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Clinton Inc.

29 Sep
A shorter version of this was published today at AMI Newswire.

A documentary opening Friday about how Bill and Hillary Clinton’s marriage has powered their political dynasty is the latest entree in a growing menu of politically charged, campaign-season films.

Clinton Inc. scheduled to open in Chicago on Friday and around the country by mid-October, casts the Clinton marriage as an unusual arrangement that allows the couple to support each other’s separate political ambitions, and find ways to use their positions to enrich themselves along the way.

Loosely based the 2014 book Clinton Inc. by Daniel Halper, a former Weekly Standard editor who now runs the Washington bureau of the New York Post, the film draws on interviews and archival footage to explore the psychological roots of Bill Clinton’s philandering. It argues that Hillary made herself and their marriage essential to his political career by enabling and covering up his affairs (a territory also explored in the Roger Stone book The Clintons’ War on Women).

The documentary is part of a growing genre of influential and successful films that criticize contemporary politics and politicians. Peter Schweitzer, the author of a book on the Clinton Foundation, “Clinton Cash,” has produced a movie version of his book which anyone can be watched for free on the website of the conservative news outlet, Breitbart. 

A chronicle, by means of interviews and archival footage, of the rise of the Clintons as a nascent political dynasty, Clinton Inc. builds a case that the Clinton marriage is basically an unusual arrangement where Bill and Hillary support each other’s separate political ambitions, and find ways to use their positions to enrich themselves along the way.  Produced on a budget of $1.5 million, the movie is heavy on exploring the psychological roots of Bill Clinton’s philandering, and arguing that Hillary made herself and their marriage essential to his political career by enabling and covering up his affairs (a territory also explored in the Roger Stone book The Clintons’ War on Women)  The film’s producer has released four different trailers on YouTube.

It’s not the first time an explosive documentary has been aimed at the Clintons during an election.  Many have forgotten that the famous Supreme Court case Citizens United, decided in 2010, was also about a movie, another movie about the Clintons, Hillary: The Movie (2008).  A political group, Citizens United, planned to air the movie on TV during the primaries, and Democrats went to court to prevent that, claiming it was advertising that should be regulated under campaign finance law.  The Supreme Court struck down those aspects of laws regulating campaign finance, arguing that they violated the First Amendment guarantees of free speech.

Doug Sain, the producer of Clinton Inc. is no stranger to making political documentaries.  Sain was the executive producer of the 2016: Obama’s America, which was the #1 documentary of 2012 (earning $33.5 million at the box office), the #2 political documentary of all time, and #5 documentary of all time for highest domestic gross box office.  (It also came in second for the most DVDs sold for all movies during its home entertainment release week).

On a less elevated level than the Citizens United case, that Sain doc also ended up in court,  with Sain suing his co-producer of 2016, conservative writer and activist Dinesh D’Souza.  Sain claimed that his ownership should be increased from 25% to 50% and his production company should be paid additional fees for finding investors and other services.

The courts rejected Sain’s case, but he has a chance for a rematch of sorts.  D’Souza went on to produce his own movie about one of the Clintons, Hillary’s America, released this past July.  Starring Jonah Goldberg, an editor at National Review (a conservative rival to the Weekly Standard) and the son of Lucianne Goldberg, the PR pro who helped midwife the outing of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.  Hillary’s America netted only $5 million at the box office.  The tightening in the polls might create extra interest in Sain’s later release. 

This election year is seeing a lot of free speech from filmmakers.  Besides Sain’s and D’Souza’s Hillary movies, Peter Schweitzer, the author of a book on the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Cash, also produced a movie version of his book which anyone can watch for free on the web at another conservative news outlet, Breitbart.  (In an echo of the 2008 Citizens United film release, a Clinton campaign spokesperson called in August for shutting down websites like Breitbart.)

A cable network could actually do a pre-election day marathon of campaign 2016 films.  Donald Trump has also become fodder for filmmakers. Johnny Depp’s online mockumentary Donald Trump: The Art of the Deal, released in February, has had over 5 million visits on the Funny or Die, an entertainment industry community produced website which has many takedowns of the Trump candidacy.   A relatively unknown film, One Nation Under Trump, was produced for $25,000 and released last month to bad reviews from the very few who saw it.  And movies about Donald Trump as a public figure, not as a presidential candidate, have been produced every few years, going back to 1991’s Trump: What’s the Deal?

Not to be left out, a movie about Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s unprecedented independent challenge, Rigged 2016, with a $1 million budget provided by founder Patrick Byrne, a Johnson supporter, also comes out in October.   And finally a movie somewhat aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement, IncarceratingUS, is available on line and is being shown at law schools, universities, and non-profit venues.  (Hillary Clinton has a cameo she probably didn’t want, clapping for President Bill Clinton when he enacted mandatory minimum sentences for all crimes including non-violent drug offenses.)

Voters this year are despairing their electoral choices.  Someone could organize a film festival for them for entertainment.  Maybe throw in The Manchurian Candidate and Wag The Dog for levity.

Clintons in the Crossfire

15 Oct
Published yesterday at The Daily Caller.

Hillary Clinton is finally facing the sniper fire she “imagined” she caught in Bosnia as First Lady.   Roger Stone’s The Clintons’ War on Women is published today, on the day Hillary finally has to debate the other Democratic candidates – an ordeal the Democratic National Committee and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz have tried to spare her, by cutting down the number of debates from the 28 held in the 2008 primaries to only 6 this time around.

The book recounts the stories of about two dozen women, beginning with one of Bill Clinton’s college classmates, who have stepped forward to claim that President Clinton sexually assaulted them.  Some of the women received settlements of hundreds of thousands of dollars, some of whom claim to have had their pets killed, their jobs terminated, their businesses audited by the IRS, their tires slashed, or to have received odd phone calls or queries from strange bypassing joggers about the health of their children.

That’s just the first 100 pages of the book, which with footnotes and bibliography runs to almost 500 pages.   That only brings us up through Bill Clinton being elected President, and doesn’t even get us to Monica Lewinsky.  Nor to Stone’s narrative on Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, who he argues are also at war against women.  Nor to tales of drug sales, money laundering, and other chicanery.

But it does raise a question:  what kind of sociopath would actually have a child by a serial rapist?  Or even by someone who seems to be routinely accused of sexual assaults?

According to Stone, Hillary Clinton’s sociopathy isn’t that deep.  Chelsea Clinton is not Bill Clinton’s child, and has had extensive plastic surgery, both to make herself more attractive (were any First Children other than the Fords ever good looking?) and to make herself less the spitting image of her real dad, Web Hubbell.  Stone’s co-author Robert Morrow  asked Chelsea Clinton about this at a book signing this week.  (Chelsea calmly answered him and is now being praised even by Hillary critics like Sean Hannity.)

But Hillary is implicated in the huge apparatus to manage and clean up Bill’s “messes,” something alluded to in the book and movie Primary Colors.  Beginning with Arkansas state troopers who hushed up Clinton’s crimes when he was Governor, reported by then conservative journalist (and now on the Soros payroll and a Hillary flak) David Brock.  (It’s funny to watch “progressives” like the New York Times Frank Rich argue that powerful people don’t use the police to persecute little people who might threaten their rise to power, in a year when the same “progressives” lionize the BlackLivesMatter movement that claims police routinely abuse the powerless.)  Bill Clinton’s sexual appetites seem to require a staff to manage:  volunteers, interns, and employees to be the objects of his lust; state troopers, White House lawyers, and PR flaks to pay off, intimidate, and smear them if they go public; and post-Presidency, billionaire friend Jeffery Epstein to provide young girls on private jets to secluded  estates in the Virgin Islands.

(Coincidentally, about 14 years ago I went to a fundraiser for gay and lesbian Democrats thrown at the Georgetown home of a Clinton appointee.  Bill Clinton had crowed about how he appointed more LGBT people than any president ever had, including Bruce Lehman, the first openly gay Assistant Secretary confirmed by the Senate, James Hormel, the first gay Ambassador, and Bob Hattoy, the first AIDS victim to speak at a Democratic National Convention.    At the time I traveled socially with the LGBT Democratic crowd, selling some Clinton political appointees and staffers houses, and becoming close friends with mainly several of the lesbian LGBT Democrats.

The day after this particular fundraiser, an oddly affect-less bespectacled woman, the executive assistant to the Clinton appointee hosting the festivities, who had been at the event, called to ask if I would be available to go out with Mr. Appointee.  I replied that if he managed to call me himself I would give him an answer.  That may have been too uppity a reply, as I never got that call.  I now wonder if not being able to manage your own social life without a staff was part of the Clinton regime’s culture.  As we know from her emails, Hillary can’t drive, is unable to figure out a fax machine or an Ipad, and doesn’t know how to read TV guide.  So perhaps like Hillary, Bill really needed assistance to manage his affairs.)

It’s a fascinating book about an unseemly topic.  Stone (and co-author Robert Morrow) mention Peter Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash as a companion volume; Stone says he is covering the non-financial crimes of the Clintons.  Some fans of Schweizer’s book will no doubt think Stone is muddying the water with the Clinton’s un-drycleaned laundry.  But Stone details how many courtiers cover up for the Clintons just to advance their careers, and how many major networks and national journalists have shelved or delayed stories about the women Bill is alleged to have assaulted and Hillary is alleged to have threatened, until after various elections or impeachment trials had been decided.  So perhaps it’s really more a companion volume to Marc Leibovich’s fantastic book on D.C.’s political class,  This Town.  Maybe This Town:  After Dark.

Clinton – Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!

5 Dec
Bill Clinton caught doodling penises while in classified briefings.  This raises the question of what was doodled on the documents Sandy Berger stole and stuffed down his pants.  Selfies?

Government Failure and 9/11

11 Sep
(The author is a personal friend.)

Pipeline News ^ | 10 July 2004 | Janet McElligott 

Washington, DC – PipeLineNews – Bill Clinton’s My Life memoir is being hawked as part confessional and part policy tome. I had hoped that, at least as far as the historical reflections on terrorism and his eight-year presidency was concerned, it would at least be partly factual.

Instead, “My Life,” which The New York Times described as, “sloppy, self- indulgent and eye-crossingly dull” is at odds with the record as it is developing. The book contradicts the findings of the Sept. 11 commission, Clinton’s own prior admissions on a myriad of issues and, using my own knowledge of his administration’s dealings – or lack thereof – with the Sudanese regarding Osama bin-Laden case.

I know the last point to be true because I witnessed it firsthand.

In 1996, I became what Vanity Fair magazine called in January 2002, the bin-Laden case’s “accidental emissary,” because I ended up in the position of shuttling between the FBI and representatives of the Sudanese intelligence service.

This was not a role I sought; rather, it all came about because I was in Sudan trying to arrange to bring its ancient treasures from the Meroe pyramids – known as the Gold of Queen Amanishakhete – to the United States for a public tour.

Queen Amanishakhete lived during Sudan’s Kush period, in 4th century B.C. At the end of the 19th century, European explorers uncovered artifacts to what may be the world’s most powerful matriarchal dynasties, which is what drew me to Sudan initially.

What kept me coming back was trying to stop Osama bin-Laden.

Gutbi el Mahdi, the chief of Sudanese intelligence, had placed bin-Laden and all his guests under close surveillance when they began developing close ties with known Egyptian terrorist groups.
Gutbi personally read every fax, phone transcript and daily report on activities where bin-Laden was concerned.

When the Clinton administration demanded that Sudan expel bin-Laden – which took place on May 18, 1996 – the Sudanese knew that a refusal to cooperate could have dire consequences. The demand for expulsion had first been raised in early 1996 by U.S. Ambassador Tim Carney, a respected career diplomat.

On Carney’s last night in Sudan – Feb. 6, 1996 – he was invited to the home of Foreign Minister Ali Osman M. Taha, who asked Carney what could be done to dissuade the United States from its hard-line view on Sudan.

It was at this dinner that a substantive discussion between the two countries on terrorism occurred. This resulted in the Sudanese government beginning, for the first time, to consider handing Osama bin-Laden over to the U.S. authorities.

Seeking to pursue this option, the Sudanese sent their State Minister of Defense, Maj. Gen. Elfatih Erwa, to Washington in March 1996.

Erwa believed he could reason with the administration. At a hotel in Rosslyn, Va., just across the river from Georgetown, he participated in a meeting with David Shinn, chief of the State Department’s Africa Desk, Carney and other U.S. government officials.

Unfortunately, they were not – as Erwa hoped – willing to listen. Instead, they handed him a memorandum dated March 8, 1996, that outlined a list of U.S. demands of the Sudanese.

Item No. 2 on the list was a demand for information about bin-Laden.

Intead, Erwa offered to hand bin-Laden to the United States on a silver platter – just as the Sudanese had done when the gave Carlos the Jackal to the French – but the representatives of the United States told Erwa the United States only wanted bin-Laden out of Sudan.

Clinton himself confirmed this on Feb. 15, 2002, while speaking in Woodbury, N.Y. Asked about terrorism, Clinton said: “We tried to be quite aggressive with (terrorists). We got — uh — well, Mr. bin-Laden used to live in Sudan. He was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991, and then he went to Sudan. And we’d been hearing that the Sudanese wanted America to start dealing with them again.

“They released him. At the time, 1996, he had committed no crime against America so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him, though we knew he wanted to commit crimes against America. So I pleaded with the Saudis to take him, ’cause they could have. But they thought it was a hot potato and they didn’t and that’s how he wound up in Afghanistan.”

After the United States bombed Sudan’s only pharmaceutical plant, El Shifa, in August of 1998 in response to the leveling of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by al-Qaida, I flew to Khartoum with Dr. Bob Arnott, then the chief medical correspondent for NBC.

We landed in Khartoum with a German cameraman, an Egyptian soundman and plenty of questions for the Sudanese about Clinton’s accusations that El Shifa was a chemical weapons facility with connections to bin-Laden.

We found that the United States had fired six cruise missiles at the El Shifra facility. One hit the administration building, one the loading dock, one the bottling plant, one the storeroom, one the hallway and one was a dud.

The plant was still burning when we arrived. Surveying the damage, Sudanese Interior Minister Abdul Rahim M. Hussein said to us: “It is amazing what America can do. I wish we could do this, we might be able to end our civil war, but we can’t fight this. Mr. Clinton could kill every Sudanese and we could do nothing to stop him.”

Days before the two U.S. embassies in Africa were destroyed, two men deplaned from Kenya Air Flight 322, traveling between Nairobi and Cairo, when it landed in Khartoum. Gutbi had the two men watched because they used the name of bin-Laden’s former tannery manager as the reference on their visa applications.

Gutbi had them followed and, when they attempted to rent an apartment overlooking the empty U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, had them arrested.

During their interrogations, the Sudanese learned the men were Afghan Arabs traveling on illegal Pakistani passports who had just come from the Hilltop Hotel in Kenya, where the operatives who attacked the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi had stayed. The men were carrying lots of cash and their passports were full of stamps indicating they had been in and out of the world’s major banking centers.

All the pieces fell into place, Gutbi told me later, after the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were demolished. He called me and said, “Tell your people we have something for them but they have to go to Khartoum to get it.”

By “your people,” he meant only one thing, the FBI.

I contacted an agent who, coincidentally enough, had been selected for the team being sent to Nairobi to investigate the embassy bombings. He said he would “run it up the flagpole.” He wanted more details, specifically what I thought the message really meant. I could only tell him that the head of Sudanese intelligence didn’t call me everyday. It had to be something “big,” because Gutbi had risked a phone call.

In spite of the rather cryptic invitation, the FBI was eager to go to Khartoum, my agent contact said, because its objective was to follow every lead and bring the terrorists to justice.

The effort ground to a halt, however, when – unbelievably – the U.S. State Department refused to permit the FBI to travel to Khartoum.

It was not one of the United States’ brighter moments.

FBI Director Louis Freeh was on the outs with the Clinton White House because he had pushed ahead with an investigation of campaign fundraising. No one in the administration was going to go out on a limb for the FBI.

Shortly after the request was denied, Secretary of State Madeline Albright declared, “We do not deal with terrorists,” publicly referring the Sudanese who were, at that time, on the department’s list of state terror sponsors.

Gutbi held onto the two al-Qaida members in his custody while others in the government would not let him engage in an attempt to hand them over to the United States directly. They remained in Sudanese custody until Sept. 4, 1998, when they were handed over to the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, at the Karachi airport.

Gutbi later found them – this time well out of reach – in bin-Laden’s Afghan terrorist training camps.
The next time he and I met it was after I finished work in Kazakhstan. He told me about the embassy bombing suspects, showed me the files compiled during their interrogations, and let me examine a virtual treasure trove of other information in the hands of the Sudanese pertaining to al-Qaida.

“I can give these to the FBI,” Gutbi told me referring to the information spread out before me, “if only they will talk to me.”

“We don’t trust the CIA. They are listening to liars and fabricators, but the FBI is based on law. We can deal with them. Go back to Washington and help us. I will give you something to convince them,” he said.

As I left for the airport that night, an armed courier arrived at my hotel with an envelope. Inside was a six-page, handwritten note to FBI Director Louis Freeh detailing the movements of the two suspects they’d caught coming in from Nairobi. He told Freeh their names, movements, and much more — information that could possibly get me killed if anyone else knew I had it in my possession.

I met with my “people,” as the Sudanese continued to call them, at the FBI. They told me they again wanted to meet with the Sudanese. From January through May of 1999, I shuttled Washington, Khartoum and Cairo, trying to arrange the meeting.

In May – while in Khartoum putting the last pieces in place – I received word from the FBI that the State Department had stopped the meeting. What’s more, the U.S. Department of the Treasury had previously issued a “cease and desist” order with my name on it, commanding that I cease all contact with the Sudanese government.

Additionally, Steven Schwartz, of the State Department’s Sudan Desk, acting – I was told – on orders from above, threatened to have me arrested for “running around the world conducting personal diplomacy.”
That summer I gave up. I’d been run ragged but no one seemed to believe me. Soon afterward Gutbi moved on to a different, more senior position within the Sudanese government, putting an end to the urgency of the whole thing.

I was advised to forget the whole thing and, until Sept. 11, 2001, I tried.

After the planes hit the towers, it all came racing back in one phone call from a staff aide working for the Bush National Security Council. Diligently – in my view – they were digging under every rock they could find for information about al-Qaida. They had reached out to me because, I thought, they wanted help getting the bin-Laden files that had several times been offered to but not accepted by the previous administration.

The aide had no idea what I was talking about when I said, “Finally, someone cares. So, do you want the bin-Laden files?” My name had only surfaced because of the Treasury Department’s attempt to sanction me for dealing with the Sudanese government, not because of what those dealings had been about.
Incredibly, in my view, the information from the Clinton White House about the Sudanese offers of information about al-Qaida had not been passed along to the incoming Bush administration.

I told my story yet again to the Bush aide, who thanked me for my time and input. This time, however, the government acted – and swiftly.

Only minutes later, the phone rang again. This time it was Ambassador Robert Oakley, the head of the counter terrorism office inside the State Department. He introduced himself and said, “I understand you may be able to help us.”

I said I would call the new head of the Sudanese intelligence service, Yahia Hussein Babiker, and attempt to persuade him to call Oakley, since official U.S. protocol prohibited Oakley from reach out to the Sudanese government.

Less than an hour after I hung up with Yahia , my phone rang again. It was Oakley. “I called to thank you,” he told me. “I think we may be on the right track with this.” Almost before I could say anything, my cell phone rang. It was Yahia, calling to tell me that he had done as I had asked.

Oakley laughed and said, “In my 40 years in government I don’t think I’ve met anyone quite like you. I know I’ve never met anyone so efficient.”

If only that were true. It had taken five years for me to get someone, anyone at the higher levels of the U.S. government to take the Sudanese offer of assistance seriously. And I know because, as I said at the beginning, I was there throughout the process. Even today I can’t let go of the images of people trapped in the towers and wonder if I could have done more. Rightly or wrongly I carry with me the thought of “what if.”

Clinton’s book tells a different story, one that I do not recognize. And nowhere close to what I witnessed, firsthand, as a participant in the events as they occurred. I can only conclude that Clinton did not tell the American people the truth about what happened with the Sudanese — he probably didn’t tell the Bush administration the whole truth either. And I sincerely doubt he feels my pain.

(Janet McElligott is president of McElligott Associates, an international consulting company. She served on the staff of three members of the U.S. Senate and on the White House staff in the administration of George H.W. Bush. In 1997, she was a registered foreign agent for the Sudanese government and in 1998 for the government of Kazakhstan. She most recently served as spokeswoman for the Intergovernmental Governmental Agency for Development-sponsored Sudan Peace talks.) 

I did not have sexual relations with that relish!

27 Jul


The politics of junk

24 Jul

Diversity fascism

30 May
Most people don’t realize how pervasive the fascism spawned by anti-discrimination laws like Fair Housing go.  Under Bill Clinton, HUD Secretary Roberta Achtenberg issued a list of words realtors, lenders and others involved in the housing market were censored from saying on penalty of losing their licenses and livelihoods and being fined.  (This is what they spent their time on while causing the housing bubble that led to economic collapse.)  The list of dozens of words included such terms as “multicultural” and “bohemian,” anything that might even come close to describing the demographics of a neighborhood.  It also included any terms related to the senses or physical abilities, since it is illegal to discriminate against the differently abled.  One cannot describe a property for sale or rent in terms of its good views or its short walk to amenities.

And you can’t tell other realtors how to make an appointment with any term that might be construed as discriminatory, say against deaf mute realtors.  Here’s a notice to a realtor about a new listing from the local multiple listing system, produced by a corporation that is also subject to diversity censorship.  The offensive terms are highlighted in bold.  It is illegal to suggest that another realtor “call” you.  One assumes the word “contact” will satisfy them, though if they knew their Latin roots we might worry that that does discriminate against realtors missing digits, limbs, or nervous systems.

** Notice: Please Review Your MLS Listing for Compliance **

Your MLS listing is not in compliance with the MLS Rules and Regulations. Please take a look at this notice and update your listing. If it is not corrected by the grace date indicated, you will be assessed a fine.
The most value that MRIS can offer its subscribers is the accuracy of the data in our database; therefore data integrity is priority number one for us. We want to ensure that the data you are using from the MRIS database – and passing on to your customers – is as accurate and timely as it could possibly be. For this reason we audit listings to ensure compliance with MRIS Rules & Regulations.

Listing Details ML#: DC8093097
Address: 2100 19TH Unit 805
Notification# Notification Details
Grace Date 11:00PM: 06/05/2013
Rules & Regs.#: Article XI, Sect 21.
Violation Name: Inappropriate Direction Info
Description: The Directions field of the above listing contained impermissible information. You will see these words highlighted in red on your notice or the click here for further details link. Please remove the information to avoid fines.
Instructions: Please remove the inappropriate information. You will see these words highlighted in red on your notice or the click here for further details link.
Violation Fields:
Listing Dt: 05/29/2013 12:00:00 AM
Directions: Must call la for appointment before open house

The Myth of the Clinton Surplus

30 Nov
By Craig Steiner

October 31st, 2007


More observations…


The government can have a surplus even if it has trillions in debt, but it cannot have a surplus if that debt increased every year. This article is about surplus/deficit, not the debt. However, it analyzes the debt to prove there wasn’ta surplus under Clinton.

For those that want a more detailed explanation of why a claimed $236 billion surplus resulted in the national debt increasing by $18 billion, please read this follow-up article.

Time and time again, anyone reading the mainstream news or reading articles on the Internet will read the claim that President Clinton not only balanced the budget, but had a surplus. This is then used as an argument to further highlight the fiscal irresponsibility of the federal government under the Bush administration. 

The claim is generally made that Clinton had a surplus of $69 billion in FY1998, $123 billion in FY1999 and $230 billion in FY2000 . In that same link, Clinton claimed that the national debt had been reduced by $360 billion in the last three years, presumably FY1998, FY1999, and FY2000–though, interestingly, $360 billion is notthe sum of the alleged surpluses of the three years in question ($69B + $123B + $230B = $422B, not $360B).

While not defending the increase of the federal debt under President Bush, it’s curious to see Clinton’s record promoted as having generated a surplus. It never happened. There was never a surplus and the facts support that position. In fact, far from a $360 billion reduction in the national debt in FY1998-FY2000, there was anincrease of $281 billion.

Verifying this is as simple as accessing the U.S. Treasury (see note about this link below) website where the national debt is updated daily and a history of the debt since January 1993 can be obtained. Considering the government’s fiscal year ends on the last day of September each year, and considering Clinton’s budget proposal in 1993 took effect in October 1993 and concluded September 1994 (FY1994), here’s the national debt at the end of each year of Clinton Budgets:

National Debt Deficit
FY1993  09/30/1993  $4.411488 trillion  
FY1994  09/30/1994  $4.692749 trillion  $281.26 billion
FY1995  09/29/1995  $4.973982 trillion  $281.23 billion
FY1996  09/30/1996  $5.224810 trillion  $250.83 billion
FY1997  09/30/1997  $5.413146 trillion  $188.34 billion
FY1998  09/30/1998  $5.526193 trillion  $113.05 billion
FY1999  09/30/1999  $5.656270 trillion  $130.08 billion
FY2000  09/29/2000  $5.674178 trillion  $17.91 billion
FY2001  09/28/2001  $5.807463 trillion  $133.29 billion

As can clearly be seen, in no year did the national debt go down, nor did Clinton leave President Bush with a surplus that Bush subsequently turned into a deficit. Yes, the deficit was almost eliminated in FY2000 (ending in September 2000 with a deficit of “only” $17.9 billion), but it never reached zero–let alone a positive surplus number. And Clinton’s last budget proposal for FY2001, which ended in September 2001, generated a $133.29 billion deficit. The growing deficits started in the year of the last Clinton budget, not in the first year of the Bush administration.

Keep in mind that President Bush took office in January 2001 and his first budget took effect October 1, 2001 for the year ending September 30, 2002 (FY2002). So the $133.29 billion deficit in the year ending September 2001 was Clinton’s. Granted, Bush supported a tax refund where taxpayers received checks in 2001. However, the total amount refunded to taxpayers was only $38 billion . So even if we assume that $38 billion of the FY2001 deficit was due to Bush’s tax refunds which were not part of Clinton’s last budget, that still means that Clinton’s last budget produced a deficit of 133.29 – 38 = $95.29 billion.

Clinton clearly did not achieve a surplus and he didn’t leave President Bush with a surplus.

So why do they say he had a surplus?

As is usually the case in claims such as this, it has to do with Washington doublespeak and political smoke and mirrors. 

Understanding what happened requires understanding two concepts of what makes up the national debt. The national debt is made up of public debt and intragovernmental holdings. The public debt is debt held by the public, normally including things such as treasury bills, savings bonds, and other instruments the public can purchase from the government. Intragovernmental holdings, on the other hand, is when the government borrows money from itself–mostly borrowing money from social security.

Looking at the makeup of the national debt and the claimed surpluses for the last 4 Clinton fiscal years, we have the following table:

Total National
FY1997 09/30/1997   $3.789667T $1.623478T $5.413146T
FY1998 09/30/1998 $69.2B $3.733864T  $55.8B $1.792328T  $168.9B $5.526193T  $113B
FY1999 09/30/1999 $122.7B $3.636104T  $97.8B $2.020166T  $227.8B $5.656270T $130.1B
FY2000 09/29/2000 $230.0B $3.405303T  $230.8B $2.268874T  $248.7B $5.674178T  $17.9B
FY2001 09/28/2001   $3.339310T  $66.0B $2.468153T  $199.3B $5.807463T  $133.3B

Notice that while the public debt went down in each of those four years, the intragovernmental holdings went up each year by a far greater amount–and, in turn, the total national debt (which is public debt + intragovernmental holdings) went up. Therein lies the discrepancy.

When it is claimed that Clinton paid down the national debt, that is patently false–as can be seen, the national debt went up every single year. What Clinton did do was pay down the public debt–notice that the claimed surplus is relatively close to the decrease in the public debt for those years. But he paid down the public debt by borrowing far more money in the form of intragovernmental holdings (mostly Social Security).
    Update 3/31/2009: The following quote from an article at CBS confirms my explanation of the Myth of the Clinton Surplus, and the entire article essentially substantiates what I wrote.

    “Over the past 25 years, the government has gotten used to the fact that Social Security is providing free money to make the rest of the deficit look smaller,” said Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. 

Interestingly, this most likely was not even a conscious decision by Clinton. The Social Security Administration is legally required to take all its surpluses and buy U.S. Government securities, and the U.S. Government readily sells those securities–which automatically and immediately becomes intragovernmental holdings. The economy was doing well due to the dot-com bubble and people were earning a lot of money and paying a lot into Social Security. Since Social Security had more money coming in than it had to pay in benefits to retired persons, all that extra money was immediately used to buy U.S. Government securities. The government was still running deficits, but since there was so much money coming from excess Social Security contributions there was no need to borrow more money directly from the public. As such, the public debt went down while intragovernmental holdings continued to skyrocket. 

The net effect was that the national debt most definitely did not get paid down because we did not have a surplus. The government just covered its deficit by borrowing money from Social Security rather than the public.

Consider the following quotes (and accompanying links) that demonstrate how people have known this for years:

In the late 1990s, the government was running what it — and a largely unquestioning Washington press corps — called budget “surpluses.” But the national debt still increased in every single one of those years because the government was borrowing money to create the “surpluses.” 

So the table itself, according to the figures issued yesterday, showed the Federal Government ran a surplus. Absolutely false. This reporter ought to do his work. This crowd never has asked for or kept up with or checked the facts. Eric Planin–all he has to do is not spread rumors or get into the political message. Both Democrats and Republicans are all running this year and next and saying surplus, surplus. Look what we have done. It is false. The actual figures show that from the beginning of the fiscal year until now we had to borrow $127,800,000,000. – Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings, October 28, 1999 Video: CSPAN

An overall “downsizing” of government and a virtual end to the arms race have contributed to the surplus, but the vast majority is coming from excess Social Security taxes being paid by the workforce in an attempt to keep Social Security benefit checks coming once the “baby-boomers” start to retire. 

Of the $142 billion surplus projected by the end of 2000, $137 billion will come from excess Social Security taxes.

When these unified budget numbers are separated into Social Security and non-Social Security components, however, it becomes evident that all of the projected surplus throughout this period is attributable to Social Security. The remainder of the budget will remain in deficit throughout the next decade.

Despite a revenue shortfall, full benefits are expected to be paid out between 2017 and 2041. The system will draw on its trust fund, a collection of special-issue bonds from the government, which borrowed prodigiously from the program’s surplus over the years. But since the country is already running a deficit, the government will have to borrow more money to pay back its debt to Social Security. That’s a little like giving with one hand and taking away with the other. 

The surplus deception is clearly discernible in the statistics of national debt. While the spenders are boasting about surpluses, the national debt is rising year after year. In 1998, the first year of the legerdemain surplus, it rose from $5.413 trillion to $5.526 trillion, due to a deficit of $112.9 billion… The federal government spends Social Security money and other trust funds which constitute obligations to present and future recipients. It consumes them and thereby incurs obligations as binding as those to the owners of savings bonds. Yet, the Treasury treats them as revenue and hails them for generating surpluses. If a private banker were to treat trust fund deposits as income and profit, he would face criminal charges.

Are intragovernmental holdings really debt?

Yes, intragovernmental debt is every bit as real as the public debt. It’s not “a wash” simply because the government owes the money to “itself.”

As I explained in a previous article, Social Security is legally required to use all its surpluses to buy U.S. Government securities. From Social Security’s standpoint, it has a multi-trillion dollar reserve in the form of U.S. Government securities. When the Social Security system starts to falter due to insufficient contributions to pay for all the benefits of retiring baby-boomers, probably around 2017, it will start cashing those securities and will expect the U.S. Government to pay it back, with interest. The problem is, the government doesn’t have the money. The money has already been spent–in part, effectively, to pay down the public debt under Clinton.

    Update 3/31/2009: The Social Security “surplus”–which has been borrowed by the Federal Government every year, including under Clinton to generate the “surplus”–is now expected to evaporate within a year (2009 or 2010) rather than the 2017 mentioned above. The following quote also provides additional evidence that the “surplus” was indeed borrowed from Social Security “for decades.”

    With unemployment rising, the payroll tax revenue that finances Social Security benefits for nearly 51 million retirees and other recipients is falling, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office. As a result, the trust fund’s annual surplus is forecast to all but vanish next year — nearly a decade ahead of schedule — and deprive the government of billions of dollars it had been counting on to help balance the nation’s books.

    The Treasury Department has for decades borrowed money from the Social Security trust fund to finance government operations. If it is no longer able to do so, it could be forced to borrow an additional $700 billion over the next decade from China, Japan and other investors. And at some point, perhaps as early as 2017, according to the CBO, the Treasury would have to start repaying the billions it has borrowed from the trust fund over the past 25 years, driving the nation further into debt or forcing Congress to raise taxes. 

The Federal Government cannot just wave a magic wand and somehow “write off” the intragovernmental debt. Essentially, citizens invested money in Social Security and Social Security invested that money in the Federal Government. Now Social Security effectively owes you money (in the form of future retirement benefits) and won’t be able to pay you that money if the Federal Government just cancels the intragovernmental debt. The only way the Federal Government can “write off” intragovernmental debt is if it simultaneously eliminates the Social Security system. That might very well be a good idea, but it isn’t likely. And Social Security will start running out of money in about 2017 if the Federal Government doesn’t honor those intragovernmental holdings as real debt.

In short, if the government doesn’t pay back intragovernmental holdings, other government agencies (like Social Security) will fail. Since allowing Social Security to fail is not a politically viable option, the debt represented by intragovernmental holdings is just as real as the public debt. It can’t just be eliminated by some fancy accounting trick or political maneuvering. If it were possible, believe me, politicians would have done it already and taken credit for reducing the national debt by trillions of dollars.

Trust Funds = Intragovernmental Debt

Social Security isn’t the only trust fund in the federal budget. There are a number of others including the civil service retirement fund, federal supplementary medical insurance trust fund, unemployment trust fund, military retirement trust fund, etc. All of these trust funds, like Social Security, invest their surpluses in U.S. government bonds and increase intragovernmental debt. And like Social Security, their surpluses really shouldn’t count toward a “surplus” because the excess money they contribute to federal coffers actually has to be borrowed by the government from the trust funds.

When the government declared a $236 billion surplus in fiscal year 2000, it literally borrowed $248 billion from trust funds and considered that borrowed money “income” which it counted towards a “surplus.”

For a more detailed explanation of how the government borrowed from trust funds and used the borrowed money to count towards an alleged surplus, please read this follow-up article which goes into more detail on the subject of government accounting.

The reality of the national debt

The only debt that matters is the total national debt. You can have a surplus and a debt at the same time, but you can’t have a surplus if the amount of debt is going up each year. And the national debt went up every single year under Clinton. Had Clinton really had a surplus the national debt would have gone down. It didn’t go down precisely because Clinton had a deficit every single year. The U.S. Treasury’s historical record of the national debt verifies this.

A balanced budget or a budget surplus is a great thing, but it’s only relevant if the budget surplus turns into a real surplus at the end of the fiscal year. In Clinton’s case, it never did.


    Since this article has become a popular reference for people debunking the myth of the Clinton surplus, I have seen a number of responses made by those that cannot seem to accept the fact that there was never a surplus. Some of those responses are listed here and I explain why the responses are invalid.

    Adjusting the National Debt for Inflation or as % of GDP

    A common tactic used by those that cling to the myth of the Clinton surplus seems to be showing a bar graph of the total national debt adjusted for inflation, or depicted as a percentage of GDP. When you adjust for inflation or show the debt as a percentage of GDP, it looks like the national debt went down for a year or two under Clinton. However, that doesnot mean Clinton had a surplus, it simply means inflation was increasing faster than the national debt or the economy was expanding faster than the national debt. That does not change the fact that Clinton never had a surplus. 

    Explained another way, adjusting the national debt for inflation is valid for comparing the debt load of the federal government but it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the federal government had a surplus a given year. If you spend more than you take in in a given year, you have a deficit even if your relative debt load went down because of inflation. Explained numerically, let’s say you owe $50,000, earn $30,000, and spend $31,000 (debt load=50,000/30,000=167%)–that leaves you with a deficit of $1000 so that the following year you owe $51,000. The next year inflation is 5% so you now earn $31,500 and spend $32,550 with a deficit of $1,050. $31,500 in earnings with a $51,000 debt is a 162% debt load–so your relative debt load went down thanks entirely to inflation but you still had a deficit of $1,050 that year and your debt continued to grow.

    It wouldn’t be accurate to claim that you had a surplus because your debt load went down even though you spent more than you earned. That’s what people are saying when they try to adjust the national debt for inflation to claim a surplus. 

    The bottom line is that the national debt going down as adjusted for inflation or as a percentage of GDP is a valid metric for evaluating the debt load of the government but it says nothing about whether or not there was a surplus. If the total national debt went up, there was a deficit. Those that think a decrease in the debt load of the federal government as a percentage of GDP or adjusted for inflation is equivalent to a same-year surplus don’t understand the definitions and purposes of each of these terms.

    Congressional Budget Office (CBO) vs. These “Partisan” Numbers

    Another common response to the above explanation of the myth of the Clinton surplus is that the budget surpluses are based on the numbers produced by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Indeed if you access the CBO’s “historic budget data” document , on the fist page you will see that 1998 shows a surplus of $69 billion, 1999 shows $126 billion, 2000 shows $236 billion–the same surpluses claimed by Clinton and CNN in the article mentioned at the top of this page.

    However, further analysis of the document should make it very clear that important information is missing from the CBO document–specifically focusing on the last two columns of the table on page 1. If you take the $3,772.3 billion debt held by the public at the end of 1997 and subtract the “total” $69.3 billion surplus stated for 1998, you would expect to see the debt go down by 69.3 billion to $3,703 billion. Instead, the debt indicated for 1998 is $3,721.1 billion–suggesting a surplus of only $51.2 billion. This alone should tell you that the CBO numbers aren’t telling the whole story because they don’t add up–and the story they aren’t telling is intragovernmental holdings. 

    The reality is that the federal government and politicians use a form of accounting that would get most accountants thrown in jail. As USA Today wrote in 2007 , special rules used by the federal government allowed it to report a $248 billion deficit in 2006 rather than $1.3 trillion if it had used corporate-style accounting.

    While the CBO may be non-partisan, that does not mean the CBO is non-political nor that their numbers are honest or transparent.

      Update 4/26/2009: Please read this note where President Obama, too, is trying to get certain government expenditures not “counted” in the official CBO deficit even though they’ll cost billions of dollars and increase the national debt. As this paragraph has explained, CBO numbers are not to be trusted as an accurate reflection of reality.

    The fact remains that the total national debt, as explained above, is the only real measure of what we owe. We can discuss the meaning of the different columns of the CBO documents and what they do and don’t include, and we can argue about the accounting tricks that the federal government uses for political reasons. But the fact remains that theBureau of the Public Debt is responsible for the daily reporting of the total national debt. Regardless of how politicians play with the budget numbers, the current national debt reported by the Bureau of the Public Debt is what we owe. If, at the end of each year, we owe more than we did the previous year, politicians can call it a surplus until the cows come home–but the fact remains that we owed more money than we did the previous year. Playing accounting and political games to call it a “surplus” doesn’t change the fact that we’re even more in debt than we were the year before.

    During the Clinton years, the total national debt increased every year. Only in Washington D.C. would that somehow be considered a “surplus.” 

    There was a Surplus Not Counting Interest and “Off-Budget” Items

    It is sometimes claimed that there was a surplus but the national debt didn’t go down because of interest payments on the existing debt, or because of “off-budget” items. Anyone that makes this claim is just buying into twisted Washington accounting games that are convenient for their argument.

    The reality is that “off-budget” items and interest payments on the debt are real government expenditures just like any other. Off-budget items are declared as such by the stroke of a pen specifically for political reasons but it does not change the fact that they are part of government expenses.

    To demonstrate the fallacy of this argument, consider this: We have a budget surplus right now, too, if we declare the department of Health and Human Services to be “off-budget.” After all, Congress and the president can do that with the stroke of a pen. Presto, we now have a surplus!

    Of course, we wouldn’t really have a surplus. And neither did Clinton. It’s just a matter of saying that some expenses don’t “count” even though they do.

    There Was a Surplus But It Wasn’t Used to Pay Down The Debt

    Some people claim that there was a surplus but it wasn’t used to pay down the debt. They claim that one issue is whether or not you have a surplus and another issue is what you do with it; hence they also claim that you can have a surplus and not have the national debt go down.

    However, this is not true. 

    If there was a surplus and it wasn’t used to pay down the debt, then that means it was spent–which means even if therecould have been a surplus, it evaporated the moment it was spent. During the Clinton years, not only was it spent–the government borrowed even more! Every year!

    It’s like earning $30k in a year and only having $29k in expenses–so you have a $1000 surplus. To celebrate, you then go out and spend $2000 on a new LCD TV. All the sudden you earned $30k and spent $31k and what originally looked like a $1000 surplus is now a $1000 deficit and you’re even further in debt. You almost had your financial house in order but then you went out and spent the “extra” money rather than saving it or paying off some of your existing debt.

    In short, if the government had a surplus and spent it on anything other than paying down the national debt, there was no longer a surplus the moment the money was spent on something else.

    Comparing National Debt on January 1st

    Some have responded by saying that Clinton had a surplus and paid down the debt because, when they compare the national debt from one January 1st to the next, the debt does show a decrease. This may be an honest mistake, but the government’s fiscal year is from October 1st through September 30th. All government and budgetary activities are based on that fiscal year so it is necessary to do debt comparisons using that same fiscal year. As a result, all comparisons should be made either on September 30th or October 1st… not January 1st. Says Clinton Had a Surplus repeats and uses the same government numbers that this article illustrates to be misleading. Further information on why the CBO’s numbers (and FactCheck’s numbers) are misleading is explained in my follow-up articlehere

    The Link Provided Above is Allegedly False

    Some people have claimed that the link I provided ( is an illegitimate or fraudulent site that provides false numbers. I don’t know where that accusation comes from or why people think that, but I’ve seen at least some comments that criticize the link because it doesn’t point to To verify that my link is to a valid government information source, please follow these steps:

    1. Go to the U.S. Treasury website:
    2. Scroll to the “Bureaus” section and click on “Bureau of the Public Debt” which takes you to
    3. Scroll down to the section “The U.S. Public Debt” and click on “See the U.S. Public Debt to the Penny.”
    4. This takes you to the link I originally provided:

    The assertion that my article points people to a fraudulent website is incorrect. I am providing a direct link to the U.S. Treasury, Bureau of the Public Debt, National Debt to the Penny website. This is the official website that the U.S. government provides which allows the public to track the debt.