my pissant two cents

Thursday, November 18, 2004

could've been worse....

they dedicated the clinton library in little rock today, an arsenal of correspondence and documents from the 42nd presidential administration. that's pretty cool, i think. it's nice to reminisce about a president who was curious, intellectually engaged and smart. who would've thought that such a thing would elicit almost sepia-toned nostalgia?

this is not to say that bill clinton was all that and a bag of chips, as the popular vernacular of his era went. we're still dealing with the aftermath of nafta, which he pushed through in a way that bush 41 could not. that sucking sound (insert lewinsky joke here) that ross perot famously predicted hasn't even reached full effect, and already the u.s. economy is on the greased rail to a state that economists like to call "really f'ing bad."

clinton also made good on his promise to change welfare as we know it. he did, and there are millions paying for it in ways that the sole superpower should not countenance. the social safety net constructed in fdr's new deal and strengthened in lbj's great society was cut down. we now have a national welfare policy called "sink or swim." if you need help, you can have it, but only for a limited time. if it doesn't work out for you... well, as my high school football coach used to say, too damn bad.

clinton's most spectacular failures were noble, yet ultimately doomed. national healthcare? not a chance in hell that was going to fly. first, he put the missus in charge of it. this may surprise those people quietly muttering "hillary '08" to one another as a palliative following the election, but all of the right and many moderates HATE hillary clinton. she couldn't have carried a bill in favor of motherhood in the hellbroth of ill will the republicans stirred for her. add to that the smear campaign that the insurance industry-- funny how they never go out of business, huh?-- leveled against her and the administration, and here we are with 45+ million americans still without healthcare.

then clinton tried to normalize relations between the military and homosexuals. that's pretty daring. forgetting, for the moment, that gays and lesbians have served in all branches of the military from time immemorial, it was nice of clinton to let them go from the closet to the footlocker. however, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that eventually went into effect has been inadequate, to say the least, to remove second-class (generously) status to gays and lesbians in uniform. it essentially states you can be gay, as long as you never say or do anything about it. that's not entirely true; there's a one free shot rule, wherein you can act out on your prurient feelings, but only once. they call it-- no joke-- the "queen for a day" rule.

so clinton was no lincoln, hamilton, jefferson or kennedy. But he made some good decisions along the way, which is saying something, considering he was hamstrung from the git-go by ethics investigations. it started with travelgate and whitewater-- a failed real estate venture that cost him and hillary $300,000-- and ended with ken starr's nose in his pants and impeachment in the house.

that's what's really horrifying about what's going on today. you can blame the media for virtually ignoring the slew of random felonies flying in all directions from the white house, while the meaning of what "is" is and the hygeinic nature of dna-soiled dresses were debated ad nauseam for months on end. but they're not really the problem.

the sad truth is, as the election showed us, the majority of americans don't care. enron robbing california and pillaging its workers' pensions? torture at abu graibh? wholesale disregard for international law at camp x-ray? homelessness, hunger and poverty on the rise here in the u.s.a.? couldn't care less. "shock and awe," freedom on the march, stuff blowing up at night? can't get enough, so long as we don't have to see civilians being massacred or reflect on whether the whole thing was really necessary. a convenient lie is enough to salve our consciences, and we don't even have to change the channel.

today provides something of a respite from the malaise and ennui that has gripped many of us since kerry's concession speech. a time to remember when we had our guy in office. flawed, yes. not as liberal as we'd like. but ours nonetheless. let's celebrate a moment where we can remember what it was like to have a president whose election we felt reasonably sure was fair.

i should not be surprised, but the republicans are already trying to steal clinton's thunder on this day. they're bragging about the millions of dollars they've already raised for the george w. bush presidential library. they say if they can raise enough money, visitors won't even have to bring their own crayons....


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