In 2000, I begged the Clintons for mercy. Lo those 8 long years of two Baby Ruths in the White House punch bowl, I clung to the hope that they would go the path of Richard Nixon. Retire to obscurity with a dignity purchased via scandal's humility. But, Mrs. Clinton began her run for the Senate using the Clinton one-two of curse and serendipity that hits like a meteor in Eastern Arizona. One, Rudy Giuliani was struck by cancer and forced to withdraw as Mrs. Clinton's opponent. Two, Rick Lazio, the Gomer Pyle of Long Island, became Mrs. Clinton's opponent. Shazam! Mrs. Clinton became New York's senator, thus representing a state in which she had resided for the length of the Vagina Monologues play she took in on Broadway.
Clinton chutzpah amazes me. Just when Hillary's book had faded into the dimwitted glow of Michael Moore's triumphant conquest of the Euro trash at Cannes, the Clinton one-two is back. They both fell asleep during the Reagan DC service. Clinton chutzpah exhausts me.
I wanted to be certain that their closed eyes were not some kind of 60's meditation, so I sat through two CSPAN reruns over the weekend. Knowing the world was watching and that cameras were about, Mr. Clinton fell into a REM sleep in which the head falls back so far that whiplash occurs as you wake yourself trying to bring the dead weight and drool up to normal position from 90 degrees.
This is a behavior I see in the freshman party animals who are fixtures in large lecture halls. I generally plant myself next to these lads and lasses as they snooze in class. I await the whiplash maneuver, standing to the side because when the head snaps, the spittle flies with g-force. They awaken to find me next to them, the room erupts in laughter, and as they wipe their chins, I offer my admonition, "If you want to sleep, don't come to class."
No one has ever stood beside Mr. Clinton during his animal house behaviors and admonished him. Like the freshmen, Mr. Clinton's behavior bespeaks a lack of class, right down to the DNA inside him and on others' clothing. Mr. Clinton has graced us with sleep at the state funeral of a beloved president, a new book, and an hour of 60 Minutes. He confesses to having done a "bad thing." A "bad thing" is drinking from the milk carton or tossing a Dairy Queen cup out on I-10. Mr. Clinton's behavior in the White House was demented, and his description of it is self-serving delusion.
I finally have the perfect metaphor for the Clintons. The Clintons are the new Las Vegas. Old Vegas was organized crime, topless shows, drug traffic, money laundering, and what went on there really did stayed there, including felony murder. It was a rough town, but no one was delusional about it. Moe Green, Sammy the Bull, Jimmy the Wrench, Oscar the mayor. They were all rotten, but they didn't make any bones about it. Old Vegas was desert headquarters for the rotten who capitalize on those who are bad at probability and want to be rotten during the holidays and spring break.
But, yuppies invaded and created the new Las Vegas. Yuppie moral relativism made gambling, wagering, nudity, prostitution, and digit removal by loan sharks okay by them because the hotels have roller coasters for the children, art galleries with Gauguin for the adults, and Siegfried and Roy with tigers in captivity for the gay rights and animal rights activists, and all in one show. In the demented yuppie psyche, the superficial cleanup of Vegas, complete with fine art, atones for the princes of darkness who rule its underworld. Yuppies believe that taking in a little Monet, located in a token gallery off to the side of the casino, somehow adds class to a vacation in a town that offers you "Slots of Fun," "Topless Revue," and Rip Taylor comedy.
The Clintons are, on the surface, art gallery and roller coaster fun. Between them they have Wellesley, Yale, and Oxford credentials and Tod loafers. They look the part of East Coast class. But, beneath the designer labels, the imprimatur of higher ed, and the intellectual friends is white trash relieved of domestic disturbance calls by lurking Secret Service agents.
Mr. Reagan was always praised for his impeccable comedic timing. The Gipper has done it again. Mr. Clinton is forced to unleash his mock penitence for his "indefensible" behavior in the White House in the shadow of a man who, out of regard for the presidency and the people, refused to remove his coat in the Oval Office. Sadly, Mr. Clinton must hawk his story in the mourning mist of fearless leadership. Mr. Clinton only makes his dark presence more acute.
For the first time in the 18 years I have followed Mr. Clinton, I see a pitiable and pitiful character. History cannot be kind to him, and, like all fame seekers, he doesn't understand that the book and limelight only make impressions worse. He can put any trappings he wants around his life and presidency, from Renoir repentance to roller coaster innocence. Beneath the superficial surface is tawdry Vegas, the seedy city whose basic premise cannot be masked. How I wish someone would stand beside Mr. Clinton and admonish him when he finally wakes up.
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JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State
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