In dipping into Daniel Halper’s interesting new book about the Clintons’ return from the grave that they had dug for themselves during their White House years (from an approval rating of 66 percent after his impeachment he plummeted to 39 percent upon leaving the White House to a chorus of pardon-induced Bronx cheers), a thought occurs: We have been reading these exposés about the malfeasance of the most corrupt presidential family in American history for over two decades! For some reason the scandals that these books reveal never sinks into the American mind. Today, despite Bill Clinton’s public record of shoddy financial deals, brutal politics, and endless abuse of women, he is the most beloved of recent presidents.
The Current Crisis
It did not take all that long, when you think about it, for America’s Nobel Prize-winning statesman to bring the world to a boil. Perhaps our Nobel Prize-wining president was only a community organizer all along. He has brought the world to a boil not by his use of force but by his inattentiveness. He has been playing golf or lecturing the world from a higher plain. He has been picking fights with the Republicans or devising new ways to thwart the Constitution. He has not reacted to provocations around the world that threaten peace and our allies. The allies are beginning to worry.
The President has simply failed to respond to an outburst of violence around the world. It is an outburst that has not been seen since the 1970s. His only reaction is mere rhetoric, sometimes no rhetoric at all. Sometimes he changes the subject. Whether it be mobs of Central American children at our southern border or armed rebels in Ukraine shooting commercial aircraft out of the skies there is only emollient talk from Washington. There is no alternative policy. Things are getting worse.
I have been vindicated! For years I have been comparing the Clinton family to the family of Warren Gamaliel Harding, our 29th president and a president of dark memory at least to most liberal historians. For me Warren was sheer slapstick, as to some degree his modern-day equivalent was, Bill Clinton. And forget not their gruesome wives.
I began my historical comparisons in the 1996 bestselling book, Boy Clinton: The Political Biography. For years I punctuated my syndicated column with references to the two families. Then in my 2007 book, The Clinton Crack-Up,I clinched the comparison in a reminder of how that Little Rock monstrosity, the Clinton Library, compared so favorably with the Harding Memorial in Warren’s hometown, Marion, Ohio. But now, you ask, how am I vindicated? Well, America’s historical memory is not very strong. Comparing Bill with a 1920s president to a modern American audience was not easy. Yet, by month’s end it will be much easier. In fact, the comparison will be inescapable.
On the day after his 82nd birthday, on Independence Day to be precise, a giant passed away, Dick Scaife. The man had style. He departed decorously as the nation was happily celebrating its 238th birthday. His sense of style has not been often mentioned in the obituaries, nor have his wit and engaging warmth.
His philanthropy has been mentioned, though it is often his political philanthropy, not his cultural philanthropy. Dick came from a long line of philanthropists dating back to his grand uncle, President Calvin Coolidge’s secretary of the treasury Andrew Mellon. Dick generously supported medical research, various educational institutions, the National Gallery, a slew of Pittsburgh-based museums, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Toward the end of his life he donated to the Clinton Foundation and had a friendly meeting with Bill Clinton. He admired the President’s charitable work with the Clinton Foundation, and I have always believed he wanted to encourage Bill’s good side.
BOSA, Sardinia—That is right, you read “Bosa, Sardinia.” Well, you might ask, how did I get into this place high atop vertiginous hills along the Temo River in western Sardinia with not another Yank for miles and only the Internet to keep me abreast of the Obama Terror.
My Italian adventure began last summer in Rome. There my wife and I were sitting, having dinner with an Italian friend of forty years, Antonio Martino, and his wife Carol. In his distinguished career he began teaching his Italian countrymen free market economics, which had he learned at the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman. Eventually Italy came alive, and he served in the Berlusconi government as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense. Through the evening we had much to talk about, and when we shut down he invited us back to his summerhouse this summer.
WASHINGTON—A couple of weeks ago I was lured from my customary solitary breakfast to dine with Dr. Ben Carson, the celebrated neurosurgeon and inchoate politician. He probably squirms at the appellation “politician,” but I am afraid that that is what he is going to be. In fact, a politician is what he will have to be if he acts upon his diagnosis of America. He believes America is losing touch with its founding principles.
Usually at breakfast time I am holed up with four newspapers, eggs, and coffee to gain my bearings on the day ahead. Yet, the prospect of listening to Dr. Carson overwhelmed my newspaper time. Besides, I am a confirmed hypochondriac, and Dr. Carson is a truly accomplished physician. Possibly I might gain a new insight to various afflictions.
WASHINGTON—Aha, Mr. Obama, how do you now like “leading from behind”?
When you first enunciated this hocus-pocus in 2011, Charles Krauthammer called it neither a theory nor a doctrine. He called it “dithering,” a style devoid of ideas. Instead of the implementation of a doctrine we have seen indecision, hesitancy, delay. In the aftermath of that delay it is too late to prevent the carnage, a carnage that did not have to take place. Iraq was stable and relatively peaceful before we led from behind. Now the country is quite possibly lost. Cartographers will be presenting the world with a new map of the area once it has been carved up.
WASHINGTON—There is lurking in the land a very treacherous threat to American freedoms, and only a handful of citizens seem to care. Perhaps I should say that only a handful of citizens are willing to make bold their concern. For the threat is camouflaged in the garb of “high-tech gadgetry” and the promise of instant response to the customer. Who could oppose that?
Amazon, the country’s largest bookseller controlling 40 percent of book sales in the country, wants to cap the price of e-books at $9.99. Publishers say they cannot cover their costs at $9.99 and want to charge more. If Amazon wins it comes a step closer to controlling publishing in America, both the production and the distribution of books. Think of that. One source controlling an area as vital to free thought as books.
WASHINGTON—Some forty-five ago one of the era’s great wits and finest writers, the Englishman, Malcolm Muggeridge, used to write about the Liberal Death Wish. He saw the Death Wish at work everywhere. In the liberals’ appeasement of the Soviets, he saw it. In liberals’ extravagant extension of the welfare state, he saw it. For a certitude, he was right. The liberals of the day died off and were replaced by Margaret Thatcher in Britain and by Ronald Reagan in America. Not much was heard of them for years until Tony Blair and Bill Clinton came along, and both men’s liberalism was greatly truncated.
WASHINGTON—Apropos of a 22-year-old deranged student’s slaughter of his male roommates, two co-eds, and another male student, as well as leaving 13 injured and in hospital, I have been doing my research. In the courses of which, I came across this quote on the front page of Tuesday’s New York Times. A second-year student in “global studies” at the university where the crimes were committed said in the news story’s second paragraph that, “If we don’t talk misogyny now, when are we going to talk about it?” She went on in the next paragraph with similar profundities.
It put me in mind of another quote from the Times on Sunday in the op-ed section by columnist Charles M. Blow. He was commenting on the owner of the Dallas Mavericks’ allegedly “bigoted” remark (though it seemed perfectly sensible to me) a few days before. Mr. Blow said the remark typified “the endlessly ached-for, perpetually stalled ‘national conversation on race’ that many believe is needed but neglected….”