention to their desires of maintenance of good jobs within the United States and controlling the National Debt. America believed Bill Clinton heard their plea and would answer the call for leadership to their benefit.
The economy improved, thank goodness. The legacy of the Clinton presidency also encompasses NAFTA and other trade deals shoved down working American’s throats resulting in almost immediate loss of skilled jobs. The unchecked rise of extreme Islam and asymmetric warfare. Abandoned functioning drug programs resulting in jails filled to bursting, heralding the terrible idea of private prisons. A distracted President Clinton who lost the nuclear codes more than once exposing the nation’s soft underbelly. The fateful rise of government sponsored Hillary-Care, the precursor of Obamacare. Eight years of non-stop scandals including turning the White House into a luxury Bed and Breakfast. All but the middle class and minorities enjoyed a good time.
President Clinton’s acceptance speech was, however, wonderfully rich in potential. Once again there is a perturbation of the Democrat-Republican binary star system. Is there any chance we might learn from history?
 The Iran-Contra Affair is an incredibly complex covert operation. For more information please click on the link for George Washington University National Security Archives.