A Short, Vituperative Farewell to Bill Clinton

By Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net

In 1998, right after the Monica Lewinsky affair came to light, I wrote a short, vituperative piece called President Fuck-Up, in which I called the President a "a charming liar who will apologize endlessly but never change." I concluded:

Bill Clinton's paragraph in the history books will involve a minor, scandal-ridden administration. With time and perspective, these eight years will be just a few lines between more significant developments. But today, they look like something far worse: a massively wasted opportunity to carry on the business of government with liberal, Democratic goals and ideals. An opportunity which, as a result of Bill Clinton's immense bungling, we may not see again for decades.

Clinton's parting shot, by-passing his own Justice Department to sell pardons to people like Marc Rich and the four Hasidic embezzlers from New York, was the post-script to the worst Presidency since wannabe gangster Richard Nixon. Just weeks before, the media was reporting that Clinton (despite having to surrender his law license for five years as part of a deal to avoid indictment) would continue to lead the Democratic Party. Now the other hypocrites and sycophants are backing off from Bill in a hurry; he's no longer do-able.

What was he thinking? In one of my favorite stories, Lonesome Dove, novel and miniseries, an ex-Texas Ranger named Jake Spoon is about to be hung for murder and horse thievery. Told he crossed the line, Spoon replies: "I never saw any line." Clinton similarly, President Fuck-Up, never knew where the line is. He looks genuinely baffled every time he gets in trouble. This time he has managed to sink the Democrats further down than they already were after Gore's defeat, and tarnish the beginning of his wife's Senate career. But is she any better? As much as she is now trying to distance herself from the pardons, Hillary stood to benefit from some of them, that of the embezzlers in particular, which may have bought her a significant block of Hasidic votes. And she too has established herself over the years as someone who doesn't know where the line is, all the way back to the days in Arkansas when she let a broker start a commodities account for her with his own money. She's off to an extraordinarily poor start as Senator from New York.

As for Bill, I really want him to fade away into the late night nostalgia haze, hawking Ginzu knives and diet supplements. Off somewhere where he can't keep snatching Democratic defeat from the jaws of victory, tarnishing what he touches while his big old eyes fill up with tears of incomprehension.