I voted for Former President Clinton twice. I regret it, but, as I look back on who I was—even as I was slowly evolving into a Republican—I can’t see how I would have done otherwise.
President Clinton was the right president for the time. The nineties were a time of optimism: the Iron Curtain had fallen and capitalism was in its second decade of ascendance. Granted, President Clinton presided over the good time of a nation that was the beneficiary of Reagan-Bush 41 policies. However, using his political skills and charisma, he told us that such good times could last. And many of us believed him.
But by the middle of his second term, the good times were visibly fraying. The communist threat was long gone, but another type of threat was making itself known in greater and greater ways. That threat had presented itself much earlier on American soil only one month after President Clinton’s first inauguration. But we were still too euphoric about our victory over the communists. The Warsaw Pact was no more and the USSR soon followed into oblivion. President Clinton saw that the terrorists of the first World Trade Center attack of 1993 were safely behind bars. But there were others; millions of others.
1998’s African atrocities were the first large-scale signal of the fact that the good times were only a front; the eye-opener that signaled that this “new” enemy was on the ascent. They perpetrated an even bolder attack on the US Navy in October 2000, four months before the end of President Clinton’s second term.
Then, some eight months after President Clinton left office, the “new” threat perpetrated its crowning strike against the United States of America.
Just as President Clinton’s administration was the heir to the actions/inactions of Presidents Reagan and Bush 41, so is President Bush 43 the heir to the same of President Clinton. Sorry, folks, but that’s how these things work; personally, professionally and politically.
(I know I said that I’d try not to be partisan, but President Clinton has that effect on me. I apologize.)
Okay, back to the nicey-nice: the great politician.
Much of President Clinton’s attributes consist of knowing what to say, how to say it, when to say it and when to keep his mouth shut. While much of those very important qualities were part of his two successful elections,they were never as apparently useful then as they have been in the first four years of his successor’s term.
While his vice-president shot off premature elocutions in the aftermath of the Clinton years—possibly permanently damaging that vice-president’s future status as presidential candidate or even as respected elder statesman—President Clinton has kept any negative thoughts that he may have about the sitting president to himself. He’s agreed with the president about his summation of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq—probable because he said the same thing during his second term—kept quiet about the execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom and even expressed his liking of his successor.
And, the most politically intelligent thing that President Clinton has done is to accompany his former adversary to tsunami-ravaged Southeast Asia on a goodwill trip. Just lucky that his traveling companion happens to be the sitting president’s father.
Now I know that all my compliments of President Clinton’s political acumen sound cynical, but I don’t mean them to be. One has to genuinely admire such strategic thinking. I can even entertain the thought that the actions of the post-heart surgery President Clinton might be authenticity combined with his great ability to seize a moment.
Don’t believe me? Okay, well consider this: I actually liked the guy once, and when I heard that he was going under the surgeon’s knife, I actually prayed for him to come out alive and well.
Do I hear you saying that it was because I didn’t want to see all those tearful faces and prostrate bodies at a state funeral; that I didn’t want to see those heart-felt eulogies by the likes of James Carville,
James Woolsey, William Cohen and George Stephanopoulos?
How cynical you are!
Seriously, I think that President Clinton has more work to do. Only time will tell if it’s constructive; if his considerable intellect can be used for good.
(Links inserted tomorrow. I’m tired.)
For the Father of the Country, time to lighten up and post a few fun and interesting facts. (Of course I can’t vouch for the truth of any of these, so take them for what they’re worth.)
• George Washington once said, "My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her."
• George Washington was in command of the first U.S. "navy," created in 1775. It started with 4 ships. The ships were sold after the war and the "real" navy began in 1798.
• When George Washington was elected President, there was a king in France, a czarina in Russia, an emperor in China, and a shogun in Japan. Only the office of President remains.
• At his inauguration, Washington had only one tooth. At various times he wore dentures made of human or animal teeth, ivory or lead -- never wood.
• The six white horses in Washington's stables had their teeth brushed every morning on Washington's orders.
• (Last three facts came from this site.)
• Washington rejected a movement among army officers to make him king of the United States. (Hey, what did they know from a president?)
• George Washington started school when he was six years old. He left school at 15 to become a surveyor because his mother couldn't afford to send him to college.
• At 26, he married Martha Curtis, a widow who already had two children, Jackie and Patsy. Washington never had any children of his own.
• (Last two facts came from this site.)
• Believing that shaking hands was beneath a president, Washington bowed to his visitors.
UPDATE: Basil points out that this day is still officially called Washington's Birthday and gives a detailed account of how it came to be colloquially called "Presidents' Day."
John F. Kennedy was the POTUS when I was born. Though he was murdered when I was not much more than two years old, I have memories of him—well, not so much of him *personally* but of his name spoken: in reverence, in awe and in grief.
Since then, his presidency and his personal life have been dissected to the point at which his name is invoked in more human terms than was so back then. (The dispassionate review of his actions as president and as a husband--along with the subsequent behavior of his surviving relatives--has helped this un-deification along, if I may coin a word.)
However, many disaffected liberals still point to John F. Kennedy as a political role model. I have heard many of them term themselves as “John F. Kennedy liberals.”
In spite of the recently-revealed ugliness of his personal life and in spite of his failures during his lone brutally-abbreviated term, it is, unwaveringly, his inaugural speech that old-style liberals point to when they make their allegiance to his legacy.
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.[SNIP]
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.25 My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.26 Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
From Time Magazine’s “The Most Important People of the [Twentieth] Century:”
F.D.R. was the best loved and most hated American President of the 20th century. He was loved because, though patrician by birth, upbringing and style, he believed in and fought for plain people — for the "forgotten man" (and woman), for the "third of the nation, ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished." He was loved because he radiated personal charm, joy in his work, optimism for the future. Even Charles de Gaulle, who well knew Roosevelt's disdain for him, succumbed to the "glittering personality," as he put it, of "that artist, that seducer." "Meeting him," said Winston Churchill, "was like uncorking a bottle of champagne."
But he was hated too — hated because he called for change, and the changes he proposed reduced the power, status, income and self-esteem of those who profited most from the old order. Hatred is happily more fleeting than love. The men who sat in their clubs denouncing "that man in the White House," that "traitor to his class," have died off. Their children and grandchildren mostly find the New Deal reforms familiar, benign and beneficial. [SNIP]
To awaken his country from its isolationist slumber, Roosevelt began a long, urgent, eloquent campaign of popular education, warning that unchecked aggression abroad would ultimately endanger the U.S. itself. "Let no one imagine that America will escape, that America may expect mercy," he said. The debate in 1940-41 between isolationists and interventionists was the most passionate political argument of my lifetime. It came to an abrupt end when Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.The Declaration of War, December 9, 1941 (Fireside Chat #19):
We are now in this war. We are all in it -- all the way. Every single man, woman and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history. We must share together the bad news and the good news, the defeats and the victories -- the changing fortunes of war.
So far, the news has been all bad. We have suffered a serious setback in Hawaii. Our forces in the Philippines, which include the brave people of that Commonwealth, are taking punishment, but are defending themselves vigorously. The reports from Guam and Wake and Midway Islands are still confused, but we must be prepared for the announcement that all these three outposts have been seized.
The casualty lists of these first few days will undoubtedly be large. I deeply feel the anxiety of all of the families of the men in our armed forces and the relatives of people in cities which have been bombed. I can only give them my solemn promise that they will get news just as quickly as possible. [SNIP]
And in the difficult hours of this day -- through dark days that may be yet to come -- we will know that the vast majority of the members of the human race are on our side. Many of them are fighting with us. All of them are praying for us. But, in representing our cause, we represent theirs as well -- our hope and their hope for liberty under God.
Obviously, posting about a sitting president is the easiest thing to do, since his many of his deeds are in progress.
I’d probably get a case of information overload were I to search commentary regarding President Bush’s actions and policies, so, in lieu of that, I’ll make this one relatively short. Judge for yourselves whether it’s sweet or not.
The latest GWB buzz on the internet—outside of his “charm offensive” in Europe; most specifically, his visit to President Jacque Chirac’s France and his catigation of Russian President Vladimir Putin—is about the Doug Wead tapes.
As George W. Bush was first moving onto the national political stage, he often turned for advice to an old friend who secretly taped some of their private conversations, creating a rare record of the future president as a politician and a personality.Leaving aside the ethical issues of secretly taping anyone--yes, Monica Lewinsky, too--much less someone who is a friend, we find out that President Bush is WYSIWYG kind of guy.
In the last several weeks, that friend, Doug Wead, an author and former aide to Mr. Bush's father, disclosed the tapes' existence to a reporter and played about a dozen of them.
About his personal faith:
"I am going to say that I've accepted Christ into my life. And that's a true statement."About personal substance abuse:
"I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried."BTW, I know very few people between forty and seventy that haven’t tried the Mary Jane. (I’m one of those that hasn’t, however….and unless GWB and Jacques were blazing one up yesterday, I’d say that it’s moot point.)
Probably most surprising to many on the left, about homosexuals:
[Wead] said [then Governor Bush] told [prominent evangelist James] Robison: "Look, James, I got to tell you two things right off the bat. One, I'm not going to kick gays, because I'm a sinner. How can I differentiate sin?"Those who don’t know anything about Christianity, misinterpret it or go by their long-ago remembrances of what’s said in the Bible, fail to understand this type of stance by true Christians. I suspect that’s what the cries of “hypocrisy” regarding the Gannon situation are about.
Later, he [GWB] read aloud an aide's report from a convention of the Christian Coalition, a conservative political group: "This crowd uses gays as the enemy. It's hard to distinguish between fear of the homosexual political agenda and fear of homosexuality, however."
About Vice-President Al Gore:
Mr. Bush could hardly contain his disdain for Mr. Gore, his Democratic opponent, at one point calling him "pathologically a liar." His confidence in the moral purpose of his campaign to usher in "a responsibility era" never wavered, but he acknowledged that winning might require hard jabs. "I may have to get a little rough for a while," he told Mr. Wead, "but that is what the old man had to do with Dukakis, remember?"From Doug Wead:
Why disclose the tapes? "I just felt that the historical point I was making trumped a personal relationship," Mr. Wead said.Well, at least he understands the possible consequences of his actions.
WASHINGTON -- One measure of a leader's greatness is this: By the time he dies the dangers that summoned him to greatness have been so thoroughly defeated, in no small measure by what he did, it is difficult to recall the magnitude of those dangers, or of his achievements. So if you seek Ronald Reagan's monument, look around, and consider what you do not see [the Iron Curtain]. [SNIP]
A democratic leader's voice should linger in his nation's memory, an echo of his exhortations. Reagan's mellifluous rhetoric lingers like a melody that evokes fond memories. Because of demagogues, rhetoric has a tainted reputation in our time. However, Reagan understood that rhetoric is central to democratic governance. It can fuse passion and persuasion, moving free people to freely choose what is noble.Jack Myers:and no longer there:
Financial Times Managing Editor Lionel Barber was reporting from Washington during the Reagan years. “Reagan was more popular on Main Street than Wall Street,” Barber reminded me in a conversation earlier this week. “Big corporations looked questionably at his tax cuts and other economic measures. He set in motion a period of deregulation that is still living with us, and his policies reshaped the U.S. economy in banking, communications, media, and many other areas.” Reagan’s economic policies contributed greatly to the creation of the cable television industry, companies like Turner Broadcasting, Viacom and News Corporation. Reagan’s economic policies supported entrepreneurial initiatives, creating an environment that spawned most of the big cable networks, several important print titles, the videogame industry, and the earliest stages of Internet development.
“In some ways the era of deregulation that began in the Reagan years led to the Internet bubble,” Barber points out. “Deregulation was seen as a panacea. It meant certain agencies like the Federal Communications Commission were starved of funds in 1990s and didn’t enforce laws as rigorously as they might have. While careful deregulation is a plus for the economy,” said Barber, “Reagan’s attitude that deficits don’t matter was not a good idea. Deficits do matter.” But, he added, “Reagan’scan-do capitalism was good for country.”
Frederick Douglass’ puts his perspective on the legacy of Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1876.
He was preeminently the white man’s President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country. In all his education and feeling he was an American of the Americans. He came into the Presidential chair upon one principle alone, namely, opposition to the extension of slavery. His arguments in furtherance of this policy had their motive and mainspring in his patriotic devotion to the interests of his own race. To protect, defend, and perpetuate slavery in the states where it existed Abraham Lincoln was not less ready than any other President to draw the sword of the nation.[SNIP]
We saw him, measured him, and estimated him; not by stray utterances to injudicious and tedious delegations, who often tried his patience; not by isolated facts torn from their connection; not by any partial and imperfect glimpses, caught at inopportune moments; but by a broad survey, in the light of the stern logic of great events, and in view of that divinity which shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will, we came to the conclusion that the hour and the man of our redemption had somehow met in the person of Abraham Lincoln. It mattered little to us what language he might employ on special occasions; it mattered little to us, when we fully knew him, whether he was swift or slow in his movements; it was enough for us that Abraham Lincoln was at the head of a great movement, and was in living and earnest sympathy with that movement, which, in the nature of things, must go on until slavery should be utterly and forever abolished in the United States.
(Thanks to Roger L. Simon)
Here are the Gallup Poll results for the top seven choices for the greatest US Presidents.
Feb 7-10, 2005
Ronald Reagan 20
Bill Clinton 15
Abraham Lincoln 14
Franklin D. Roosevelt 12
John F. Kennedy 12
George W. Bush 5
George Washington 5
Reaching voting age seems to have had the greatest effect on the choices of the respondents (aside from Presidents Washington, Lincoln and Bush, obviously).
There are interesting and significant differences in choice of greatest U.S. president by age, with Americans tending to select a leader from the formative years of their generation.The racial breakdown of the respondents’ choices would probably be an interesting dynamic to analyze.
Clinton is the top choice among 18- to 29-year-olds, while Reagan scores highest for those aged 30 to 49, Kennedy for those aged 50 to 64, and Franklin D. Roosevelt for those aged 65 and older.
These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,008 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 7-10, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points.
UPDATE: Oh yeah. I'll have a post for each of the top seven, not necessarily in the order of their popularity in the poll. (Don't be skerred, Clinton fans. It'll be non-partisan. I promise.) :-)