Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Clinton Bio on PBS

There was an interesting biography of President Clinton on PBS last night. Among the many things covered about his life and political career included the Monica Lewinsky affair and fallout - like they could skip that, right?

In that part of the story, there were a few components that I found really interesting as memories of the time came flooding back:
  • Clinton did it to himself - simply put, if Clinton had kept his Johnson in his pants, the scandal would not have happened. The end. As one of the commentators DC it is full out "warfare," and enemies will do anything to destroy their adversaries. The only way to survive is to not give them anything to do it with. Clinton gave the Republicans just what then needed. I remember feeling this at the time. Thanks a lot Bill! Why give them this?
  • Differences from Nixon and Watergate - during the Lewinsky drama, many on the right were trying to equate Clinton's situation to Nixon's. You know..."as bad as Nixon." Get even for Nixon and the like. But lets be honest, Clinton got oral sex from an internal and lied about it while the Watergate break-ins and cover up exposed that Nixon abused the apparatus of his office in a wide ranging effort to intimidate, punish or steal from his political enemies. This is a very significant difference. I recall at the time thinking how dishonest and manipulative it was for Rs to be trying to equate Clinton's "lying under oath about sex" to Nixon's crimes. Also pointed out in the program was the notion that Nixon felt like those around him were smarter and deferred to them when they advised he resign rather than be impeached or kicked out office. Clinton on the other hand never had any such feelings. Nope. He felt that he was the smart one and never entertained the idea of resignation.
  • Republicans really hated them some Bill Clinton, but the public did not - oh the Republicans hated "Slick Willie." Hated. Yes, they were out to get him. Yes, it started approximately 5 minutes after Clinton won the election in 1992. They could not fathom that Bush Sr. had lost. Did. Not. Compute. And yes there was a "vast right wing conspiracy" to try and bring him down. Paula Jones, White Water, Vince Foster, the WH travel office firings, playing "chicken" with the Federal budget and government shutdown, reaction to the Waco raid and on and on and on and on...conservatives repeatedly tried to pin scandal and shame on Bill Clinton in hopes they could defeat him in 1996 or better yet push him out office all together. Try as they might, none of that worked. And then the Lewinsky thing happened. Boom! Suddenlty had their killer issue - or so they thought. But meanwhile, the American public...while repulsed by Clinton's indiscretion...did not link it to his ability to be president. To the contrary, Clinton held solid popularity through the scandal and actually eneded his second term with the highest "end of term" rating for any U.S. president in the modern era and on par with FDR and Reagan. To me, this pointed out yet again the fundamental disconnect between conservatives and the rest of the nation.
The PBS Clinton bio was as good a political trip down 1990s memory lane as the recent Pearl Jam documentary PJ20 was for music. It really brought back the times. Not sure if the series will run again, but if you see it...check it out. Its engrossing, but also a great lesson in the promise of dedicated and smart people like Clinton and the folly those same people fall into when their ego goes unchecked.

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