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Commentary :: Environment
“Asteroid Hits Earth, Millions Die—GOP Says Clinton Responsible”
21 May 2004
Bill Clinton has been blamed by his detractors for just about everything from curdled milk to genetic mutations. But might there be a more recent president whose own record of misdeeds puts Clinton's to shame? Read the following for why it just may be time for Clinton critics to quit caterwauling.
I swear, I think it's only a matter of time before I read the above headline or one similar. Bill Clinton’s been out of office for over three years now, and he’s still being blamed for just about everything but the Civil War (I'm sure someone--maybe Ann Coulter, AKA "Ann Slanders"--will dig up an Arkansas ancestor who’s culpable somehow). It matters not how trivial the issue or even whether there’s a rational connection; the compulsion by his detractors (and my, they are a rabid lot) to throw Clinton's name accusingly into just about any discussion is seemingly unstoppable. And when it comes to serious topics, like dealing with terrorism, well, you'd think old William Jefferson is Beelzebubba incarnate. But for sheer chicanery, President Bush has Clinton beat by a Texarkana country mile, and when Bush defenders insist they hear truth and sincerity in his words, I get a sick sense: I see deaf people.

First, a disclaimer: I dislike Bush intensely, but I’m not a big Clinton fan, either. I realize this may confuse those who tend to view the world in strictly black-and-white terms and for whom Bush, whose gray matter comprehends no gray areas, is the perfect president. But I was enamored neither with Clinton's unworkable "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the military nor his cynical escalation of the exorbitantly expensive and draconian drug war. He was no champion of the Constitution and lived close to the legal edge when it came to raising campaign monies. But again, whether it’s these issues or others—like being “poll-driven,” the economy, or, ahem, just possessing good old-fashioned intelligence--of the two, Bush is the real evildoer (I’ve long wanted to use that word).

For instance, in the rainbow-bannered arena, Bush's phony proposed constitutional gay marriage ban (clearly election year pandering to his hardcore base) wins anyone’s homophobia contest hands-down. The drug war? Bush's unhinged attorney general has been even more zealous than the previous administration in continuing this crusade (and heaven knows John Ashcroft loves a good crusade), spending precious resources even after 9/11 to search for and destroy medicinal marijuana intended for terminally ill, wheelchair-bound patients. I know, I know: It’s all done in the name of compassionate conservatism.

Clinton’s constitutional transgressions? His First Amendment record was poor: His administration pushed for the (successful) installation of V-chips in all TV sets (perhaps one should have been installed in his libido) and pursued censorship in other areas. The Fourth Amendment didn’t fare much better under Clinton as the Justice Department began conducting warrantless searches during his tenure. But when it comes to rights (as in the denial of), Clinton pales in comparison to Bush, who, for instance, wants to make permanent the odious Patriot Act. Or how about the indefinite incarceration of an American with no access to family or legal counsel, as has happened to "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla? Also, a concerted, sometimes brutal effort at suppressing dissent has been employed across the land. Orwellian-named (shouldn't that be "Bushian-named"?) "free speech zones" are routinely set up in cities hosting the President, VP, or government-sponsored trade conferences, far from the action. It might be only a matter of time before FSZs are restricted to a few scattered parking lots in San Francisco and New York--pay-by-the-hour, no doubt. Perhaps daily rates will be available.

Clinton has been (rightly) slammed for shady fund-raising activities and using 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a giant moneymaking machine. He even provided Lincoln bedroom sleepovers as perks for big contributors for which Bush blasted him during the 2000 campaign. Either W forgot he'd said this (a distinct possibility) or ultimately decided he might like a piece of that action himself because, whaddyaknow, a couple years later news broke that Bush held White House slumber parties for—surprise--Republican campaign heavy hitters. Actually, Bush needed no inspiration from Clinton in misusing an official government residence: During his stretch as the Lone Star State's head honcho, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports that "eight of the 31 overnight guests at the Texas governor's mansion [in 1999] helped...Bush raise a record $70 million for his Republican presidential bid." Once again, Bush out-Clintoned Clinton, cheeky stuff when one recalls his pledge to "restore honor and integrity to the White House." Maybe Bush meant after HIS residency there.

While it's undeniable that Clinton was poll-driven, the current administration has no equal in that area. With the wormy but undisputed king of demographics Karl Rove as Bush’s advisor, not a single decision is made by the current administration without first calculating the net gain or loss in meaningful congressional or electoral votes. As for Bush being so pure that he doesn't listen to polls, this could only be true if one means he ignores comments made by Krakow residents.

Clinton-haters blame the former president for the country's economic problems under Bush. Hmm, let's see: America’s overall fiscal picture hasn't been this out-of-focus since, well, since Bush Sr. was in office (probably a coincidence). That giant sucking noise heard across the land caused by the disappearance of millions of jobs on Bush Jr.’s watch is strangely appropriate, given the surname of the last president who lost an even greater number. Herbert Hoover is not someone with whom most presidents would care to be associated, but W doesn't fret much over legacy. When queried by Bob Woodward for his book "Plan of Attack" about how future Americans (provided there are any) will view his decision to invade Iraq, Bush responds: "History. We don't know. We'll all be dead." Historically speaking, of course.

Speaking of speaking, I sure miss Clinton's public appearances. His personal comportment may suck (sorry), but his mind is brilliant. I mean, put Clinton's ability to grasp things political against Bush's, and it almost seems like Clinton is a Rhodes scholar while Bush is some fortunate son of average intellect who matriculated to a prestigious university based solely on his family's influence--doesn't it? I enjoyed listening to Clinton whether I agreed with him or not; he grasped the issues, understood nuances, and articulated them well. Contrast that with Bush's elocution "skills," and one's lucky if ear surgery and some counseling aren't required immediately after hearing him try to string together sentences that follow any known rules of English.

Now for the biggie: terrorism. One of the sillier claims making the rounds is that Clinton (or Al Gore, had he won in 2000--well, he did win, but the Supreme Court said he didn't double-dog dare ya win) would not have gone after al-Qaida in Afghanistan post-9/11 the way the heroic Bush did. Sorry, but ANY American president would have done the same thing. Make that any American period, including my besotted Aunt Earline, and she's been dead for twenty years. Bush gets no extra credit for doing his job (after not doing his job), but maybe that's a little harsh: It should be acknowledged he at least tried to make it appear he was interested in pursuing the real murderers before hanging a testosterone-fueled U-turn and careening toward Baghdad.

There's been a hue and cry from the right that 9/11 is all Clinton's fault and Bush was minding the store just fine; after all, Bush had only eight months to Clinton's eight years to be on the lookout for swarthy men who intended us great harm. Time for our non-revisionist history moment: Clinton spent much of his two terms shackled by self-righteous Republicans (is that redundant?) who were more obsessed about busting Clinton for something--anything!--than interested in serving their country. After years of witch hunts and a $52 million taxpayer-financed price tag, the moralistic Ken Starr finally nailed Clinton for nailings of his own, which, though perfectly legally, were certainly ill-advised. When Clinton compounded his poor judgment by lying under oath, he finally gave his pursuers something to hang their cone-shaped hats on.

Was this an impeachable offense? More so than--hypothetically speaking--lying about why this country had to attack a defenseless nation, causing untold misery and costing billions, solely to satiate some harebrained America-as-empire ideology? Why, of course! (Sorry, I had a Junior moment.) I mean, of course not, but that certainly appears to be the conclusion of anti-Clintonians whose pathological obsession often blinds them to anything resembling common sense.

As for who really, REALLY focused better on terrorism, Clinton or Bush: Former U.S. counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke told the 9/11 commission that the Clinton administration had had “no higher priority” than combating terrorism. When Clinton’s administration handed its terrorism-related intelligence to the incoming Bushies, though, the file didn’t quite find its way to the top of the in-box (both because it had icky Clinton fingerprints on it and also because it's hard to concentrate on ousting Saddam Hussein and genuine terrorist threats simultaneously.) There's no doubt, however, that by the summer of 2001, Bush and crew were asleep at the console, considering "the system was blinking red," according to CIA Director George Tenet. But I do want to state right here it is categorically NOT true that Osama bin Laden personally phoned the president beforehand to inform him of al-Qaida's plans (no one can say I don't defend the president when truth dictates it).

Alas, the upcoming litany of Bush's double-dealing is the decidedly unfunny part of our program, so I’m afraid the yuck stops here. President George Walker Bush: lied about the threat from Iraq and its ties to al-Qaida, lied about the “average” $1083 tax cut, directed the EPA to falsely tell New Yorkers their air was safe a few days after 9/11, has stonewalled the 9/11 and Iraq war intelligence commissions after first resisting their creations, displays little interest in finding the member(s) of his staff who blew CIA operative Valerie Plame’s cover, refuses to release energy task force records, ordered information about the Medicare bill’s true cost withheld from Congress until after its vote, proposes reclassifying as "manufacturing jobs" fast-food positions to help boost his jobs lost numbers, foisted his much-ballyhooed No Child Left Behind legislation on unwilling states only to stick them with $27 billion in underfunding, promotes himself as tough on terror yet just days AFTER 9/11 slashed by almost two-thirds the FBI’s $1.5 billion emergency anti-terrorism request, sends the military senselessly into harm’s way with high praise while, variously, opposing health insurance benefits for reservists and National Guard members, slashing funds for medical care and housing for military dependents, eliminating access to drug discounts for veterans…of course, I could go on, but I’m already in danger of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. It should be very painfully obvious to patriots: President Bush is an unscrupulous, opportunistic liar, and America is suffering immeasurably for it.

While Clinton may be greasy, Bush, following family tradition, is a big-time oil man. It is way past time for those who have moaned incessantly for oh-so many years about Clinton’s wickedness and how all things dark are his fault to give up the ghost, pack it in, call it a decade. It’s so last millennium, and considering the machinations of the current White House resident, transparently disingenuous. If you are a compulsive Clinton-hater and cannot see this, please: Hie thee soon to the nearest mental health facility and do yourself (and your poor, worn-out family) a big favor. Because when it comes to comparing the current president’s performance to that of his predecessor’s, any objective review of Bush’s wincingly bad song-and-dance routine would note he’s got too right feet and mention the tune’s grating reworked lyrics (with apologies to Irving Berlin): “Anythin’ Bill can do, I can do unbetter. I can do anythin’ unbetter than him.”

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