by ROBERT HEROLD & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & can't be accused of being part of the "vast right-wing conspiracy." I voted twice for Bill Clinton. In fact, I was in the 60 percent who gave him high job approval ratings as he left office. But the truth is, I was also part of the likely more than half of that 60 percent who was glad to see both of them go.
Watching Bill in attack mode these past weeks as he (with Hillary's support) diminishes himself and the very ideal of "former president," I'm drawn back in time, to those heady days a decade ago and my latent, even subliminal discomfort during those years. And to why this campaign has served notice that nothing has changed. It's the proverbial deja vu all over again.
Let's begin with what's now obvious: Elect Hillary and we get two for the price of one, the second act. Hillary alone might be OK -- not inspirational, but OK. But with Hillary we also get Bill, and I really, really, really don't want to see Bill back in the White House. Having watched these past weeks -- what has to be prologue to a Hillary presidency -- I am left to utter, "egads!"
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & H & lt;/span & illary's supporters talk in glowing terms about "the Clinton legacy": The roaring '90s, back when the government actually had money in that "lock box," when we weren't in what Obama correctly calls "a stupid war," back when we had an impressive Treasury secretary, when Supreme Court nominations weren't based on the religious right's agenda. All that good stuff. So, OK, Bill was late developing an interest in foreign policy, and national security was never his thing; but then, after all, the USSR was gone, the United States was the only superpower and globalization was remaking the world. True, the Clintons were cast in their very own soap opera. And, yes, some tacky, sleazy stuff seemed always happening on the other side of the curtain. But, on balance? By comparison?
We overlooked so many of the Clinton peccadilloes if for no other reason than that Bill and Hillary looked good when compared to the likes of Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, both supported by their Congressional army of moralizing, hand-wringing and ever-so-sanctimonious hypocrites.
One afternoon at a restaurant, I overheard a conversation our then-Congressman George Nethercutt was having with three high rollers. George, for whom unctuousness had become a lifestyle, seemed distressed at the doings in Washington. (I refer to the time just after Gingrich was forced out of office only to be replaced by one Bob Livingston who lasted maybe 24 hours before his own personal scandal broke.) I watched as George raised his eyebrows, as only he could, and said: "... it's so tough back there; first Newt, then Bob. Gosh, you try to take the high road and they just trash you."
High road? Newt Gingrich? And the thing was, I'm quite sure that Congressman George was genuine in his obliviousness, just as he was when he walked away from his term-limit pledge. He likely believed all those self-serving justifications he gave for dishonoring his pledge.
When you have this kind of opposition, it didn't take much for the Clintons to look real good.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & hose who are so impressed by what they call "the Clinton Legacy" and now hope for Shamelot Act II seem to me to pick and choose their recent history. Might I point out that the Clinton legacy also included losing in only two years what no Democratic president had managed to lose for over a half-century -- both houses of Congress. And why? Well, the trail leads right back to Hillary, the keeper of the Clinton Legacy flame. Having promised "two for the price of one," Bill turned over health care reform to his secretive, authoritarian and narrow-minded wife. She so botched the job that the public lost all confidence in the both of them.
Ken Starr to the rescue. Yes, he waylaid government for a couple of years. Not good for the country. As it turned out, not bad for the Clintons personally. The Pillsbury Doughboy was so transparent that he almost managed to turn Bill into a victim. Bill, exposed, had turned Hillary into a wronged woman. Victim and wronged.
Again, a win-win for the Clintons.
Turns out though that Hillary gets some of the blame for the Starr debacle as well. Yes, Ken Starr was an apparatchik who carried a political hatchet. But who created Ken Starr? The short answer is that it was a politicized Republican judge who refused to accept the findings of the first special prosecutor who had determined that there was no evidence supporting further investigation. But, as we know, the fiasco didn't begin there. In the beginning it was all about Hillary and her gender politics. She set the table. Pressured by Hillary, Bill ended up appointing that disaster of an attorney general, Janet Reno. It was Reno who extended Starr's investigation to include Paula Jones, which then led to Monica Lewinsky. Had Hillary not insisted on a woman attorney general in the first place, maybe Bill would have filled the position with, say another Bob Rubin, a person of stature and good judgment.
For me, one decade of the Clintons was enough for a lifetime.