Clemens and Clinton: The Ending of an Era

At first glance, the following two news events seem to have nothing in common:

Event 1: This Wednesday, the Congressional steroid hearings will feature the testimony of Roger Clemens. Over the weekend, in advance of those hearings, Rusty Hardin, the lead lawyer of Roger Clemens, made the following statement referring to steroid investigator and special agent, Jeff Novitzky. Hardin said “I can tell you this: If he ever messes with Roger, Roger will eat his lunch.” Referring to Henry Waxman, the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Hardin said, “You have a chairman who is going down the tubes because his own committee doesn’t support what he is doing.”

Event 2: With momentum shifting to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton replaced her campaign manager, Patti Doyle, with her former chief of staff in the White House, Maggie Williams. Let me refresh your memory about Maggie Williams. In the words of Arianna Huffington, William gave “contortionist testimony” to Congress in her service to Mrs. Clinton. In addition, she was suspected of obstruction of justice for removing sealed Whitewater and Travelgate files after the 1993 death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster. Williams racked up of over $300,000 in personal legal bills for her conduct as chief of staff.

As Huffington observed about Williams in 1997, she entered the White House as an idealist, “But at some moment during Clinton’s first term, the mission shifted from saving the country to saving the first couple.”

The conduct of Roger Clemens is disturbingly familiar to the conduct of the Clintons.

When it comes to denials, Roger Clemens’s claim that he did not use steroids is about as believable as Bill Clinton’s 1998 claim (aided and abetted by Mrs. Clinton) that he didn’t perjure himself. Both are using the same strategy—lie, use personality to charm the press and the public, hire high priced lawyers to intimidate witnesses, and hire public relations experts to convince us that they themselves are the aggrieved parties.

Unfortunately for Roger Clemens and Mrs. Clinton, years have gone by—economically, 2008 is not the 1990s. In 1990s the stock market was still rising, the housing bubble was just in its formative stage, gas prices were around a $1.00 a gallon, the second war in Iraq had not yet begun, and America was deep in denial. Today, all but the very wealthy are feeling troubled about America’s economic future.

What does economics have to do with the likelihood that Roger Clemens’s theater of the absurd denials will succeed? The answer is everything. Use the socioeconomic theories developed by Robert Prechter as your lens. According to Prechter, a positive social mood causes stocks and other financial instruments to go up in value, while a negative social mood causes the reverse. Not only that, but social mood is related to trends in popular culture, in war and peace, and in other social and economic indicators.

When the social mood is waning the public is much more likely to be less tolerant of those who cheat. Their attitude is we’re miserable and here is a culprit to blame for it. When the social mood is waxing, as it was in the 1990’s, the attitude is more like let’s not do anything to upset the “good times.” Unfortunately for Clemens and Mrs. Clinton, the social mood, by all indicators, is currently waning. For Clemens, the outcome of this waning social mood is that the public is restless and less likely to be tolerant of his bullying.

I sincerely feel for Roger Clemens, Rusty Hardin, and Hillary Clinton—they are playing difficult parts in this great game of life. They are really not to blame. They are manifesting failing ideas—that winning is everything, that integrity doesn’t matter, and that “spin” will bail you out. An era is ending; yet, they are playing their parts the only way they know how. They are like character actors who find that there is no longer any demand for the only type of character that they know how to play.

Predictions are always difficult. Expect the unexpected, but understand that the social mood gives us a guide. Right now, look for Clemens to be investigated by a grand jury and for Barack Obama to be the Democratic nominee for president.

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2 Responses to Clemens and Clinton: The Ending of an Era

  1. Frank v2 says:

    Dr. Brownstein,
    Your comment that “(w)hen the social mood is waning the public is much more likely to be less tolerant of those who cheat. Their attitude is we’re miserable and here is a culprit to blame for it” I believe is right on the mark. We are clearly a nation that is war-weary and all very nervous about our short-term economic future. So consequently the nation is getting the jitters thinking about bringing on more of the same. It is interesting watching the momentum that Mr. Obama has been getting in recent weeks as the economic news gets dimmer and dimmer. Yet prior to our economy softening, many thought that Ms. Clinton was a shoe-in for the Democratic presidential candidate position. Although I wouldn’t count her out yet, it does appear that Mr. Clinton is becoming a handicap for her. His derogatory comments and negative spins, coupled with the fact that people do remember his past, are working against the Hilary campaign. I saw in one interview done recently at a hairdresser’s in California where one woman said that although she would like to see a woman President, she is supporting Mr. Obama. Her reasoning was that the Clinton’s already had their turn in the White House and it was now time for someone new. Perhaps she is right. And perhaps we really are looking for someone to blame our current woos on, and anything that looks like the same old, same old, is going to take the heat, regardless of what party they are associated with.

  2. Bob G. says:

    I think it was Einstein who said, “It is insane to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.”

    One has to wonder if people see clear enough to discern the “same old, same old” from something new.

    The lack of ability to see the world as it is (as opposed to seeing the world thru ego-centric lenses) creates many problems.

    Bob G.

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