Jewish World Review May 23, 2002 / 12 Sivan Iyar, 5762
Yet even in grim times, a civilized people can find something to laugh about. In his war memoir, Winston Churchill recalls that when the Nazis began the blitz, the British response was first to ensure national security then to return to conviviality. Laughter is the best therapy. We Americans recognize this. Consequently, who could be surprised when our debonair president took a breather from the war on terror to spoof his grandstanding predecessor? He sent Bill Clinton as Washington's representative to East Timor's independence ceremonies.
The president knows how to deal with a pest. For weeks, Clinton has been popping up in the news whining about the Florida vote count, fretting about imagined slights and complaining that the Bush administration never seeks his foreign policy guidance. So the puckish son of George I sends Clinton in his baggy pants off to East Timor, where he can wear a funny hat and ogle the girls. I bet George II telephoned Bill in his Harlem office and told him to bring a ukulele and expect the girls to be wearing grass skirts.
That the capital of the new country is called Dili just adds to the joke. I can hear the president now, joshing with his advisers: "And guys get this. Condi Rice tells me East Timor's capital is called Dili. The next Clinton news stories are going to be datelined, 'Dili.'" And so they were. From Dili, our great big loveable lug of an ex-president actually told his audience at the opening of our Dili embassy, "It (East Timor's independence) took too long to come, but now it is here, I hope we can all make the most of it."
"Make the most of it"? Well Bill, party on; but first he blamed America for not being "sufficiently sensitive in the beginning or for a long time." He could have been talking about almost anything. For over a decade, Bill has been apologizing for America's historic behavior in Africa, in Central America, in wars with the Red Indian, in its treatment of various endangered species and environmental shockers. The only thing the impeached ex-president has not apologized for is his personal treatment of various woman -- some very young, others, such as Juanita Broderick, very bruised.
Clinton's post-presidential years hold great promise. Harry Truman spent his golden years reading history and writing a pretty good memoir. Ike played golf and played the role of elder statesman. Richard Nixon read books, wrote books and advanced from disgraced president to elder statesman. Jimmy Carter became a carpenter and won a tortured title emblematic of the liberal Democrats' tortured condition, "America's greatest ex-president."
With Clinton, the tortured condition takes a new, more preposterous, twist. He gives inane speeches and claims to be writing a memoir, but frequent news stories suggest that this middle-aged arrested adolescent is actually only doing what many disturbed teen-agers do, hanging out.
He parties in the Big Apple, in Los Angeles and in London, where he often stiffs his hosts for the tab. Yet his junkets are not without a serious goal. He is as intent as Alger Hiss once was on proving his innocence of all the charges against him -- even the ones he has admitted to in court. Like Hiss, he has attracted a loyal following on the left.
I can understand the left's support of the accused communist, Hiss; its support of a president who moved the Democrats to the political center is more complicated. The left cannot admit Clintons' critics were correct and has fallen for his claim that the critics were "the right." The similarities do not end here. Books are being written in his defense.
Thus we have this report from the Los Angeles Times. While visiting with ex-White House aides in Los Angeles, Clinton recently quoted prodigiously from David Brock's admittedly mendacious and inaccurate book about Clinton's critics. New refutations of its contents appear regularly, for instance, a report in California's East Bay Express, proving that Brock lied in his book about his college conversion to conservatism and about articles he claimed to have written. Nonetheless, reports the Times, "Clinton, who seems to have practically committed passages to memory, told his former aides whenever they feel down, they should read Brock's book to illuminate anew what they were all fighting against for eight years, and as a reminder of what 'unhappy' people their counterparts on the right truly are."
One wonders which passages Clinton takes satisfaction in. He claims his critics practice tabloid journalism, but Brock's book is as reckless with fact as any tabloid story. Yet thousands on the left take satisfaction in Brock's book, too. They have made it a best-seller for weeks. It sits on their coffee tables.
As with those who read the tabloids, Brock's readers know Martians never impeached Bill Clinton, but they want to believe something dreadful happened, and so they read Brock. Bill Clinton quotes Brock. I wonder if he quoted Brock in faraway Dili.
05/16/02: Fast Times at the Church of the Nativity