Bill Clinton is 70

bill_clintonBill Clinton has long confounded me. In 1992, I was somewhat suspicious of the guy some of the nastier pundits dubbed Slick Willie. I certainly did not vote for him in the primary, choosing either former Senator Paul Tsongas (MA) or now-governor Jerry Brown (CA).

I watched Clinton pretty much every time he was on TV, from that surreal saxophone playing on The Arsenio Hall Show to that less-than-comfortable interview, along with Hillary, on 60 Minutes.

Ultimately, I picked him for the general election, making Bill Clinton the first person in my 20+ years of voting for President who actually WON. It may have been because I had tired of Reagan’s third term of George H.W. Bush, with a President so isolated that he didn’t understand a pricing scanner.

Like so many before them, Bill and Hillary failed to enact a health care plan. I didn’t fault them, but it was a lot of political capital spent. Meanwhile, in other areas, I was disillusioned.

After promising to end the ban on gays in the military, the compromise was “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” which was quite unsatisfactory to me, in some fundamental way, worse than the ban. And he attacked the safety net that was welfare as though he were a Republican. His emphasis on more incarceration, which he has since repudiated, did not win me over.

And I had serious doubts about the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was supposed to create greater competition among providers, so that, theoretically, someone would compete with Time Warner Cable in this market; I had my doubts, and they seem to have been justified.

I did not vote for Bill Clinton in 1996, choosing Green Party candidate Ralph Nader instead. But when he was ultimately impeached for cheating on his wife – OK, lying to Congress about cheating on his wife – it seemed like an inappropriate use of Congressional power. In retrospect, it was especially galling when the Republican leadership had engaged in arguably more reprehensible activities.

In mid-September 1998, I happened to have been staying at Boston Park Plaza Hotel when Vice-President Gore, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and other dignitaries were going to be at the hotel for a fancy (read: high-priced) fund-raising dinner.

I looked from my upper story room saw several hundred protesters. They were split about 50/50 between those who were upset with the President and the effect his behavior had on the country, and those outraged by Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor, who put all of the lurid details about Bill and Monica Lewinsky on the Internet at a level with may not be noteworthy now, but assuredly was then.

(Ironically, Ken Starr got booted from his position at Baylor University, for his poor handling of a sex scandal. Monica Lewinsky gave a famous TED talk about the effect of the scandal on her, and cyberbullying generally.)

I’m not sure what to make of the Clinton Foundation. The goals appear noble, but at least the appearance of scandal troubles me.

Bill Clinton is generally seen as a great asset in his wife’s Presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2016, but I remain unconvinced. His astonishingly bad judgment in meeting with Loretta Lynch while Hillary was being investigated over her emails boggles. He ended up besmirching the reputation of Lynch and FBI Director Comey while making the eventual non-indictment look like the fix was in.

But at the Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton stopped embarrassing Hillary with an emotional speech, telling “an intimate story of how they fell in love and built a remarkable political partnership.

“The…former president chronicled his wife’s accomplishments from working to end housing discrimination to launching a children’s advocacy group in Arkansas to negotiating peace deals as secretary of state.”

A Daily Kos writer proclaimed that the speech was a success because even his dad liked it, and he was no Bill Clinton fan.

I continue to be fascinated by the 42nd President. He is the big kid mesmerized by the balloons at the DNC, and a master manipulator, Rhodes scholar smart, yet perplexingly inept. The term used a lot back c 1998 about him was compartmentalization. If it were true then, I think it’s more accurate now.

I think Hillary, as a woman, takes more heat for the sins of “the Clintons” than he does. He’s more personable, has that flirtatious twinkle in his eye.

What YOUR take on Bill Clinton?

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