Special Report

Reigning Like a Dog

The shabbiness of the Clinton era was showcased yesterday in appropriate Woodstock slop.

By 11.18.04

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God sent his rain down on the just and unjust at Bill Clinton's presidential library opening on Thursday -- a celebration of his "glorified house trailer," as Clinton put it, quoting a British publication's description of the architectural monstrosity next to the Arkansas river. Looking unwell and spent from his heart surgery, Clinton spoke of "red and blue" coming together, though there was little red apart from the color of ponchos in the audience at what looked like a rained-out U2 concert. It was an event held in the South but it might as well have been held in Hollywood. The press regarded it as a moment of great American majesty, but it smacked of the depressing cultural shabbiness that Clinton's Fleetwood Mac inauguration augured. The 1970s America that Clinton's events always epitomize is so devoid of distinctively American high culture that it has to outsource cultural performances to foreign rockers like Bono.

The press purred over the proceedings, though strangely the Clinton News Network and pro-Clinton gabbers on MSNBC felt safe enough to come out and acknowledge that Clinton as president had the morals of a strip club owner. "A rascally dog," Hillary Rosen on MSNBC called him. What happened to the left's agnosticism about attacks on Clinton's character? The infidelity charges against him were "uncorroborated," "baloney," "unbelievable," they used to say. Gennifer Flowers and all the others were lying connivers, they assured the American people. The right called him a "rascally dog" and they cried foul. Now they call him a rascally dog and pat themselves on the back for honesty that comes about 14 years too late.

Clinton is even calling his conduct "public" now. Well, not quite. In an interview with Peter Jennings, he says that it was "public-personal." "I made a terrible public-personal mistake, but I paid for it, many times over," he blubbered angrily. "No other president ever had to endure someone like Ken Starr inviting innocent people, because they wouldn't lie, in a systematic way, and having respectable news outlets treat them like they were serious, and parroting everything they leaked. No one ever had to try to save people from ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, and people in Haiti from a military dictator that was murdering them, and all the other problems I dealt with, while every day, an entire apparatus was devoted to destroying him."

Herod Antipas is still attacking John the Baptist. Clinton's only real legacy was on display at the library opening: he succeeded so well in normalizing scandal and lawbreaking that he can still receive a gaudy reception at a library opening. Many historians will wonder: What erosion occurred in American culture under liberalism that made it possible for a thoroughly disgraced president, a disbarred lawyer, and de facto felon to be so lavishly honored just years after a historic impeachment?

Not so long ago, after Clinton granted pardons to one of the most wanted fugitives in the world, people were calling him a pathological grifter, but all is forgotten in the age of celebrity, even as Clinton's pathological lying resumes in interviews like the one with Jennings where also he says "there's not any example of where I ever disgraced this country publicly. And in spite of it all, you don't have any example where I ever lied to the American people about my job, where I ever let the American people down, and I had more support from the world, and world leaders, and people around the world, when I quit than when I started."

Clinton had plenty of "the world" on hand at Thursday's ceremony, ready to congratulate him for his noble retirement plan to fight sexually transmitted diseases in Africa. Clinton's solace in the opinion of the "world" is one more illustration of the Democrats' blue-state crisis: the less support they find in America, the more they seek comfort in the approval of the world. And what does the "world" mean? It means the decadent elite they fraternize with at global events that invariably make the problems of the world worse. Democrats use the phrase "the world" with a reverence that would make one think they were referring to the Trinity. They just take it for granted that the world, however they define it, is right and ordinary Americans are wrong, and then wonder why they can't win national elections.

Clinton's final observation at the ceremony was curious. He basically said conservatism "draws lines" and liberalism crosses them, and that's the glory of liberalism. He prided himself on knocking down "barriers." He draws esteem from knowing that illegitimate children can now answer the question, "What does your Mom do for a living?" thanks to his many employment initiatives.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.