Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, June 21, 2004  

Speaking of Clinton Week, I'm feeling a sense of parallel deja vu. Weren't we just talking about the legacy of an ex-president a week or two ago? Oh right, that guy saved the world from Communism--this week it's the guy who stained an intern's dress. I'm pleased we can characterize each in a phrase.

Now the conservatives are the ones doing the sliming, and the liberals are compelled to defend themselves. Tacitus on the offensive:

...[R]etrospectives on Clinton are focusing on the single most significant event of Clinton's presidency. If you think I don't like the implicit contrast with the premier Republican president of the last quarter-century, think again. Bill Clinton was a charismatic man, a competent administrator, a moral void, and in league with the presidents between Jackson and Lincoln as a great deferrer of inevitable questions of American identity and mission. He gets due credit for fortuitous timing -- amazing what the business cycle and emerging transformative technologies can do -- and, paradoxically, for having so little core principle as to easily tack with the political winds after November '94. Some good conservative governance happened on Clinton's watch (free trade, welfare reform, and balanced budgets among them), and that ought not go unacknowledged. On the other hand, we can't forget feckless feel-good foreign policy, health care "reform," and yes, impeachment; the latter of which, whatever roots it had in an obsessive witch-hunt, would never have occurred absent Clinton's own gross iniquity.

The lesson? With conservatives, it always comes back to Clinton's penis.

Tacitus is half-right about Clinton on a number of counts--he will be remembered for the impeachment, and he was a moral void (no, not because he stained a dress, but because he signed the welfare "reform" bill, NAFTA, and sold the Democratic Party to corporations). But where I'm willing to admit Clinton's--and the left's--culpability, this is something the right can't do. Take Reagan. If he gets credit for communism, he also gets credit for the Iran-Contra scandal. He gets credit for ignoring AIDS and the poor. He may have been a nice man to have coffee with, but his morality is defined by his lies, cruelty, and corruption.

Or take Clinton. If the impeachment is the signature event in Clinton's presidency (it is), what of the culpability of the right? What had been a nascent anti-democratic tendency under Newt flowered into an attempted coup (which continues to blossom under Bush, Frist, and Hastert/DeLay). Will Tacitus and the right admit their responsibility there? Sure, right after they admit Reagan was a crook.

posted by Jeff | 10:52 AM |
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