Most people thought it was just a clever joke when The Onion greeted the inauguration of George W. Bush with the headline “Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over.” It was, unfortunately, perfectly prescient. Although Bill Clinton left office amid complaints that he had failed to live up to expectations, his successor burnished Clinton's reputation to a high and resilient shine. When graded on the curve, Bill looks damned good.
Clinton haters are left grasping for straws when they try to pin all the ills of the world on the 42nd president. After eight years of the 43rd, you'd think those matters would have been resolved. Instead, any problem that existed during the Clinton years pales in comparison with the pratfalls, fumbles, and outright disasters of the Bush years. But never fear. The dedicated Clinton hater will spring to Bush's defense anyway, peering back over the years for the tiniest scrap of evidence to shift blame from 43 to 42.
Dad didn't like it when I gently mocked his I-told-you-so message about Newsweek's silly “socialist” cover. Although my father is not the biggest Bush fan in the world, he took offense when I said, “The housing market and the nation's banking system were just the most recent disasters under his administration. [Bush] must be proud of the smoking ruin he left behind for others to clean up.” Dad thought he had me now. He issued a weary wiser-than-thou rebuttal to his ignorant young left-wing son who, unlike himself, evidently did not experience the horrors of that ancient era known as the nineties:
I wish it were that simple. I remember Janet Reno threaten to sue any loan company if they did not loan money to anyone just because they were poor or minority. so the banks had to loan. That was a liberal policy and it kept growing until it burst. you can not blame that on W. tho he acted more like a liberal than a conservative.Oh, yes, Bush's failures are due to his liberal policies. Right. And then there's Janet Reno. She insisted that banks lend money to anyone. I have heard legends of her reign of terror and dimly recall news accounts of her exploits back when I was a downy-cheeked lad in my forties.
Geez, Dad. Give a grown-up son a little credit, why don't you? To the keyboard!
Nonsense, Dad. You're remembering something that didn't happen. The Clinton administration opposed the discriminatory practice of redlining, which automatically denied you a loan if you lived in certain areas. Automatically! Banks wouldn't even bother to look at your application if you came from a Zip code they didn't like. The U.S. Department of Justice under attorney general Janet Reno went after banks that used redlining. Nothing in the legal settlements between the DOJ and various banks required anyone to issue loans to unqualified applicants. Instead the settlements stopped the banks from issuing automatic denials. Individuals had to be permitted to apply, no matter where they lived. They were still, however, subject to nonarbitrary lending qualifications.How sharper than a serpent's tooth is the e-mail of an informed child.
Did some banks issue loans to people who couldn't afford them? Definitely. We know they did. But it's not because the feds made them do it. It's because the banking institutions got greedy and figured the housing bubble would continue to expand forever and they could write more paper indefinitely.
Ask your grandson if you don't believe me. He saw first-hand how people in his office were giving loans to unqualified applicants because they thought they could get away with it (and simply offer a refi when the loans became untenable). And under the Bush administration the federal regulators didn't raise a finger to stop them.
Go ahead and blame Janet Reno, if you like, but I know enough about what really happened to not fall for it.