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What will be remembered about the Administration of William
Jefferson Clinton is not the sniping attacks of his critics, but rather
his eight years of considerable achievement. The center held, the economy
flourished and those bent on a cultural civil war were kept at bay. If
George W. Bush does half as well, the Republicans will hail him as a
The two previous Republican administrations created more red ink than
all previous administrations combined, but the GOP still will not credit
Clinton with putting the federal budget dramatically in the black.
Nor can they, even now, admit that Newt Gingrich's reckless road map
known as the "contract with America" was a divisive prescription for
disaster. By stopping Gingrich in his tracks, Clinton at least
temporarily stalled the right-wing lurch that the new Bush Administration
seems hellbent on reviving.
Clinton leaves office with unprecedented high approval ratings because
he demonstrated that it's possible to have a progressive federal
government that cares for the needs of the people while bolstering,
rather than bankrupting, the economy.
He gained the allegiance of poor and minority voters because--despite
an ill-conceived welfare reform--his centrist policies contained
reassuring support for affirmative action, earned-income tax credits,
college scholarships, family leave for workers and other measures to
insure that their lives are not totally ruled by the anarchy of the
market and a legacy of societal inequality.
He had the support of a clear majority of those on the cutting edge of
economic change on both coasts because they shared his alarm at the
forces of intolerance, be they inspired by misguided references to
religion, family, patriotism or sexism.
He supported immigrants, who are the lifeblood of our prosperity, and
dared to suggest that homosexuals should be treated the same as any other
productive and law-abiding segment of our population.
In foreign affairs, Clinton left his mark as a peacemaker willing to
deal boldly with the seemingly intractable problems of Northern Ireland,
the Balkans and the Mideast, while easing trade and other barriers among
True, the jackals nipping at Clinton's heels from the days he
announced for the presidency got their pound of flesh. But it's Clinton
who triumphed. When Jackal-in-Chief Kenneth Starr popped up on one of
last Sunday's talk shows to judge the Clinton years an "unfortunate era,"
he must have been referring to his own miserable performance and not the
well-being of the nation.
At no time in our modern history has a president been subject to more
abuse for claimed offenses that primarily concerned his activities before
attaining office. A minor investment, in which he lost money, was blown
out of proportion by the most respectable quarters of the media.
Think of the public outrage now if that same effort were put into
digging up the dirt on the new President's past business dealings, let
alone the excesses of his previous personal life. Imagine if the Los
Angeles Times were to conduct in-depth interviews with disgruntled Texas
Rangers, as the newspaper did with Arkansas troopers who had guarded
Clinton as governor. Or if the New York Times were to launch a four-year
investigation of the claims of one of Bush's less happy former business
partners. Would CBS' 60 Minutes consider a show based on what Larry
Flynt's investigators unearthed concerning allegations about Bush's
personal behavior in the years before he was president?
Nope, because the media has a double standard. Intimidated by the
right-wing's absurd claim of a liberal bias, journalists tend to be hard
on Democrats while granting Republicans a free pass. When will one of
those pompous media moralizers admit that his or her personal life is as
messy as that of the President they spent eight years denigrating? And,
face it, those rich media superstars lust for Republican tax breaks for
the rich as much as anyone.
We now know more than we need to know about the personal lives of our
leaders. It's doubtful that any of our past heroes could have better
withstood the merciless scrutiny extended to Clinton. He was flawed in a
way that all too many of us are, but the love and success of his wife and
his daughter suggest that some basic family values were intact. Yes, he
was a product of the sixties, and thank God for his not being
Clinton's historical reputation will more than surmount the petty
complaints of contemporary critics and leave him remembered as one of the
hardest working, most competent, fundamentally decent and smartest men to
ever serve in the office. He was an excellent President.
After thirty years spent building the Federation of American Scientists into one of the country's most valuable and venerable institutional voices for peace, democracy and real security, Jeremy S
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