January 20, 2001

By Peter J. Fusco
web posted January 24, 2000

The cold is rather biting today although Washington never really gets cold; not like it does in Upstate, New York.

It seems awfully gray too, like melancholy falling over everything. Of course it doesn't take much to make this city of such small hopes and large disappointments gloomy.

This is one of those days when only a great pleasure, no, a tremendously uplifting experience; actually, only a miracle could make it worthwhile.

Another look at his watch as half frozen drizzle pecks at the windows. Reality is slowly moving back in like a bored ocean wave after another of those constant, aimless forays reducing the expectation of a transcendent religious experience to more or less a fantastic dream. He will blame God.

Staring out into the mist and dreariness it occurs to him that this weather is fitting in a lifeless sort of way. So much is dying.

Here at the end even the weather is against him. Funny how it rules and cooperates at the same time.

Well, it won't matter in a little while. Very little will matter, so it may as well be a horrible day.
Turning slowly, he surveys the room for the last time. It is almost surprising to realize that the Oval Office is no longer his. It too looks barren. Good. That's the way it should be when greatness passes away.

The waiting is a killer though, almost intolerable. It forces time on a person, but not free time. This kind of time demands review. It requires a thought by thought perusal of the past. Almost always it ends in panic over the future. In the course of this exercise he will step outside himself to watch. What he sees will deepen the misery. His heart will sink as his mind sifts through the last few details in hopes of finding something, anything of substance. But there is so little and try as he might, he cannot conjure accomplishments out of the immense nothingness that was his presidency. The truth, buried for so long under the excesses of factitiousness and denial will finally have its face to face with him. The regrets are legion.

There can be nothing so abject for the undeserving as moving from the apex of notoriety and power to the valley of the forgotten and useless in a matter of hours except the foreknowledge that it is without question about to happen. At one moment king of the mountain and in the next fool on the hill.

Bill Clinton's mind, once his friend, is now his worst enemy. It will not allow him to shut off the cacophony of muffled remonstrations, the loudest of which, "Out of time!" is distinguishable and repeats over and over. It tells him that the life he has enjoyed for so long is inexorably moving toward impending, radical, unwanted change. It tells him that this time there is nothing anyone can do about it.

In a very short while the door will close on a very public life. He will be important to the public no more.

If not for the charade of the last eight years this would be a somber, albeit dignified moment. But very little in this man's life can be considered dignified. Instead, the demise of this tawdry presidency, begun at the beginning really, is now complete and a source of joy for many, many millions of people. This he cannot spin, much less deny.

There is sympathy in some quarters, perhaps empathy in others. Like Nixon making his way up the stairs to the helicopter's entrance, then turning and waving goodbye in that awful, stiff, entirely Nixon way. Clinton will beg for the same kind of pity, but, while Nixon deserved it in some perverse sense because he never asked for it, Bill Clinton does not because he has the effrontery to expect it.

After dividing an entire country for eight years, after having made so very many political and personal blunders with such arrogance and indifference to the results and consequences, after having told so many lies, after having shown just how much disdain one man can have for his fellow countrymen, citizen Clinton will be hard put to find comfort in any corner. No peace will be declared by his detractors in a "let bygones be bygones" way, nor will his so-called friends seek communion since his time has come and finally gone. And too, it's just the beginning.

Generations to follow will not forget how he robbed the land and people of dignity and decency. History, Clinton's future great enemy, will be there to remind them. This he cannot escape.

What to do, what to do. For him and for those of us who so intensely disliked the man and all he stood for it will end in less than a few hours. The ride down. The ride back. The bitterness of having to shake the hand of the new "most powerful man in the world". The difficulty of having to look into the eyes of his successor, a man who knows he is starting the job with a relatively clean slate at Bill Clinton's expense. And then the wish that he never thought he would make: Please let it all end quickly.

The smothered anger will well up in him at that moment. He will find it difficult to contain. Then the cloud will pass even as humiliation begins filling the gaps in his character. He must remain silent. It would do no good to complain. His complaints no longer matter. This realization depresses him to the utter depths. He is chagrined to find he has become a chump, beaten by the very system he embraced.

Condemned to live under a pall of his own making, Bill Clinton will be forced to admit his self inflicted, but no less ignominious sufferings benefited no one as much as this new man. The new President comes into office free and clear and without so much as a "Thank you kindly" to his predecessor for having disgraced the office so often and through so many stupid mistakes that the press and people are inured to them.

As he leaves the White House for the last time, Mr. Clinton can almost hear the guffaws of the new tenant and his crew.

It is all true. The new President will have a much easier time of it because the old President impaled himself time and time again on his own weaknesses. He unwittingly paved the way for others to make grave errors, personal and otherwise under the aegis of being human. The realization will finally sink in that the cost of his stupidity was and will remain not only his legacy, but the last shred of dignity at the last moment of his presidency, a moment he will relive for the rest of his days. Having brought the Presidency so low Bill Clinton can only reflect on how his actions will benefit men of even less character. Under his watch unmanageable evil has been ensured an open door to the highest level of American government. He feels sorry, but not for his country.

Then the unavoidable last look at the house.

There will be memories. There will be no comfort in any of them, not even a private laugh at those still and forever secret. They are not so funny now, only vulgar like so much of this man's existence.

Life will never again be so insulated, nor so kind. Not only will he be forced to face the music, he will be forced to dance to a tune other than his own. It will take some getting used to. Then again for some people there is no getting used to a life outside the center of mass public attention.

Oh, but for one more chance. How many of us would trade everything for just one more chance? Just so we could do it all differently?

Ah, well. Mere speculation without a chance of even abstract survival. No one can do it over. For Bill Clinton, that is the big rub.

And only then is there the next beginning. Damn if there isn't always a next beginning. Perhaps it will be a good one. More likely it will be fraught with cruel and vicious payback.

All those enemies who felt threatened, who were in fear of presidential reprisals will begin to move from behind their bulwarks. Their fangs will have grown long and sharp. They will be thirsty for blood. No quarter will be offered and none given. There will be no protection from the myriad haters and historians who, unlike journalists, will rely on the abundance of fact to deliver hammer blows one on top of the other not for the story, but for the science.

Ultimately he will be not only yesterday's news, but today's and tomorrow's historical fodder with no forum from which to spin fiction into his own brand of facts. Spin is, after all, a tool of the powerful. He will be without power, a toothless lion living off the leavings of his pride. Besides, history's determinations don't have a large enough audience to justify a cadre of paid, government liars who defend without shame.

The analysis of history is a slow, many times mutilating and humiliating process. It used to be done posthumously. Historians had the decency to wait until the person was dead before throwing their harpoons at him. But thanks to the technology Clinton used himself to slash and burn the reputations and characters of others, history will begin eating his flesh immediately.

There will be no one to step in the way either; no one to take the punishment for him out of loyalty or friendship. No one to feel his pain because there is too much money to be made on his carcass. In the end it never matters anyway. No one cares. In the culture he embraced and in some ways epitomized there is no room for a has-been. No more than glancing attention is given the once powerful.

There will be nothing to stop the ravages of time and the concomitant scrutiny of hard historical fact. A living hell awaits him where his enemies will remain strong even as he diminishes in a blink of the world's eye.

Consider that William Jefferson Clinton will leave the White House and the Presidency of the United States behind after having made the former his personal, seamy motel and the latter a defiled laughingstock. He will have no legacy worth reading aside from commentary on how well he reduced the Presidency to no more than a pulpit for the instant findings of vagabond pollsters. In the distant future he will be an aside in counterpoint to stories of great presidents like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Reagan. The picture of Clinton will be presented more like that of Dorian Gray, a life of hiding total corruption.

At the end of this day it would be wise for all Americans to thank God on their knees that Clinton lacked the sine qua non of every great presidency: a potentially cataclysmic threat to the country's very existence. There is no telling what a cowardly, arrogant, unprincipled man without a shred of personal honor, having lived an entirely undisciplined life would have done if faced with an overwhelmingly complex and dangerous situation.

We should be thankful he was satisfied with taking credit for things he didn't do and starting wars with foes who couldn't possibly win.

Truth be told there has been no great accomplishment which can be claimed by the man himself. He didn't start the engine of commerce which has driven this economy. Reagan did. He did not oversee the final destruction of our greatest enemy, the Soviet Union, or even Communism, the world's most pathological social system and democracy's political nemesis. Ronald Reagan forced it, Ronald Reagan fought it and George Bush took it the final step mopping up. Bill Clinton merely inherited the world's one and only Superpower on the backs of those who fought and died to make it so. And because he got it so cheaply and valued it so little he was willing, indeed eager to squander it.

He cannot lay claim to victory in war like George Bush or even military service to his country like his idol John Kennedy. There was never even a desperate political situation like the Cuban Missile Crisis in which he could display a true sense of destiny. The best he could manage were several domestic and foreign forays of dubious cause and more dubious outcome using the military he eschewed, indeed hated, to give him the credibility he needed. But he got it wrong.
No one will be writing about the great victory over great evil in Kosovo. Instead they will be writing about the killing of Americans in Waco. History will not be what he wanted.

Scratch the surface and you will find that Bill Clinton believed himself to be the reincarnation of John Kennedy. And of course he got that wrong as well.

Kennedy was a philanderer, but Bill Clinton is a reprobate. He was bold (or delusional) enough to think he could act in public like JFK did in private and still be adored in the same way. Classic Clinton arrogance. He incorrectly took the measure of JFK as he has always hoped the world would measure him. He failed to understand that one cannot be completely devoid of redeeming qualities. A man, any man must have at least a suspicion of honor to justify an expectation of adoration.

Kennedy may have been a libertine, but at least he was no coward. Maybe that and a strict, Irish-Catholic upbringing forced a conscience on him. Equally important, he had a sense of the future which forced him to be concerned with history's view.

Bill Clinton has no conscience, no set of principles, nor realistic sense of the future. He didn't think he'd need them. He believed his mettle would be tested by a crisis, by something so big it would ultimately overshadow his enormous deficiencies. Problem was he did not count on it being called "The Monica Lewinsky Affair".

How frightening a retrospective when historians review the Clinton Presidency to find that his greatest efforts were in trying to foment crises of presidential proportions. How much more frightening when they realize he tried just so he could look like JFK in the eyes of the public.
There will be dénouement, but it will not follow a climax to the Kennedy/Clinton fable. It will amount to a lame explanation. He was a failure at being Jack Kennedy, becoming no more than a squire in his own surreal Camelot.

Doomed from the start of his Kennedy quest, Clinton was not only from the wrong side of the tracks, he was from the wrong part of the country. And while it may be difficult to remove the yokel from most Arkansas boys, with Bill Clinton and his consistent ham-handedness it was (and remains) impossible.

He tried compensating by going to Georgetown University and then Yale Law, but both institutions failed to instill a sense of ethics in him. Nothing could make him honest because he has never seen the value in honesty. He remained a sow's ear.

Unlike JFK who entered the Navy after college and distinguished himself, Bill Clinton turned his back on his country and hid from harm's way in a fashionably anti-American Europe of the 1960s. Under the guise of Rhodes scholarship and in his desperation to be accepted by his peers, Clinton chose to float in the political winds, often publicly denouncing his own country during its time of need.

Yet there is justice even for those who seem to constantly escape its righteousness. It usually comes as a result of an error in judgement, many times a stupid error. In his desire to be like Jack Kennedy, Bill Clinton forgot the most important choice of all, the choice of a mate. Jack had Jackie on his arm throughout his presidency. Clinton had Hillary around his neck.

And if it wasn't enough to make a marital decision of such poor distinction, his extracurricular affairs juxtaposed to JFK's would be comical if they weren't so horribly sad. People and historians alike will be forced to snort and snicker when the point is illustrated that while Jack Kennedy was rumored to have had a relationship with Marilyn Monroe, Bill Clinton was caught having a relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

In light of the obvious it is a sin that such great pith was wasted on Dan Quayle when Lloyd Bentsen said, "...you're no Jack Kennedy".

Aside from philandering with women from the lower echelons of the great unwashed Clinton leaves little for which historians can credit him. Certainly there will be apologists for his presidency, and they will make attempts to point at positive items in the historical record which seem to have Clinton's stamp on them. But they will be hard pressed to find any.

When they write about balancing the budget it will have to include a thorough discussion of the Republican Congress that made it happen. There will be little choice if accuracy is a consideration at all. Most assuredly they will have to concur, perhaps reluctantly, with other historians who will point to the fact that the connection between 40 years of a Democrat Congress and an out-of-control deficit was by no means coincidental.

Neither will they conclude it to be coincidental that subsequent to 1994 when Republicans gained control of the Congress, the deficit went down. They will say, "Republicans forced the President to control spending." And then they will go to hard boiled facts with a dash of commentary on the Constitution and precedent and the travails of other presidents in similar circumstances. But after so much blather about presidents past and future they will ultimately come back to Congress because Congress holds the purse strings and for all intents and purposes the buck stops there as sure as it begins. Clinton will be of secondary importance to the historical record because he was so lackluster in the substance of it.

The people writing history in the future will not include Clinton in the success story of less government spending either. They will point to his silence in the midst of Republican howls during the first seven years. Then they will talk about his effort to spend the money saved in his last. They will point to his wife's abortive attempt to seize control of the entire health care system of the country. They will talk of how he raised taxes in an era when there was no need to do so. They will discuss his penchant for trying to move the country to the left and then taking credit for its volitional movement to the right.

Historians won't include him, except as an afterthought, in a discussion of the post-wartime economic boom. They will begin at the beginning. They will give credit where it belongs, to Ronald Reagan. No one will care who came next, especially not historians who like to weave their stories around a main character, the guy who did it first, or the fellow who climbed it first, or the man who first put foot to luna firma.

Bill Clinton's only firsts will be remembered in this way: he was the first sitting President to be called before a grand jury. He was the first to be found in contempt of a Federal Court for perjury. He will also be the first to be remembered for being second, the second president to be impeached.

Historians will then compare Clinton to Andrew Johnson. They will give Johnson a pass because he succeeded the assassinated Lincoln, faced critical times and withstood the bitterness of the radical wing of the post Civil War Congress. Bill Clinton will be skewered because while there were no excuses for him, he made them all and in such a way as only a coward could make them. No one is likely to forget the various meanings of "is".

Clinton will be tossed about in the annals of history, back and forth between those who make an excellent case for his conviction and those who will not. In any case there will be few defenders of the man. No future historian will want to look foolish for reading truth into old spin on a matter of such gravity. The judgment of history will be harsh and unequivocal. At long last William Jefferson Clinton will be found guilty as charged and sentenced accordingly.
The future generation of historians looking back on Clinton's presidency will tell the story not through the eyes of spin doctors controlled by the White House and people like Carville, Davis or Stephanopoulis, but by looking into Clinton's own eyes.

The historians of tomorrow will come to the inevitable conclusion that Bill Clinton was a fake, a phoney, a liar, a second-rate charlatan who used his official positions in government to do not much more than proposition women most notably by dropping his pants to the floor. He will be recalled as a man who used and abused the Presidency of the United States of America as a result of unbridled arrogance bordering on megalomania.

Bill Clinton will not be regarded as a gentleman. He will be remembered as a shameful Arkansas boob who made it to the Presidency on a minority vote, an outcome in itself anomalous therefore suspect since it was given to him by an even less memorable boob, Ross Perot.

Not only will future historians be unable to put their fingers on any substantive achievements from this administration, but they will be forced to record Bill Clinton as a bumbling, bungling, foolish man whose vulgar affairs and cheap existence left a chasm so wide between the Presidency and the people there may never be a closeness again.

On this January 20, 2001 Bill Clinton is neither President nor politician. He is a sad caricature of American life in a post-Warhol era. Though he may have had eight years in the limelight instead of fifteen minutes, he will remain an oddity of pop culture, a symbol of a nation without morality or soul.

A child of the 60's, he will be remembered as the man who tried to remake society in the image and likeness of that drugged out, horribly spotty period. Ironically, history will remember him at the helm when liberalism, the second greatest political evil, the one he embraced so fully, finally sank, its failure complete and irrevocable.

Clinton will never be a towering persona whose every word is studied by future generations for some glimpse of wisdom that may lead into the light. His will be recalled as a time of shadows when souls were lost and redemption seemed entirely out of reach.

Yet his decadence foists choice on the next generation. As it assumes its natural control we will either see a continuation of the depravity or a surge to decency. Perhaps it will be the latter since it is in the nature of human beings who have a belief in God that once they are sufficiently sickened by extreme perversion in their midst they rebel harshly against it.

If there is a Bill Clinton legacy for the next generation to benefit from it will be that he turned America's stomach to the point that people will crave decency, honesty, mutual respect and civility; a return to the ideals of religion, chivalry and gentility.

Bill Clinton's legacy will be a contraindication to our children's children. He will be a model of what not to be.

At the end of the last day of his Presidency he will retire to a life of forced reflection wherein each moment that passes will be a reminder to him that America in its soul knows how grave an error it was to have made William Jefferson Clinton President of the United States. His tenure will be a warning to future generations that the worst of us can be elevated to positions of power and authority if the rest of us are not disciplined, moral, vigilant, careful and true to just ideals.

Clinton will leave office today. His final act will be unwitting, entirely contrary to his nature, but faithful to a president's mien. On his way into the past by way of the future he will leave us with an unspoken admonition to inculcate the idea and belief in succeeding generations that there is no substitute for character, but that character like charity must begin at home.

This is Peter J. Fusco first contribution to Enter Stage Right. He has written for The Utica Daily Press, Recycling Today and Slummit Magazine and is putting the finishing touches on a book called "The Conservative Gentleman, A Primer For Men in the 21st Century".

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