Monday, January 22, 2007

Clintonia in Retrospect - As discussed elsewhere, much of Bill Clinton's time out of power has been spent rehabbing the legacy that he created while in office. And he has done so with an alacrity and a ferocity that seems to far outstrip the dispatch with which he completed the people's business as president. And while he has had several venues for his "apology as legacy" tour (most recently that provided recently by his alma mater Georgetown), it was the comments that he made in November 2005 at Hofstra as part of the university’s 11th Presidential Conference that raised the bar for ex-presidential apologia.

Entitled, "William Jefferson Clinton: The 'New Democrat' from Hope," the conference was made up of keynote speeches and panels that took an academic view of a variety of aspects of Clinton’s presidency. Among those participating in the conference were members of Clinton’s White House staff, military experts, journalists, economists and scholars in a wide spectrum of areas. As if I needed more proof at that point that Bill Clinton was all about Bill Clinton, his remarks (prefaced as a "how-to" on judging successful presidencies) came off as one long commercial for the Clinton Legacy. His speaking to a largely college-age audience had the advantage of insuring that many of the listeners would be too young to remember what happened during his watch, and he made full use of this benefit.

The speech itself was heavy on accomplishments that he was at best tangentially responsible for. At different points during his talk, Bill Clinton variously took credit for there being no weapons of mass destruction to be found after the start of the Iraq War due to his 1998 bombing of suspected WMD locations in Iraq, bringing China into the World Trade Organization and the sequencing of the human genome. And through it all, his audience lapped up every word.

Predictably, the speech had enough of his trademark "dog-ate-my-homework" sob stories to sate all but the most inveterate critics of his administration. While Clinton is careful enough to casually toss in a mea culpa here and there, he provides more than enough excuses to give the listener the impression that his failures were largely the result of circumstances beyond his control. Perhaps the most indelible feature of his presidency was Mr. Clinton’s consistent habit of externalizing responsibility. It is certainly what made him always appear to be worthy of heightened scrutiny; he always seemed to act like an "unindicted co-conspirator." These excerpts will provide an idea of what the American people can continue to expect as Bill Clinton tries to buff up his reputation (emphasis added).

As to the Waco standoff:

Janet Reno was new on the job. She got enormous pressure from the FBI to go ahead and go in there. I am responsible for that. I told her if that’s what they want to do and she thought it was right to go on. It was a mistake and I’m responsible.

In the matter of his impeachment:
And I know I made a mistake agreeing to an independent counsel when the law had expired and there was not a shred of evidence to support it. Not a shred of evidence that any so-called covered person had ever done anything wrong. And I subjected the country to a four year charade because I listened to people working for me in the aftermath of my mother’s death. I was tired and it was my fault. I never should have done it. It was damage inflicted on the presidency by a naive person who believed in the rule of law. That it would triumph.
On the Rwandan massacre:
I think it will be obvious to you what I think on that when I say that I think it was unconscionable that we didn’t send a few thousand soldiers in to minimize the slaughter in Rwanda… But as you judge that, you have to consider the context. The Congress …virtually forced us out of Somalia, until I made an agreement to stay six more months after Black Hawk Down.
On the Kyoto Treaty:
I ratified… and Al Gore and I worked very hard with [former Assistant Secretary of State] Stu Eisenstadt on the Kyoto Climate Change agreement. And almost everybody in the Senate voted against it, so I didn’t get it ratified. But I’m glad I tried. And it looks like a lot smarter position today than it did back then doesn’t it?†
More to follow...

† Once again, Mr. Clinton treats the facts with unnecessary roughness. For the record, after the Senate passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution in 1997 (which stated that the U.S. should not be a signatory to any agreement that “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States”) President Clinton never brought the Kyoto Treaty to the Senate to be ratified. Contrary to Mr. Clinton’s remarks, Kyoto itself was never voted on by the U.S. Senate.

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