Skip to comments.The Shrinking Clinton
Posted on 06/19/2004 6:03:30 AM PDT by livesbygrace
A BOOK CANNOT ELEVATE a president. That's true even for a book marketed by Dan Rather for an hour on 60 Minutes, its publication treated like a show-stopping event by the media, its author's tour seen as the equivalent of a high-octane political campaign, and its importance signified by the expectation of an entire summer in which the author will never be far from the spotlight. Bill Clinton should not get his hopes up. Presidents are judged by their record, not their memoirs. At best, Clinton is Calvin Coolidge without the ethics and the self-restraint.
Clinton is not a failed president, only an insignificant one. In his interview with Rather to plug My Life, he claims two great accomplishments. One is "the creation of 22 million jobs." The other is the toppling of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in the Balkan war. So Clinton takes credit, above all, for high job growth and a positive outcome in a relatively minor foreign policy crisis. One qualification: On jobs, while Clinton deserves credit, presidents merely make jobs a bit easier or harder for the economy to create. They don't create jobs themselves, except by expanding government. In sum, Clinton's twin achievements match Coolidge's almost exactly. The highlights of Coolidge's term were a flourishing economy and triumph in three minor foreign ventures.
Clinton had three major successes in Congress during his eight years in office, but it's no surprise he downplays them. They reflect his weakness as a president. The first was passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. This measure was proposed by President Reagan, negotiated and signed by the first President Bush, and ratified with Republican votes as congressional Democrats abandoned Clinton in droves. The second was welfare reform that reduced the rolls dramatically. He signed this Republican bill reluctantly in 1996 only after his political adviser, Dick Morris, told him his reelection would be jeopardized if he didn't. The third Clinton success was the arrival of a balanced budget, again a goal Clinton had warily endorsed but not expected to achieve so soon.
Now consider these achievements for a moment. Do they remind you of anyone's agenda? The answer is Reagan's. All three were longstanding aims of Reagan, not of Clinton or Democrats. Yes, Clinton campaigned in 1992 on changing the welfare system "as we know it." But the bill he was forced to sign cut far more deeply into welfare rolls than Clinton wanted and was fiercely opposed by liberal Democrats. The point is that the Clinton presidency was, in effect, an extension of the Reagan presidency, though Clinton would be loath to admit this. Completing the Reagan agenda was not his intention.
There are three primary methods of assessing, then ranking, a president. None helps Clinton. The first, most-often-applied test, goes like this: Did the president face an unprecedented challenge, did he respond boldly, and was he successful? Because they passed this test so impressively, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt are rated by historians as the top three presidents. Clinton faced no great challenge to which he could respond boldly and successfully. He was president during the period Charles Krauthammer has dubbed a "holiday from history." In fact, Clinton has complained he had no major war or crisis to confront.
The second way to judge a leader comes from the philosopher Sidney Hook. In The Hero in History, Hook distinguishes between eventful and event-making leaders. "The eventful man is a creature of events," Hook wrote. The event-making man causes events. "Both the eventful man and the event-making man appear at the forking points of history," Hook wrote. "The event-making man . . . finds a fork in the historical road, but he also helps, so to speak, to create it." Clinton was clearly not an event-making president. And it's a stretch to label him eventful. The two forks he encountered--Medicare and terrorism--he dealt with tentatively.
The third method comes from Fred I. Greenstein, a political scientist at Princeton widely admired for his writings on the presidency. In The Presidential Difference, he proposes six measures for appraising the "leadership style" of presidents: public communication, organizational capacity, political skill, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence. Clinton is strong on communication, political skill, and cognitive style (absorbing and using information). On the other three, he falls short. His White House and his personal decision-making style were chaotic. Despite the talk of a "third way" in public policy, he was hardly a visionary. And he stumbled badly on emotional intelligence, which Greenstein describes as "the president's ability to manage his emotions and turn them to constructive purposes, rather than being dominated by them, and allowing them to diminish his leadership." To Greenstein, emotional intelligence is the most important trait of a president. Clinton, he says, "provided a reminder that in the absence of emotional intelligence, the presidency is a defective instrument of democratic governance."
When Clinton encountered two forks in the road, on terrorism and Medicare, he balked. Given the circumstances, that was understandable. But hesitation is not an act of bold leadership. On terrorism, he passed on the opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden as he flew from Sudan to Afghanistan. True, that occurred at a time, before the 9/11 attacks, when the enormity of the threat posed by bin Laden was not yet known. On Medicare, Clinton backed away from a chance to restructure the program and save it for decades to come. But he was beset by impeachment and chose to side with his liberal backers who opposed Medicare reform and were crucial to his staying in office. Thus the decision made political sense. By balking, however, he reinforced the verdict that no book can erase. Clinton was a president of little consequence.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
It was George Will who said that Clinton was not the worst president in history, but he was the worst man ever to be president.
Please... How could Fred Barnes even think of tarnishing Calvin Coolidge like that. We need more presidents like Coolidge.
Clinton's problem is simple.
Not even Clinton can get away with a book that completely ignores reality. He has to talk about Monica, etc., in the book because every one knows pretty much what happened. The only real debate between the American people is whether or not he should have been impeached (and count me as one who thinks he should have been).
Now, the same American media that has turned smut into a spectator sport is going to focus on the affair. They aren't going to spend much time on Clinton's policies or (alleged) accomplishments because they aren't "sexy" enough.
So, basically, Clinton is out promoting his book and, whether he wants to or not, reminding people that he was a skirt chasing serial liar. He is cementing his reputation as a satyr not a leader.
Either he or Warren Harding. Neither man had enough character to be entrusted to be a town councilman.
Do you mean impeached or convicted? He was, in fact, impeached.
I guess that's what happens after a Humming Lewinsky!
Har! Har! Har!
Sorry, I'm a little full of myself this AM.
"They aren't going to spend much time on Clinton's policies or (alleged) accomplishments because they aren't "sexy" enough."
Odd since so many looney liberals are ugly inside and out filled with hatred to the bone. But they know selling sex is such an easy cop out for them and nothing else exists in their carpet bag of tricks.
Ok..ok you win :-)
Clinton is not a failed president, only an insignificant one.
It figures that Clintons two great accomplishments would be lies.
First lie: Clinton's inherited an economy that had been growing for almost two years, and left with an economy in shambles.
CNNs Brooke Jackson has reported: Three days before Christmas 1992, the National Bureau of Economic Research finally issued its official proclamation that the recession had ended 21 months earlier. What became the longest boom in U.S. history actually began nearly two years before Clinton took office.
According to a report by MSNBC: The longest economic expansion in U.S. history faltered so much in the summer of 2000 that business output actually contracted for one quarter, the government said Wednesday in releasing a comprehensive revision of the gross domestic product. Based on new data, the Commerce Department said that the GDP the countrys total output of goods and services shrank by 0.5 percent at an annual rate in the July-September quarter of 2000.
Second lie: Clintons toppling of Milosevic was a war crime the likes of which we have not seen from any American president.
In that NATO-led assault which according to some estimates cost as much as $75 billion we bombed Belgrade for 78 days, killed almost 3,000 civilians, and deliberately shredded the civilian infrastructure (including every bridge across the Danube.)
We deliberately devastated the environment, bombed the Chinese embassy, came very close to engaging in armed combat against Russian forces, and in general, pursued a horrific and inhumane strategy to rain misery on the civilian population of Belgrade in order to pressure Milosevic into surrendering.
Why did we do all that? The US did not even have an arguable interest in the Balkans, and no one ever tried to claim that Serbia represented any kind of threat to our nation or our interests.
But for months the Clinton administration had told us that Milosevic was waging a vicious genocide against Albanians Muslims, and needed to be stopped. The New York Times called it a humanitarian war. In March 1999 the same month that the bombing started Clintons State Department publicly suggested that as many as 500,000 Albanian Kosovars had been murdered by Milosevics regime. In May of that year, as the bombing campaign was drawing to a close, Secretary of Defense William Cohen lowered that estimate 100,000.
Now, five years after the bombing, after all the forensic investigations have been completed, the prosecutors at Milosevics War Crimes trial in the Hague have barely been able to document a questionable figure of perhaps 5,000 bodies and body parts. During the war, the American people were told that Kosovo was full of mass graves filled with the bodies of murdered Albanians. But none have been found.
"Clinton was a president of little consequence."
His legacy is really measured only by the harm he did to the country.
And his book tour seems very unimportant now, in light of Paul Johnson's beheading.
I've been telling my in-laws and my wife this very same thing. Dubya disarmed Clinton in less than 5 minutes by being so gracious with Bubba and Crusty.
Clinton will look like a fool if he goes around bashing Bush on anything.
His one chance for greatness was blown.
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