First in history...
By William Westmiller
Self-serving claims to fame will be footnotes in the history books, but the legacy of William Jefferson Clinton has been written in stone by his "first in history" deeds.
"The first President ever to be found in Contempt of a Federal Court," may not be the first sentence of the Clinton legacy, but it is the most recent. Arkansas federal judge Susan Webber Wright, took "no pleasure whatsoever" in finding that Clinton gave "intentionally false" answers in his deposition, which were "designed to obstruct the judicial process." The judge easily found what many US Senators refused to see: a willful obstruction of justice.
"The first elected President ever to be Impeached," will probably lead the Clinton entry in most histories, but it will be followed by many more "firsts."
"The first President ever to violate an International Treaty," ought to be near the top of his list. By ordering US participation in an offensive campaign against a sovereign nation, Clinton has single- handedly violated the North Atlantic Treaty, approved by the Senate nearly fifty years ago. The Treaty allows the use of armed force in collective defense only when there is an armed attack which violates the territorial integrity of members.
Unfortunately, "The first President to lose a Major Military Engagement," has already been taken by another Democratic President.
There may be a host of "firsts" that the Clinton Administration would prefer to see in future history. "The first President to agree to a balanced budget in three decades," is not exactly a badge of honor.
"The first President to be sitting during eight years of GNP growth," is a somewhat feeble accolade. Any other "first" that Clinton might claim will probably be dismissed by history as coincidental or the culmination of efforts that began long before his tenure.
There are several executive almost-deeds that aren't really "firsts", unless you add a lot of qualifiers. "The first President to attempt to amend the Constitution by Executive Order," could make the grade. The fact that Congress nearly canceled Clinton's Order on Federalism before it was "temporarily suspended" was certainly a first, but anticlimactic deed. "The first President to attempt to Nationalize a Private Industry," may not stand up to historic scrutiny. The attempt to take over the health care industry was primarily the First Lady's, so the best Mr. Rodham could hope for is a little reflected ignominy.
Encyclopedic entries for former Presidents tend to document their careers in chronologic order, so William Clinton's birth, political victories, and moderate posture during his first two years in office will be boilerplate entries. His concessions to the Republican Revolution of 1995 and reelection in 1996 will precede all his Presidential "firsts". However, his photo probably won't be labeled "The Comeback Kid". It might be "The Last Ladies Man". As historic inclinations evolve, his personal failures and depredations may get more prominent attention than any of his political adventures.
As with President Andrew Johnson's historic legacy, there may be several very important "in spite of" deeds. In spite of Johnson, the first unelected President to be impeached, the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution was passed and enacted. The Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of that Amendment were truly historic enunciations of principles that have changed the character of our nation. President Clinton deserves several "in spite of" entries, if Congress will accommodate the need.
In spite of Clinton's opposition, Congress may achieve a balanced budget that actually reduces the national debt. In spite of Clinton, Congress may cripple the IRS with a flat tax. In spite of the Commander In Chief, we may end an offensive war that was never declared. In spite of the President, our nation may achieve new levels of individual and economic liberties.
Those who hate everything that President or Mr. Clinton has ever done may find justice in his historic legacy. It won't be a result of any "vast right-wing conspiracy," it will be the result of his own conduct. If history is inclined toward just deserts, William Jefferson Clinton will not be the first victim of the pursuit of truth.
William Westmiller is the California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a past candidate for the Republican Nomination for (CA24) Congress and the former National Secretary and California Chairman of the Libertarian Party. His previous columns are available on-line at: http://www.westmiller.com/comment/
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