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The International Writers Magazine
: US Politics

Clinton in Rearview
Dan Schneider

A week or 2 after George W. Bush assumed the Presidency in early 2001 I was struck with the vision of a disastrous 4 years that lay ahead.

Granted, I did not foresee 9/11 specifically, nor am I claiming Nostradaman talents, but given W’s, well - stupidity (recall his press conference in April? - the man literally can handle no more than 2 or 3 soundbites at a time- after that he’s a flounder. ) I knew that the economy was doomed and that Saddam’s days were numbered. Only the details were missing.

In speaking with some friends of mine I made this guarantee- by the time the next election cycle kicks in this nation will be speaking of the ‘good ol’ Clinton years’. Boy, was I prescient! Now, let me say, I was not a fan of Slick Willy. I did vote for him in 1992, but only because George Bush Pere had failed so abysmally and I just could not take seriously the evil dwarf that kept interrupting others by chirping, ‘EX-CUSE ME, can Ah finish? Can Ah finish?’

In Clinton I saw a man of great potential, but also a man who seemed very self-satisfied with just being President. This assessment was spot-on, as in his first year in office, backed by the good will all newcomers get, Clinton refused to expend any political capital on ramming down a national healthcare plan through congress. While it would not have been as comprehensive as most wanted, once it was on the board it would, via the logy of its presence, constantly be improved and tweaked, just as Social Security has. Don’t even get me started on the utter myth of a Social Security crisis because we’ve heard that since Nixon and its solvency is always questioned, and always dealt with. Instead, after a little newspaper tap across his muzzle Clinton went into hibernation for a couple of years until the next election and when he awoke he found that the cackling mental midgets from Rip Van Winkle had taken control of Congress.

Now, relieved of political responsibility, and able to fob off his Executive Sloth on Newt & The Gang’s infamous Contract On America, old Slick Willy re-emerged, played the underdog theme to the hilt, and cruised to re-election over the narcoleptic Bob Dole, the Incredible Shrinking Paranoid, and the only man in the nation with any integrity- Ralph Nader, who got my vote.
Once re-elected, Clinton, as lame duck, basically had time to kill, organize his Presidential Library, and shudder behind the Presidential desk as Monica Lewinsky deepthroated him. Now, don’t get me wrong- I’ve been blown by some mediocre to unattractive women, too. Just shut your eyes and envision a supermodel. After all, it REALLY ISN’T sex - on that Clinton was right. But, he was the President dammit. I may have had to have been blown 4th-rate floozies and dreamt they were the lips of Halle Berry or Christy Turlington- but he really could have had their lips! If that lack of judgment wasn’t galling enough to diminish Willy in the eyes of American men, then the Republicans decided to impeach the man for lying about fellatio, something these, mostly declared prim and proper Christians, had no right to know, yet seemed to masturbate incessantly over - right up through a failed impeachment.
All through the 2000 campaign Al ‘I’ve Never Really Liked The President, Anyway’ Gore distanced himself from his vastly more worldly and skilled boss. Say what you will of Clinton (and I’ve said it before you) but the man was flat-out the best and most natural national politician since FDR.

Then W proved the value of having grotesquely superfunded crooks vis-à-vis Gore’s merely megafunded crooks, and then my vision takes sway. Yes, Clinton was a scoundrel, and a leader of appallingly limited vision and ambition for his talents- but he was competent. In historical terms his closest predecessor was Teddy Roosevelt. Like Clinton, TR twice presided over ‘boom years’ in America. Granted, TR - to his credit and his party’s shame- was the last of the populist/activist Republicans on the national scene, and unlike Willy he’s almost always listed in the Great or Near-Great categories accorded our leaders. But he never quite has pierced into that upper crust triumvirate represented by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Franklin Roosevelt. Why? Simply because he lived in relatively ‘small times’ rife with prosperity and the complacency that brings. He knew that periods of turmoil and war were what called out the latent greatness in some Presidents (like the trio aforementioned), and the worst in others- even some who would have otherwise been excellent leaders (think Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses Grant, and LBJ). Why else was he slavering to reclaim his job in 1912 and 1916? Yes, he resented Howard Taft’s ‘betrayal’, but it was the beat of war drums in Europe that brought the Great White Hunter back into the fray. Imagine his anguish over the initially insipid sideline stands of the eunuch Woodrow Wilson’s toe-wiggling entry into the Great War, then his utter mishandling of the peace and the Soviet Revolution which led to the incarnadine century we’ve all read of, if not been hued in. Similarly Bill Clinton must be pulling at his thick mane over the cruel joke history played on him by not having 9/11 occur in his first term - with the failed 1993 bombing. Despite basically being a do-nothing it’s pretty clear that Clinton had a very effective anti-terrorism program that thwarted an earlier possible national tragedy at LAX, and also had relative successes in the Balkans, and squeezing Iran toward political maturity.

Compared to W he looks Solomonic - if not Lincolnian- in his foreign policy. But it has to kill the man that the ‘defining moment’ of his generation happened on the Presidential watch of a total incompetent. Despite his manifest flaws I am almost certain that Clinton would have handled Afghanistan better- certainly in humanitarian terms, and would have not rushed into Iraq, at least not without making sure a Norman Schwarzkopf was in charge- not a political flea like Paul Bremer. He also would probably have insisted on a 5 or 10 year reconstruction plan, along the lines of that we loosed forth in post-war Japan, as well as far more many troops to secure the peace, in place before invading. Is it not manifest that the Bush-Cheney hubris (not to mention the bloodsucking Hallibuton) is behind the Iraq failure?

Yes, it kills Clinton, TR’s closest modern counterpart, that unlike his idol JFK, who had less than 3 years in office, he never had a chance to shine under the weight of BIG HISTORY. The closest comparison to 9/11’s occurrence under W would be to think if Kennedy HADN’T stolen 1960 from Nixon. Would any of us even be here if poor demented Dicky had been Prez when Khrushchev laid his dick on the table in November of ’62? Sometimes dishonesty has its place.

And sometimes it doesn’t. Just ask the mounting dead and their families who wonder what the hell any of this in Iraq has to do with pulling a Mussolini on Osama bin Laden? I’ll admit- when the towers fell my first thought was- Saddam pulled his Castro on the Bushes. I even went along with the WMD rationale for the war because, as an informed citizen, I KNEW Cheney & co. must be right because THEY sold WMD to Saddam throughout the 80s! Still, I knew there was a BIG LIE in there somewhere, and a man’s karma- and W’s was writ ‘FUCK UP’ since tunneling out of Babs- cannot be forestalled indefinitely.

So I return to where my vision pointed those years past, little knowing I would be one of those people I spoke of in my guarantee. All that the country need do to get rid of W is let him keep killing his own legacy. [PLEASE SOMEONE FORWARD THIS ADVICE TO JOHN KERRY!] As for Willy? It must gall him not only that history snubbed him, but that the buffoon it smiled upon has so mishandled the job that his total incompetence far outweighs his mammoth deceits in the minds of voters. Yet, this is the bane of Presidents cursed with small times and mere competence- any flaw, no matter how minor, is magnified. Bush lies over and over about Iraq and people seem slow in caring over the mess American blood makes, while the worst Willy’s lies could cause was a premature ejaculation, yet the public recoiled in disgust, as if they had been asked to swallow.

Bill Clinton now has to console himself with the verity that historians in decades hence will come to appreciate his small, visionless, competent oasis of an administration in the middle of the Reagan and double Bush disasters. And surely he knows now the verity of the old canard about the need for THE BIG LIE, and rues its late dawning. After all, even his successor not qualified to clean swimming pools was able to learn that lesson on Day 1.

© Dan Schneider, May 2004
The Best in Poetica seeks great poems & essays!

Clinton's Memoirs will be published this June 2004

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