Bill Clinton was perhaps the last great Democrat, as we understood "Democrat" before the left took it over at last. Although I didn't vote for him either time because I had (vindicated) doubts about his character starting with his exquisitely bald lie about not shtupping Gennifer Flowers (he did), politically I found him pretty much a centrist, not terribly different from Bush41 or Bob Dole.
He handled the peace and prosperity thing A-OK. He let some geopolitical threats fester, but hoping things might work themselves out on their own can be prudent, too. And he did the best thing a president can do when faced with the threat of prosperity---he didn't mess with it.
How his vice president and anointed successor Al Gore turned an election against an underqualified and subarticulate Republican challenger into a close call remains a puzzle for the ages. Gore should have won by 10 states and 20 points.
Bill Clinton was a leading light of the now-moribund Democratic Leadership Council. Friendly to economic growth, strong enough on national defense. FDR would have tolerated it, Truman and LBJ would have caught the national defense part, and John Freaking Kennedy would have been its pope.
But somewhere along the way, Al Gore lost the script. All he had to do was read from his as boringly as Bush41 read from Reagan's, and he'd be completing his second term about now.
True enough, though, he wouldn't have an Oscar. I guess it all depends on what you think is important.
Which leads us to Mistress Hillary.
Every Democrat in Washington and most every Democrat everywhere else owes Bill Clinton. The missus inherited a virtually unlimited fountain of cash and considerable karmic debts. But she seems determined to blow it. I have no idea how she could sit on stage for 30 years behind Bill Clinton's sweet political song and still remain tone-deaf.
She goes to Selma, Alabama the other day to speak on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and uses an insultingly bad black accent and prattles on about global warming. I mean, not only does she butcher the tune, she doesn't even know the words.
When Hillary compared her own struggle as a woman (women got the vote in 1920) to what black folk use capital letters to describe as The Struggle (for practical purposes and as everybody knows, blacks only universally got the franchise with the Voting Rights Act of 1965), thousands of the African American eyeballs in attendance rolled painfully back in their respective heads.
After all this time, the first black president's wife knows absolutely zip about black folk.
Bill Clinton was the last of a breed, I think, at least among Democrats for awhile. Somebody who understood not just politics, but people. Not just the words, not just the tune, but the feeling that turns them both into music. Call it art.
Artists are rare in politics and are often flawed: FDR was a master, as were JFK, Ronald Reagan and of course Bill Clinton. There are solid artisans, like Truman, Eisenhower, Bush43, and don't underestimate LBJ and Nixon, who all except for Ike were undone more by their times than their flaws.
Barack Obama is an artist, let's make no mistake, although it's probably only a matter of time until his inexperience leads him to screw up under the brutal pressure. But I don't want to cynically bet against him because I like the fact that he seems interested in governing all the American people and not just those who agree with him. He wants to be my president, too, and I appreciate that, even though I agree with him politically on virtually nothing. I mean, Bill Clinton is far to Obama's right.
The other artist in the mix is Rudy Giuliani. He winks at the political game, has a screwed-up personal life, but as an artist he lets us all in on the joke and we love him for it.
If the Democrats are determined to squander Bill Clinton's legacy, Rudy Giuliani is happy to pick it up. The suit fits.