Jewish World Review July 2, 2004 / 13 Tamuz 5764
Jay D. Homnick
An Oval quandary: The Incredible Shrinking President
A bulimic friend just out of rehab confided in me that her saving mantra is: "Toilets are made for sitting". Some variation of this theme may have figured in the recent therapy of Bill Clinton: "Oval Offices are made for governing." All this wonderful purging, this marvelous catharsis, by our youngest ex-prex in his epic tome My Life, has again sensitized our souls to the aethereal afterglow of true rehabilitation. We spared Bill the penitentiary; he rewarded us with penitence.
As it turns out, he asks of us a small consideration in return. This, expressed rather forcefully to the BBC host David Dimbleby, is for us to focus on his achievements rather than on his failings. He fought valiantly against inequity, he humbly notes; we should press less the suit of his iniquity. We should not use our valuable journalistic time with him to dwell on such petty concerns as stray DNA, but rather on weighty matters like Bosnia and Kosovo.
Boz-who? Koze-what? These great markers of his tenure fail the all-important standard by which we measure foreign policy success. This unwritten journalistic rule unequivocally states that any time you have to call the fact-checker to confirm that such a place is indeed on the map, you can be sure that today's reader will give a polite yawn. The future reader of history, moreover, will give a jaw-stretching super-yawn that may imperil even the solidest truss.
This leads us to the speculation that perhaps we have been too hard on old Bill and his peccadilloes. It is not as we had supposed, that his cavalier behavior stamped him as a small man in a big office. Quite the contrary, he was trapped as a big man in a small office. Picture our hero staring mopishly out the White House window, thinking: so many voters conned, so many scandals spun, so many little people trampled, so much lying and twisting and conniving and finagling, all for what? To be the Boss of Bosnia? The Commissar of Kosovo?
He stood in the White House all those years ago, shaking President Kennedy's hand, vowing to be back, so the next time Khrushchev bangs his shoe he will encounter a President with soul. Thus began the great odyssey, from Hot Springs to cold calls, from Yale to lox, from Oxford to Argyles, culminating in the greatest office in the greatest land wherein is determined the fate of…. Bosnia? Kosovo?
Yep, Bill seduced all those lovely lasses in his youth, but Lady Luck remained impervious to his blandishments. Reagan had his Wall, Bush had his Desert, and here he was, William Blythe Jefferson Clinton, The Comeback Kid, rags to riches, the ultimate survivor, and he was stranded in the political desert, hitting the political wall. Who among us in that situation would have reacted any differently than he? There is only one response to such a moment: to order a pizza. And the rest, we regret to say, is history.
So, overcome by a new spirit of forgiveness, we extend absolution to our former Chief Executive. After all, he presided over a time of much peace and prosperity, he provided us with wonderful entertainment, and no amount of laundering can cleanse the cloak of his life from the ill-starred stain of impeachment.
Let us charitably fulfill his wistful wish and think of him only as the Great Liberator, the one who brought salvation and emancipation, redemption and manumission, to the boys from Boz… er, the folks from Koze… er, honey, could I trouble you to please bring the map?
JWR contributor Jay D. Homnick is the author of many books and essays on Jewish political and religious affairs. Comment by clicking here.
06/15/04: The man who never went gray
05/25/04: Desert (brain)storm
05/17/04: To be a Jew: What the murderers of Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl knew
04/21/04: The doctor is not in
03/17/04: Yanqui go home
02/09/04: Bush's full courting of Meet the Press (and other tales of Kay's treat)
01/08/04: Is taking two tablets bad for your constitution?
01/02/04: Watching the Dean's office
11/21/03: Ronald Reagan so misunderstood
11/14/03: Mulling (And Culling) The Democratic Field
11/11/03: World Seriously crazy: Grand malay seizures and Gibson screwballs
10/28/03: Bible or Babble in Babylon?
09/05/03: Dubya's last stand?
08/26/03: They don't sue prematurely (Tales Out Of Court)
07/29/03: Equipped with a quip, he gave the Hope
07/11/03: Speaking of Euro mania
06/27/03: The Tempest (not "The Taming of the Shrew")
06/16/03: Iraq and roll
06/05/03: Is Castro convertible?
05/23/03: Taxonomy of senatorial types
04/23/03: The Nutrasweet War against the Axis of Evil: Did Rummy forget?
© 2003, Jay D. Homnick