Jewish World Review June 26, 2001 / 5 Tamuz, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- "SINCE Bill Clinton left office, we've been through a lot together," writes political consultant James Carville in his letter to me.
But Clinton supporters "have much to be proud of." So please give to the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation. James breathlessly describes Bill Clinton's achievements.
The ex-president "is the most extraordinary political leader I've ever known." He "transformed America."
Etc., etc. For this reason, James continues, "It's time for close friends of Bill Clinton like you and me to commemorate his achievements and lay the ground work for the next stage of his remarkable life of public service."
By funding the Clinton library. Actually, I'm not a close friend of Bill Clinton. But I am happy that I've ended up on the Carville mailing list. I can't imagine better late-night entertainment. Consider the domestic Clinton record.
According to Mr. Carville: "When Bill Clinton left office, we were finishing the longest economic expansion in American history, had the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years, the highest home ownership in history, the first back-to-back balanced budgets and surpluses in 42 years, and were on a path to eliminate the national debt within a decade."
All of this is true. But what did Bill Clinton have to do with it? The wrenching restructuring that turned the United States into an international economic dynamo occurred during the Reagan years. The "longest economic expansion in American history" actually began under President George Bush. To his credit, Bill Clinton didn't mess everything up with old left-wing Democratic policies. But it was the Democratic Congress that stopped him from implementing some of his dumbest ideas, such as nationalizing the health-care system.
The positive achievements - welfare reform, a balanced budget - came only after the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994. How about Bill Clinton's foreign policy record? Here, too, James Carville lapses into rapturous hyperbole: Under Bill Clinton's "leadership, America once again became a positive force in the world. He moved Northern Ireland closer than ever to lasting peace. No president worked more tirelessly to achieve peace in the Middle East. He restored democracy in Haiti, ended ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo, saw the dictator who promoted it overthrown, and developed new partnerships with nations in Africa and Latin America."
Obviously Carville is practicing as a stand-up comic. The key to peace in Northern Ireland, assuming it holds, is war-weariness of Catholics and Protestants alike. The Middle East may be further away from peace than when Bill Clinton took office. Haiti now suffers under a presidential dictatorship. Ethnic cleansing has continued apace in Kosovo, only under the aegis of America and its NATO allies. U.S. intervention generated nationalist sentiments that made it harder to overthrow Yugoslavian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Whatever new partnerships were developed in Africa have largely disintegrated as conflict and disease stalk that tragic continent. Some record. Some achievements.
The only place where James uses understatement is his veiled reference to some of the more, er, controversial problems that bedeviled the administration. Let's see. The first couple in Arkansas cheated on their income taxes, were paid off by the local business establishment, and engaged in a variety of dubious dealings involving the Whitewater development, which was originally intended to enrich the Clintons in return for political favors.
Gov. Bill Clinton harassed one woman and maybe raped another. When the Clintons came to Washington, D.C., they attempted to impede an investigation of their prior activities. They hid subpoenaed evidence.
Scandals became their hallmark: the firing of the travel office staff, the misuse of FBI files, attacks on the First Amendment rights of their critics, dubious campaign fund-raising practices. Their aides lied relentlessly when questioned about administration behavior. Then there was the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Not sex in the Oval Office, but perjury and obstruction of justice.
The president shamelessly violated the law, while claiming to be defending the Constitution. All this was capped by the Clintons' squalid departure from Washington. Still, think of the future, James Carville suggests.
"I can't begin to tell you everything Bill Clinton will get involved with or accomplish in the years to come. I'm not even sure he knows."
I don't know either. But if the past is prologue, he will embarrass himself, his family, and his country. He will continue a life notable for its enormous potential, but shocking results.
How best to honor "President Clinton's remarkable achievements," as James would have us do?
Encourage Bill Clinton to shut up and fade away. And leave the rest of us to rebuild the moral culture and rule of law which he did so much to
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