PBS recently aired a two-part television documentary on Bill Clinton, his life, and his two terms in office from 1993 to 2001.
Following the years of economic growth and optimism from the Reagan-Bush41 era, it may have just been inevitable that the voters wanted to put a younger man in the White House. At the time, few of us realized how seriously demented, Al Gore, Clinton’s choice for his vice president, would turn out to be.
Mostly, though, I think of how deeply flawed Clinton was and how the presidency seemed to exaggerate and exacerbate those flaws of character and judgment. The worst part of it was that, even before he was elected, the voters knew he was a womanizer. The Gennifer Flowers affair erupted during the first campaign and, with Hillary by his side, he just brushed it aside and so did the voters.
A man who will cheat on his wife, will cheat on his partners in business, and just about everyone else. Bill Clinton demonstrated that and yet the voters either ignored or forgave him the long trail of women he exploited with or without their consent including a sordid relationship with a very young White House intern.
What the PBS documentary demonstrated was that Clinton was bitten by the presidential bug early in life, possibly when he met John F. Kennedy as part of a group of boys tagged as having potential for public service. That brief moment seemed to say that he knew he was going to be President one day, no matter what it took.
Clinton was blessed with a high level of intelligence. There is, however, often a disconnection between intellectual skills and moral judgment. We see this repeated and reported day after day when men who have achieved status and wealth just throw it away. In the private sector it is a private tragedy affecting its victims, but in the public sector, it puts everyone’s welfare and future at risk.
Clinton, like Barack Obama, arrived in the White House without any experience in the military. Not only that, he didn’t like or trust the men who protect our liberties and take an oath to protect the Constitution and to obey the Commander-in-Chief. Clinton almost immediately tried to eliminate the ban on homosexuals in the military, having to finally settle for “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell.” Obama eliminated even that.
Clinton was fortunate enough to have had no big or small wars on his watch, but there was massive slaughter in Rwanda he later regretted he did nothing to deter or stop, but neither did the United Nations.
What I recall of the 1990s was that it was so different from the previous Reagan years. Ronald Reagan believed Americans could achieve anything if the government would just get out of the way.
Clinton was an old style, liberal Democrat who thought government exists to get involved in everyone’s life in every way possible. Americans used to hate that, but from the 1930s through the 1960s, first Social Security and later Medicare got them used to being on the government dole. Comparable programs exist in every department of the government.
In the 1980s, there were many missed cues as to what was coming on 9/11. The first attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 1993 was treated as a criminal case and not something perpetrated by a shadowy group calling itself al Qaeda. By 1996, however, its leader, Osama bin Laden, had issued a declaration of war against America. In 1998 al Qaeda blew up U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
With the 1979 advent of the Iranian Islamic revolution, anyone paying any attention had to know that a new, very dangerous force had been unleashed in the world. The former Soviet Union discovered that in Afghanistan when al Qaeda and local mujahideen forced them out in 1989 with the covert assistance of the U.S.
My memory of those eight years was that, throughout it all, the Clinton administration seemed to be stepping in post holes, stumbling from one misadventure to another.
When Bill turned the revision of the U.S. healthcare system over to Hillary, the two of them ran into a buzz-saw of popular resistance. Later, Obama would encounter the same response with Obamacare and it spawned the Tea Party movement after it was forced through a Democrat Congress.
What is it about liberals that they cannot learn any lessons from history and remain determined to expand government where it was never intended to go? Education. Healthcare. Energy. The Environment. Try finding any of those words in the Constitution. (Yes, Republican presidents have done this too.)
Bill Clinton became only the second President in U.S. history to be impeached. He had lied to a grand jury and a federal judge, demeaned the office of President with a sex scandal, and he got away with it! Congress voted against impeachment.
By virtue of a 1994 Republican victory that reclaimed power in Congress after some forty years, Clinton would later lay claim to the biggest budget surplus in a very long time.
The parallels between the Clinton and Obama administrations are those of inexperience, arrogance, and poor judgment. Clinton, however, loved his nation while it is doubtful one can say that of Obama.
What the documentary also demonstrated was that Democrats have a very different moral system than Republicans. The fact that so many people of faith find a home in the Republican Party suggests the difference is very real.
They are the people President Obama derides as those “who cling to their guns and their religion.”
Looking back at the Clinton years and waiting for the Obama years to end, that’s probably a good thing.