Jewish World Review Jan. 5, 1999 /26 Teves, 5760
of Clintonian politics
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- AS I SCANNED the newspapers on the first Monday of the new year, I came across a story about President Clinton's plan to reintroduce the $322 billion tax bill he offered while vetoing the Republicans "risky" $792 billion tax cut last year. I thought to myself, "Please, not another year of political demagoguery." Just when I thought we might be getting a respite from the class-warfare I realized there would be no peace until this campaign warrior's term expires.
Many have speculated about Clinton's legacy, including Clinton himself. How will he ultimately be viewed from a historical perspective?
As much as Clinton craves greatness, he is enslaved by the often-conflicting desire for short-term gratification. In fact, one of the tragic aspects about this administration is that it has been whipsawed in a constant turmoil between its short-term and long-term interests. Yes, you heard me right -- I said its (the administration's) interests, not the nation's. I think it's rather obvious to most observers that Clinton, even more than most sinners, is primarily motivated by his selfish interests, from sensual gratification to the desire to be enshrined as an extraordinary president.
Beyond the physical peccadilloes, Clinton's main short-term interests involve his desire for approval. To satisfy this unquenchable desire, Clinton is in perpetual campaign mode. There is barely any transition between his campaigns for office and his governance. Once elected, his campaign machinery merely shifts its focus from getting him elected to winning support for his policies.
People say his policies are driven by the polls, but it's a bit more complex than that. In actuality, his propaganda machinery seeks to manipulate the will of the people, which, in effect, steers the polls in alignment with his policy objectives. In those rare cases where his propaganda machine fails to fool enough of the people he merely abandons his policy pursuit. To Clinton, ideology is very important, but always subordinate to his personal interests. Besides, he can always try his policy initiatives again, after enough time has passed and his formidable war room has had ample time to demonize opponents of the policy.
Clinton's quest for a real legacy has been consistently frustrated. There have simply been no lasting achievements. Despite the incredible prosperity during his watch, even he seems instinctively to realize that he had little to do with it. The arguably favorable result in Kosovo was marred by his Mr. Magoo-style handling of the conflict.
He is in tireless pursuit of that one miraculous policy triumph for which he can claim indivisible credit and which will historically outweigh his scandal-ridden presidency. If only that pesky 22nd Amendment weren't in his way, he wouldn't have to worry about achievements that would survive his presidency because he could just continue to get re-elected.
As his remaining time in office ticks away, his awareness of missed opportunities and failed dreams surely intensifies. The bottom line, though, is that he must know that his aspiration to make Mt. Rushmore is quixotic at best. Even extending his administration through Al Gore or Hillary will fail to grant him presidential immortality. In the end, this administration, like all others, will be judged on its own merits.
A full generation may pass before the gavel of historical justice finally falls on this administration and renders its verdict. In the meantime, we will have to deal with the short-term consequences of Clinton's destructive politics.
Though he has persistently harped on the need for bipartisanship, he has done more than anyone else to destroy collegiality and sow seeds of distrust between the parties and among the people. He has cut a wide swath of cynicism and distrust during the last seven years and will doubtlessly continue on that path throughout his term.
Though he has often talked about healing, it is a politico-medical fact that wounds won't heal if they are continually reopened. As I read about Clinton's tax initiative I was reminded that this nation would have to endure another year of his injurious behavior -- his scaremongering, his class and race warfare and his deceit -- before the healing period can begin.
On the bright side, though, a year is not that