Is it time to take out the political pliers and pry off the clenched grip that Baby Boomers have had on the American presidency for almost a quarter century?
Marco Rubio seems to be getting closer to saying just that.
The 44-year-old senator’s campaign last week posted a web video titled “This Election Is A Generational Choice,” highlighting a comment Hillary Clinton made at the second Democratic presidential debate. “I come from the ‘60s, a long time ago,” she said in answering a question about student protests at the University of Missouri. “There was a lot of activism on campus — civil rights activism, antiwar activism, women’s rights activism — and I do appreciate the way young people are standing up and speaking out.”
Rubio’s video used just the first line of that response before cutting to Rubio saying, “This election better be about the future, not the past.”
It’s a theme Rubio has struck since he launched his campaign in April. Rubio flicked at the generational issue again at the Republican debate on Nov. 10 in response to a question from Fox Business moderator Maria Bartiromo about Hillary Clinton’s extensive resume: “This next election is actually a generational choice. A choice about what kind of nation we will be in the 21st century.”
And he repeated the line at this month’s Florida Sunshine Summit, a convention of Republicans from the state Rubio represents in the Senate, when it seemed to be aimed more at onetime mentor and now ferocious foe former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Rubio hasn’t yet said: “Boomers bad, young guys good,” but give it time. The horror in Paris hands him and others an opportune moment to ask: Is America (and the world) better off after three two-term baby boomer administrations?
It would be hard to answer yes, and even harder to make the case that what America really needs now is another Clinton or Bush dragging all their baggage and failed advisors into the White House to cope with a terrorist crisis that has been badly handled for decades.
When Rubio does go the full throw-the-boomers-out route, there will be no shortage of candidates from the postwar generation to push under the bus to the assisted-living home.
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump will both be 69 when a new president is sworn in on January 20, 2017. Ben Carson will be 65; John Kasich 64; Jeb Bush 63; Carly Fiorina 62; Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Martin O’Malley 54.
Baby boomers all.
By the time of the next inauguration, boomers will have occupied the Oval Office for 24 years. And you’ve got to ask yourself, has it really gone that well?
Sure, Bill Clinton presided over an economic expansion and a lowering of the national debt. But he and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan (first appointed by Ronald Reagan) let a speculative bubble develop that became the dotcom bust and devastated the finances of millions of everyday Americans who had believed in and invested in the New Economy.
On Clinton’s watch (though with bipartisan backing), the Glass-Steagall Act was dismantled, which many believe was a factor in bringing on the financial crisis of 2008 and helping to create too-big-to-fail banks.
Clinton had a mixed record on keeping the country safe. But his reaction to the bombing of the World Trade Center wasn’t strong enough to prevent terrorists from coming back in 2001 to finish the job started in 1993.
Even Clinton concedes he helped expand Incarceration Nation by signing a 1994 crime bill that led to more Americans, many convicted of nonviolent crimes, being imprisoned. The consequences of holding 2.2 million people, a disproportionate number of them African-American men, behind bars can be seen in the raw racial divide and economic burden of incarceration that the country is now struggling to address.
Yet all the Clinton scandals, culminating with the sordid Lewinsky Affair, couldn’t come close to staining the presidency as much as the blood on the hands of the next boomer, George W. Bush.
While his boots were up on the desk in the Oval Office, 9/11 happened despite warnings by chief counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke and others that an attack was imminent. In the aftermath, America was showered with global good will and support, but Bush managed to squander it all with the disastrous and unwarranted invasion of Iraq, costing thousands of lives and igniting new fires in the Islamic world that have now burned Paris.
The national debt was $5.768 trillion when Bush became president. He almost doubled it, to $10.626 trillion, during his two terms in office, according to Jeffrey H. Anderson of The Weekly Standard and the Hudson Institute.
That massive debt and a housing bubble that was allowed to inflate and burst helped bring on the worst recession in 80 years. When Bush left office at the end of 2008, the country was mired in a grinding war and like much of the rest of the world was devastated by the financial crisis.
Part of the mess Bush left behind has been cleaned up by Barack Obama: The national unemployment rate, which climbed as high as 10 percent in his first year in office because of the financial crisis, is down to 5 percent. The U.S. auto industry was saved, and the stock market and economy have snapped back.
But under Obama, the national debt has almost doubled again: It stood at $18.15 trillion as of Oct. 31. In addition, he has badly bungled withdrawal from the war in Iraq and the crisis in Syria, leading to the rise of ISIS.
The country and capital Obama was supposed to unite are more divided than ever, and his signature accomplishment, Obamacare, remains the subject of fierce partisan debate. Even facts surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden, an event that led to much chest thumping by the administration, have been called into question.
If fresh, non-boomer blood and thinking would reinvigorate the country and make it safe, the two kids on the block are Rubio, who would be 45 on Inauguration Day, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who would be 46.
Fresh blood and revolutionary ideas don’t necessarily mean young blood, though. Bernie Sanders, who was born on Sept. 8, 1941, when the Siege of Leningrad began, would be 75 when he stepped up to take the oath of office.
That’s old, but at least we wouldn’t be looking at four more years of failed boomer leadership.