Bill Clinton is back! (groan...)
Our former First Rogue is back in the news again, plugging his autobiography My Life. Yes, I'm talking about good ol' Bill Clinton. Much of his huge book seems to be settling scores with his former tormenters such as Ken Starr, and I can't help but wonder if the title is based on Billy Joel's song:
"I don't care what you say anymore, this is My Life.
Go ahead with your own life, and leave me alone.
Much as I would rather let the modest Clinton legacy speak for itself, it is simply impossible to understand the bitter controversies of today without addressing The Meaning of Bill. First let me say that even though I favored impeachment and removal of Clinton from office on the grounds that he subverted basic judicial norms, I was never a Clinton hater. He did make me gnash my teeth, but I often gave him credit for some things he did, such as getting NAFTA ratified. Ironically, his biggest "achievement" was failing to fulfill his campaign promise to launch an economic stimulus program. Instead, he listened to Treasury Secretary Rubin and prioritized reducing the budget deficit. It wasn't pretty, but it restored invester confidence and set the stage for an economic boom. People forget what a rocky first year Clinton had.
In recent interviews, Clinton gave Bush faint praise by agreeing that military action against Iraq was necessary, though he quibbled over the timing of the war. Since Clinton himself had set the goal of regime change in Iraq when he was president, he really couldn't have said anything different. In Friday's Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer heaps some faint praise on Clinton, acknowleding his accomplishments (mainly of a passive nature) while blaming him for squandering the fleeting strategic advantage the United States enjoyed in the first few years after the Cold War. He acidly scorns the narrow legalistic approach of Liberal Internationalists (Warren Christopher, Tony Lake) to such problems as international terrorism. Other countries became accustomed to the United States as a self-effacing do-gooder, which in the eyes of certain foreign groups with vengeance on their minds was worthy of nothing but contempt. No fair-minded person would accuse Clinton of paving the way for Al Qaeda, but historians may judge that Clinton's greatest failing was to sacrifice U.S. national security on behalf of a particular ideological vision. That's rather ironic, given the recent sharp criticisms of President Bush along those lines.
Likewise, I much would rather ignore the rank hatred toward President Bush contained in Michael Moore's new movie Farenheit 9/11 , and trust in the good sense of American people to judge for themselves. Unfortunately, I just can't let it slip by without a comment. Do I intend to see it? No. Every ad I have seen makes it clear that the movie is not intended to appeal to rational undecided people, but rather is aimed at hard core Leftists and uninformed folks who are susceptible to manipulaton via imagery. It's just a rockin' good time for Bush haters, who seem to be to a striking degree, the staunchest defenders of Clinton. If you want an informed dissection of the movie, I've come across several references to a long article in Slate by Christopher Hitchens, a recovering Leftist who used to write for The Nation. He exposes some of the worst inconsistencies in Moore's film and denounces him for moral cowardice in the face of a very real threat from the Islamofascist extremist movement.
As I've said before, there is certainly room for honest criticism of Bush as a leader, and of current U.S. foreign policy, without resorting to such blatantly twisted logic and distortion. I'm inclined to think that, at least among serious-thinking people, Moore's film will backfire, making Bush and the Republicans look good by comparison. The fact that Clinton puppet Terry McAuliffe was seen smiling alongside Moore at a recent promotional event would seem to put the Democratic National Committee's stamp of approval on the flick. So here's what it all comes down to: Who will prevail at the Democratic Convention in August: the deranged wing led by Howard Dean and Al Gore, or the responsible wing led by Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman? Can John Kerry keep those two factions together?