Whatever happened to all the heroes?
Roosevelt and Truman, sitting in a tree,
New deal, true deal, you can't catch me,
Along came the Parson with his wicked shears
Snip snap, crackerjack, and that was that.
Kennedy and Carter, sitting on the fence
Gazing at their memories a long way hence,
Along came the Parson with his sharpened sense
Snip snap, crackerjack, and that was that.
Why did I like Bill Clinton?
The fact is, I can't quite remember. I remember a morning back in 1998, when I was walking to work and someone thrust a microphone under my nose, asking me whom I'd vote for in the upcoming US presidential election.
"Clinton," I said.
Why? I honestly can't remember.
But all through the next eight years, I liked the man. I admired him. He was, I thought, strong on liberty, strong on the economy. What more could you ask for? Someone who defended personal freedom, even if that freedom flew in the face of the religiously or otherwise bigotted? But that's exactly what he did. Someone who could pull the American economy out of the dirt and turn a deficit into a surplus? Again, that's what he did.
In other words, he was pretty good leader.
Perhaps, writing this, I do remember.
Certainly I remember how Monica Lewinsky didn't change my opinion of the man one iota. What on earth could one man's brief infatuation with a cute intern have to do with running the country? How ever could that matter?
But, in retrospect, perhaps it did. Or rather, it does.
Bill Clinton's role in the recent primaries has changed my mind. I used to have a pretty lucid opinion of him. It may have been right and it may have been wrong, but it was clear-cut. Now it's a bit of a fog.
In South Carolina, on January 26th, 2008, Clinton was asked why it took two of them (two Clintons, that is) to defeat Barack Obama. Clinton chuckled, and then said:
"Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88. And he ran a good campaign, and Senator Obama has run a good campaign."
It was a weird thing to say. Why bring up Jackson? Why compare Obama to Jackson? Yes, Jackson is black; yes, he ran a good campaign. But he also hadn't a chance in hell to get the Democrats' nomination, in spite of winning the primaries in South Carolina. Oh, wait, that's exactly why Clinton brought this up.
Okay then; political posturing. Perhaps not too clever, but no big deal, either. After all, on the stump, in the thick of things, not everything that's said is wise.
Except that wasn't the end of it. Two months later, when asked about the South Carolina "incident", Clinton said:
"They played the race card on me."
Huh? What's that? They played the race card on him? It was Clinton who brought up Jackson, who decided to compare Obama with a black fringe candidate who "ran a good campaign" but wasn't actually going anywhere. And who's "they", and what did they do?
"(...) this was used out of context and twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign to try and breed resentment elsewhere."
Context? What context? There was a question: Why does it take two Clintons to defeat one Obama? There was an answer: "Well, Jesse Jackson won too, but not really." What context could there be other than the one Clinton devised himself?
And how could it possibly have been "twisted" by "the Obama campaign? Again, Clinton elaborated: "and we now know from memos from the campaign and everything that they planned to do it all along."
Well, yes, there is a memo. Not memos (and certainly not a whole bunch of "everything" as well). And that memo doesn't say: "Let's try and portray Clinton as a biggot". What the memo does is list the possible instances where the Clintons attempted to insert a racial tone into their campaigning. Nothing, as far as I know, was ever done with it; Obama himself expressed regret that it had even been written at all. Nevertheless, it was probably correct in its general tone, as the South Carolina incident made clear.
Given all this, why on earth did Clinton say the things he said? Why didn't he just acknowledge that he made a stupid comment back in January and let it go?
One might still let all this slip by. On the stump, in the thick of things...
But that's not where things ended, either. Because when he was confronted by his own reaction ("They played the race card on me"), Clinton decided to respond as follows:
"No no no, that's not what I said."
In spite of the fact that, of course, that was exactly what he had said.
And, for me, that was it. It was an Eureka moment. It was like having a stone unturned and finding the worm crawling underneath. I hadn't cared about the Lewinsky debacle; like many others, I felt it to be a purely personal issue. When pressed, Clinton evaded and eventually lied; but since there was no reason to attack him in the first place, his reaction wasn't going to bother me.
This time round, though, Clinton simply lied because it was convenient. And he lied about making a mistake which he only made because he wanted to drag Obama down. And he wasn't spinning the truth, and he wasn't interpretating things, he was just lying.
Snip snap, crackerjack, here's where it's at:
take a girl, make her whirl, show her where's it's fat,
Along came the Parson, made me stop my clock,
Ding dong, sing-along, it's all a bunch of crock.
Whatever happened to my heroes? All those Shakespearoes?
We watched their Rome burn...