Clinton Scandal Could Shape Future Of Water Industry Regulations

The feeding frenzy in Washington over President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky seems to be at its peak as I write this column. Over the weekend it occurred to me that what happens to Clinton, the White House and Congress could have an oblique impact on the water industry. Sort of a trickle-down effect.

The feeding frenzy in Washington over President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky seems to be at its peak as I write this column. Over the weekend it occurred to me that what happens to Clinton, the White House and Congress could have an oblique impact on the water industry. Sort of a trickle-down effect.

I won’t discuss whether Clinton should be thrown out of office. You can make up your own minds on that. But each possible scenario in the Clinton tragedy — impeachment, resignation, continued service — could shape environmental policy for years to come.

Back when Clinton was running for re-election in 1996 I wrote a column looking at the possible scenarios that could develop depending on which mix of politicians was elected to Congress and the White House. Back then I saw three possible scenarios: A Democratic president and Congress, a Republican president and Congress, or a mixed bag, with the president in one party and Congress controlled by the other.

At the time, I said a Democratic president and a Republican Congress would be fair for business and possibly the best scenario all around. That was based on the belief that Democrats tend to be pro-environmental legislation while Republicans are pro-business and favor weaker legislation. Who knows if that’s true or not.

After listening to the endless chatter about Monica-gate, I set my imagination to work and developed the following three scenarios:

Clinton Impeached

Al Gore stumbles into the White House late in 1999. Republicans are firmly in control of Congress after making huge gains in the 1998 elections. Gore is unable to institute any new programs and is constantly battered from all sides by investigations into every aspect of his life. The 2000 elections roll around and a Republican President is elected to lead the nation into the new century, backed by a strongly Republican Congress. A much weakened Clean Water Act is finally passed and environmental regulations are eased across the board. Municipalities continue to invest in systems to protect the environment and public health, but face a much lighter burden from federal regulation.

Clinton Resigns

Al Gore moves into the White House in late 1998 or early 1999 and immediately sets about mending fences. Republicans hire an independent council to take him down for campaign finance violations, but there is an “enough is enough” public backlash and Gore handily wins re-election in 2000. As an environmentalist with deep concerns about the state of the nation’s water, Gore pushes through a tough new rewrite of the Clean Water Act and environmental regulations are tightened. Equipment suppliers, manufacturers, consultants and engineers rejoice. Municipalities groan under the new burden.

Clinton Stays the Course

What happens if Clinton stays in office to the bitter end is a little trickier. It all depends on whether he can redeem himself. A number of political pundits have said that Clinton is a survivor; that he has made a career out of overcoming adversity and coming back stronger than ever. Here are two sub-scenarios:

  • Clinton is weak and discredited, the economy takes a downturn and he is viewed as ineffective. Gore bows out of the Presidential race while under fire from an independent council. The Democrats scramble for a new candidate, but lose the White House and even more seats in Congress. See scenario one.
  • Clinton lives up to his reputation as a survivor, overcomes the obstacles before him and regains the public trust. Republicans face a public backlash and are branded as evil bullies out to get Mr. Bill. A weakened Republican Party holds on to a majority in Congress, but Democrats are able to retain the Presidential seat in 2000. See scenario two.

Clinton Stays the Course

Scenarios are fun to write, but they are basically a guess. And your guess is as good as mine. I don’t have any real clue what will happen in the next two years, but I am saddened by what has happened in the last few months. Whatever happens to Bill Clinton, the office of the President has been changed forever.

Clinton Stays the Course

I always hated it when my parents talked about the good old days, but I long for those days now. Those wonderful days of Camelot, when the President was Presidential, and what he did in the bedroom was nobody’s business but his own.

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