In Search of a Legacy: Bill Clinton

What a difference a week makes! A week after the funeral of celebrated American President Ronald Reagan comes along another President, Bill Clinton, pompous and self- aggrandizing, with a book that few Americans will have the patience to read. A week ago we read with relish the great love stories of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, the doting husband and devoted wife team, and his daily love letters to her. Now we switch gears and read about the escapades of a reckless President who had affairs with everyone else but his wife. Love does not enter the conversation, only lust. There is false contrition, and there is true pretense!

Reagan once said, 'Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book.' President Clinton is a living example of Reagan's prophecy. Clinton's book has broken all records in pre-publication sales for non-fiction. (Perhaps it would be more appropriate to list the book in the fiction category!) It also broke Hillary's record for one day sales. He has already received ten million dollars advance for this book and there is lot more money to be made. More than 400,000 copies sold on the first day. It is not clear how many people are going to read this massive, "eye-crossingly dull, hernia-inducer-of-a-book (957 pages). The reviews are uniformly bad, but that will not affect the sales.

If Ronald Reagan were to be alive today, he would have said: 'There he goes again!' Bill Clinton, the master politician and liar, is at his game again. Understandably, he has a dull book to sell and Clinton in his inimitable style is making the rounds of television talk shows, trying desperately to rewrite history. Sure, he has willing accomplices in the liberal media. As a matter of fact, the CBS (Clinton Broadcast Service?) and Dan Rather are still on a mission to spread Clinton's lies. Other networks and their prominent talking heads are closely following behind. They toss soft ball questions at the former President and sit back and let him lash out a barrage of inaccuracies. They are so busy admiring the person, with gleam in their eyes that they let him say anything he desires. When Clinton was, unexpectedly, asked by a BBC television interviewer some real relevant questions, the former President lit a fuse and went into a tirade. He blamed all the ills of the world on the Republicans and chastised his interviewer for not thinking of the poor working people (like yours truly!). Clinton chooses his TV appearances carefully and avoids any that is liable to ask tough questions (e.g. Bill O'Reilly of Fox News Network).

Presidential Peccadillo and Contrition

In his much publicized hour-long interview in 60 Minutes with Dan Rather, Clinton declared with impunity that he had the affair with Monica Lewinski only because he 'could'. He said the toughest thing he had to do was to confess to his wife about the affair. Then for months, he slept on the couch in the White House (yeah, right). Hillary has already gone on record (in her book) that she wanted to wring his neck that day. Both Clintons, in their respective books, do not say if Hillary was upset

  • because of the President of the United States was carrying on an affair with a lowly intern in the Oval Office, less than half his age or

  • whether it showed how reckless he was to take the risk of such an affair or

  • whether he was stupid enough to be caught

Bill Clinton put on his contrition mask and said it was the most stupid thing he did in his presidency. No mention about how, this man who claimed to love and work for ordinary people, tried to smear Monica Lewinsky as a stalker and groupie. No mention that the only reason he confessed to the affair was because of a certain stained blue dress. That too he waited for the DNA test results (seven months) to confirm that he was the culprit and then do his mea culpa to his cabinet members and then to the Americans


In his interview he also equivocally declared that he was 'exonerated' on all counts in the seventy million dollar witch hunt that Ken Starr investigated like a rabid dog. The Whitewater case, Madison Savings and Loan Bank scandal, Vince Foster suicide, travel office firings, campaign finance scandals, FBI file case - were all a waste of time because the President was eventually exonerated. He blamed all his woes while in office squarely on the vindictive Republican politicians.

A good journalist with an iota of journalistic fortitude and a desire to know the truth would have asked Mr. Clinton these ten questions:

  1. Is it not true that your involvement in the failed Whitewater Real Estate and the financing of it by Madison Savings and Loan Bank cost the tax payers millions of dollars? Didn't the prosecutors investigating the cases successfully convict 14 crooks?

  2. Your closest confidante and aide, Mr. Webster Hubbell was convicted and the special prosecutors asserted that both you and Mrs. Clinton made 'factually inaccurate' statements to the federal prosecutors. Do you dispute this?

  3. You say the special prosecutor Ken Starr was on a political witch hunt. Yet, was it not Ken Starr who discredited all the conspiracy theorists about Vince Foster's suicide and declared it was a suicide, after all?

  4. In your fund raising zeal, you sold room and board in Lincoln bedroom and gave free access to foreigners to your White House as long as they came with their check books. Did you not know it is illegal to take campaign donations from foreign nationals? A total of 14 Democratic donors pleaded guilty to fundraising abuses and many more took the Fifth Amendment. Some even fled the country. Would you call this 'exoneration' of all wrong doings by you and your Democratic cohorts?

  5. Ordinary citizens were trampled in your administration and cast aside as rags when it was convenient and advantageous to you. The travel office was run by non-partisan career people, who had been there for many decades. You certainly had the right to fire anyone you desired. But is it not improper to fire people so that Mrs. Clinton could bring her cronies and relatives from Arkansas to fill the jobs in travel office? At the same time were you not professing to be the President of the working people, who would fight for the little people?

  6. Are you saying that the investigation into the bizarre disappearance of FBI files of prominent politicians, chiefly Republicans, and their appearance in the White House basement should not have been investigated? Could these confidential files not been used for partisan political reasons? Is it not true that the investigation went nowhere because no one knew who in your administration hired Craig Livingston (the fall guy?), and who was in charge of the files? You dismissed the whole affair as 'bureaucratic snafu' and the media lamely lapped it up, did they not?

  7. You said no one made a case against you for pardoning the millionaire financier, Mark Rich.  Few days before leaving office you also pardoned many fugitives and criminals like Mark Rich, who had curried favors on you in one way or another. Were you thinking in the lines that since you were leaving office anyway, there would be no consequences for you? Didn't you think it was wrong to do so?

  8. In your list of exonerations, you carefully avoided mentioning Paula Jones (indecent exposure while you were Governor of Arkansas and she, an employee of the State), and lying under oath to federal grand jury. Did you not reach a plea deal with special prosecutor Robert Ray in return for dropping the charges? Wasn't your law license in Arkansas suspended for five years and did you not admit to misleading prosecutors? Did you also not pay a fine of $25,000? Do you consider yourself to have been exonerated?

  9. You said that you had an affair with Ms. Lewinsky because you could. Did you really mean to complete the sentence and say you had the affair because you could '. get away with it?
  10. Did you also have other affairs with your subordinates when you were in position of power because you could? Was that not sexual harassment, when a boss coerces his subordinates to allow him to grope in the office?

These are only a few questions that Clinton would hate to answer. But then he is such a master politician that he would have looked us straight in the eye and told us that we were all wrong. A habitual, pathological liar does not wince when he lies. He only wags his finger forcefully, looks straight into the eyes of America, and says, 'I did not have'

Clinton was not a bad president and he had great potential. He had good intentions and had some notable achievements. Welfare Reform and North American Free Trade (NAFTA) agreements are two feathers in his cap that have had long term consequences in the lives of Americans. He was aided by a Republican Congress that held his feet to fire and made sure these Republican pet projects were enacted into law. He also balanced the budget, though on the back of the 'rich' with increased taxes (marginal tax rate hikes and tax increase on social security on 'rich' seniors). He did this by cutting defense spending drastically, and the repercussions of this are felt now when we need increased human intelligence to defend us. It was his duplicity, connivance and moral turpitude that have contributed to his legacy more than his achievements.

Clinton was immensely likable as a person. He had the charisma that won over anyone who came face to face with him. Despite all his problems he was re-elected for a second term with little difficulty. If it was constitutionally possible to run for a third term, there is no doubt he would have won again. Tony Blair had once said: 'I found I had to like him, despite all the evidence.' He was affable, easy going and friendly. Yet, Clinton squandered many opportunities to be a truly great President. He spent most of his time paying attention to small goals ' he once talked for an hour on the radio about school uniforms- and he tried to indulge in too many things, not counting his sexual escapades.

Economy boomed during Clinton's presidency though the picture now does not look as rosy as it did then. Retrospectively, we know that the economic upswing was only a bubble, though jobs were created during his presidency. However, a year before he left office, the economic downturn had already begun and the bubble had burst. Though his successor, George W Bush is blamed for the recession, we know that it had started in the last year of Clinton and Gore. Three million jobs were lost in the ensuing three years but now the economy looks like it has stopped the downslide and more than a million jobs have been added.

Clinton said that the worst day in his life was when Hillary found out about Monica, as he finally had to confess to her. But the historians already dispute that claim. At least, the historians feel that the worst day in his life should have been when he lied to his cabinet members in a meeting about his affair with Monica Lewinski (before the existence of the blue dress was known). The cabinet members, full of women like Donna Shalala and Madeline Albright, then had to face the press corps and swear that they believed the President was innocent. His denial was so strong and powerful that the poor women believed him. This is a travesty for which Clinton cannot be excused.

In Clinton's epitaph the prominent words written will be his personal and moral failures. In his book, he only mentions Monica Lewinsky as an aberration in his behavior. But there were countless women who have had affairs with him. Some have come forward and have been vilified publicly by his apologists. Many others have either been mollified or have turned willing accomplices. In his close to a thousand page memoir, he does not mention Flowers, Jones, Broderick or Wiley. Since he was not caught and there were no stained dresses, he did not have to admit to any of those affairs. This intelligent man of charm and talent has deep moral scars that he cannot shake or heal, no matter how he tries to rewrite history.

His presidency was scandal ridden right from his first term. Some were trivial (like the hair cut in LA airport) but others were serious (campaign money from China and lying under oath). Perjury and obstruction of justice led to his eventual impeachment by the House of Representatives. He almost was convicted by the Senate, barring a few votes.

A President who could not have a decent legacy while at White House, now is desperately trying to create one, post facto. He is living in an imaginary world created in his own mind, where he sees himself as a victim of conspiracy. Clinton is showing many signs of being delusional. He does not believe his juvenile and puerile behavior was reprehensible at all. He has not been able to reconcile to the fact that he shaped and caused his own problems. His brief talk of contrition (before he rambled on to his usual 'victim' mode) does not ring true. Every president has to fight against members of the other party trying to discredit him. But Clinton's personal failures gave so much fodder for the Republicans, yet both Clintons considered themselves as the victims of a vast right wing conspiracy.

The X-rated President now is our ex-President. Sex was the dominant theme of his presidency. He spent so much time defending himself that he had little time to accomplish and institute any substantial policies. He still has learnt little since his eight tumultuous years in the White House. He truly believes he has been totally exonerated on all charges!

Well, it all depends on what the definition of exonerate is! 


More by :  Dr. Neria H. Hebbar

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