Post-Clinton Era

Got that done and got that done … have a minute here for a blog-post thought. Nothing more than a concerned but very casual political observer’s reflections on the Clintons in what he insists should be the end of their day.

I remember how happy we were the night President Bill Clinton became a reality. Celebrating in the main hall of WGBH as the news came in, I had what, in retrospect, was my personal moment of “post-racial” delusion: “This will be the end of the rightward lurch of American politics. Bill Clinton will be an unabashed progressive, the anti-Reagan with the skill to undermine the myth-making about Gipper’s popularity.” Hah.

The first huge jolt I remember was the showdown over gay equality in the military. By the mid-’90s it was a clear progressive step to take. Just as ending racial discrimination was in the late ’40s. But President Clinton had a poor understanding of widespread military attitudes and was more haunted by his lack of service in Viet Nam than anyone realized. Prez seemed to think it was just a matter of the some obsolete rules persisting and needed a simple fix. No, dude — there was raw bigotry thick on the ground troops and everywhere else. To be fair, secular Commander in Chief was a lot more vivid and in charge when Truman got the ball rolling and Ike slammed it out of the ballpark. Instead we got the compromise travesty of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which certainly did tell one thing: Clinton Will Cave. So Republican Lite was established and its crummy legacy persists unto this day of King Donald expecting his Mafia-like threats to send the Dems crawling to his feet.

Don’t get me wrong — this was the era when the GOP turned into All Attack All the Time and No Facts, No Problem. America owes everyone targeted by the Lewinsky investigations an eternal apology. But what President Clinton had to do is dig in his heels and say “The whole thing is none of your goddamned business.” The era when affairs could be used for blackmail was over. There was never any evidence the public was as prudish and enraged as the GOP kept insisting.

So Bill left office with a batch of dings and dents. And he’s done nothing since to convince me he does not have the occasional calamitous lapse in judgement. (And howcum he never figured out an effective way to help Hillary campaign? Does not seem like something that would be so beyond his capacities.)

HRC did a fine job as Sec. of State. She didn’t get enough credit for accomplishments, and her scandals, well, be honest — her worst lapses in judgement are trivial compared to her husband’s. And most of them don’t even exist. Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton was not a dynamic surprise, but I like her policies overall and the “warmonger” smear was too tied to the Iraq war vote and Republican Lite in general, which she would have every opportunity to cast aside.

I’m of the school that Hillary was a down-the-middle candidate who ran a down-the-middle campaign. What I didn’t understand was how hated she was by segments of the American people who bought into every dark accusation going back before Vince Foster. And how much flat-out sexism, exposed for the first time all over the landscape, could still cut and kill.

That said, the Clintons’ 20 years on stage expired last fall. Certainly a couple I will identify with the rest of my life. But any serious push toward Clinton 2020 would be by far her most serious lapse of judgement.

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