January 20, 2001
By Peter J. Fusco
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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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