Tag Archives: Bill Clinton

Exhibit recalls bygone era

LITTLE, ROCK, Ark. — Well, I will now be able to check off No. 5 on my list of presidential libraries I have seen … and this one is quite special.

The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park is a gem. It shines brightly near the Arkansas River just adjacent to downtown Little Rock.

It reminds me foremost of an era when political leaders of different parties could squabble, take the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis and then work together for the common good.

That’s how it was during the two terms of the Bill Clinton presidency.

It has been said over the years that President Clinton is the master of “compartmentalization,” meaning he could put personal animus aside in one corner of his brain and work outside those emotions to craft constructive legislation with his ardent political foes. Clinton’s compartmentalizing was put to the extreme test during his second term as POTUS.

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives impeached Clinton for lying to a grand jury about an affair he was having with a White House intern. The library does not ignore that event. It mentions it on two panels displayed chronologically. It doesn’t mention the reason for the president’s commission of perjury, only that he lied to a federal grand jury. It also mentions that the House impeachment vote was virtually taken along partisan lines.

The president apologizes for his “conduct,” a display tells us.

Enough about that.

The library also tells of the myriad accomplishments that Clinton achieved: the peace treaty between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel; the ouster of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic; the balanced federal budget; his tireless work on behalf of racial minorities; a comprehensive crime prevention bill.

We have seen elements of this kind of cooperation between the GOP and the current Democratic POTUS. Here and there, though, is not sufficient to move the country forward constructively. President Clinton and the GOP congressional majority with whom he worked — while they were, um, testy at times — laid the groundwork for the way government ought to work.

The Clinton library tells us that story. I am glad to have seen it.


30 years? Already?

I was talking to a family member a while ago and told her of my intention to visit the Bill Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., when I pull into the city some time Thursday.

Then I said, “I cannot believe it’s been 30 years since he was elected the first time. Thirty years!”

I cannot guarantee I’ll get there, but I certainly intend to see it, given that I’ll be in Little Rock overnight.

I want to relive the days when Democrats and Republicans could find common ground, even as GOP lawmakers and their acolytes sought to dig up dirt on President Clinton and his wife, Hillary. Indeed, the Clinton administration, working with Republicans in Congress, crafted the first balanced budget in 30 years in 1999.

Remember, too, that the GOP took control of Congress with its Contract With America theme in 1994. The Republican victory gave us Newt Gingrich of Georgia as speaker, the guy who told us he intended to make Democrats the “enemy of ‘normal’ Americans.'”

Yes, I am acutely aware of the impeachment that fell on Clinton. The GOP was looking for reasons to impeach the Democratic president, and he gave it to them by lying to the grand jury about the soiree he was having with the White House intern.

All told, we witnessed one of the more successful presidencies in recent memory. President Clinton has assembled an exhibit that I am sure will accentuate the successes.

I hope to take it in … and long for a return of the good old days that in Clinton’s case are fading rapidly into the distant background.


What-about-ism on full display

The noted right-wing blowhard Glenn Beck has been quoted suggesting that if the FBI felt compelled to search Donald Trump’s home for evidence relating to alleged criminal activity, then it should have done the same thing to Bill Clinton during an impeachment inquiry of the 42nd president.

Sheesh! Well, as usual, the Beckster has gone far afield in trying to attach moral equivalence to what Clinton supposedly did and what might await The Donald.

President Clinton got caught messing around with a young woman who was working in the White House as a temporary employee during a government shutdown. A special prosecutor got wind of it and then summoned Clinton to testify before a federal grand jury. The panel asked Clinton about the affair. He lied about it.

Thus, he broke the law by committing perjury. Therein rested the Republican Party’s pretext to impeach the president. He went to trial. The Senate acquitted Clinton.

What’s happening now is, shall we say, far more egregious.

Donald Trump is under investigation for a series of allegations: seditious conspiracy, violating the Presidential Records Act, dereliction of duty, a violation of his oath of office.

I might throw in treason, but that’s a bit of a stretch. So, I won’t go there.

Attorney General Merrick Garland is conducting a serious probe into whether Trump broke the law. The FBI obtained a warrant to conduct a search of the ex-POTUS’s home. Trump said it is unprecedented. He is right. Then again, so are the crimes for which Trump might be indicted. Right there is all the moral equivalence anyone should need to justify why the FBI did what it did.

As for any notion that another former president’s home should have been searched for evidence … well, there was nothing to seek. It was on the record with his grand jury testimony. Yeah, it was a phony and lame excuse to impeach a president, given what we’ve witnessed so many years later through the conduct of POTUS 45.

As for Glenn Beck’s assertion, I’ll just take it for what it’s worth, which is not a damn thing.


Let’s wait on the political obit

Before we start dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on President Biden’s political obituary in the wake of the upcoming midterm election, let’s revisit a couple of recent historical events … hmm?

President Clinton won election in 1992. The midterm election occurred in 1994 and you know what happened. Republicans took control of both congressional chambers for the first time in 40 years. They flipped dozens of House seats. Newt Gingrich became speaker.

What happened in the 1996 presidential election? Clinton won re-election in an Electoral College landslide.

OK, now let’s look quickly at what occurred in 2010. President Obama took office after the 2008 election. He had a Democratic Party majority in Congress. Then the 2010 midterm occurred. Republicans delivered what Obama called a “shellacking.” The GOP took control of Congress.

Oh, but wait! The 2012 election ended with President Obama winning re-election. The margin for Obama wasn’t as impressive as the victory scored by President Clinton.

So here we are today. President Biden and Democrats are facing strong headwinds moving toward this year’s midterm election. Republicans are poised to seize control of both congressional chambers. If they do, they will follow historical precedent.

Is that the end of the line for Joe Biden? Nope, not even …

You see, today’s GOP is now populated by election deniers, followers of the Big Lie fomented by the Liar in Chief. The GOP is fully capable of messing up what the voters appear ready to grant them, which is control of the legislative branch of government.

Given the quality of the rhetoric coming from the cultist who leads the Republican Party and the blind fealty to his blathering that his followers exhibit, I am betting President Biden and the Democrats won’t surrender anything.


Character no longer matters

This much is abundantly clear about today’s Republican Party: Character no longer matters, that party fanatics do not care whether the individuals who hold public office might be criminals, or that they are serial philanderers and admitted sexual assailants.

A Texas Tribune story published this week talks, for instance, about how Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is well-positioned to defeat challenger George P. Bush in next week’s GOP runoff for the attorney general’s office.

Why is that a big deal? Because Paxton has been under criminal indictment almost his entire time in office. Paxton has shamelessly challenged President Biden’s election in 2020. The FBI is investigating complaints filed by several top Paxton legal assistants, who allege criminal activity within the office.

Hey, no problem! The GOP is set to renominate Paxton for yet another term.

It’s all part of the pattern followed by the GOP cultists in this Donald Trump Era. Conservatives used to get their underwear tied into knots when liberal politicians got caught misbehaving.

Why Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s backers are unfazed by his scandals | The Texas Tribune

Character mattered to them in the days of Bill Clinton. Do you recall those days? I damn sure do. These days, one of their own pols — Donald J. Trump — actually boasted that he could “shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes.” The line drew laughter and gasps when he said it. It’s not so preposterous these days.

This is a large part of what troubles me about the demise of a once-great political party. It no longer stands for character. The only aim of GOP pols ought to be their ability to stick it to their liberal foes.

Ken Paxton has done so in Texas and he likely will win the GOP runoff next week, to the ever-lasting shame of the GOP faithful.

As for Trump … aww, hell! I have nothing to say about the former Sexual Assailant in Chief.


Dole reminded us of a kinder past

Robert Dole’s death has thrown me into the realm of recalling what another great American politician once referred to as a “kinder, gentler” time, when politics and politicians weren’t stained by hatred.

Dole died this past weekend at age 98. His death wasn’t a shock. We all knew it was coming soon. I mean, the man was nearly a century old and as they say, none of us gets out of here alive. He also had been ill with cancer, and I knew that, too.

Still, his passing reminds me of how politicians formerly conducted their business. They fought hard for their policies and their philosophy. Yet they managed somehow to maintain personal relationships with those with whom they fought while they were on the clock.

That seems to sum up the late Sen. Dole’s professional life.

One of the remarkable pieces of video I have seen since Dole’s death was of his accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the man who just a few weeks earlier had defeated him in the 1996 presidential election. President Clinton draped the medal around Dole’s neck and the beaten Republican nominee stood for a moment, then said, “I, Robert J. Dole … do solemnly swear.” He brought the house down. Then he said, “Oops. Wrong speech.” He also told the still-laughing crowd that he expected President Clinton to “give me something” when he arrived at the White House, but that he had hoped it would be “the keys to the front door.”

Can you imagine (a) Joe Biden ever awarding the man he defeated for the presidency the nation’s highest civilian medal and (b) Donald Trump accepting it with the kind of class that Bob Dole did in receiving it from the man who defeated him for the office he coveted?

The Donald Trump Era in presidential politics ushered in a new age of extreme animus. Indeed, Sen. Dole exemplified the quality of men and women who once led this country. They did so with class and dignity, which drew praise from their foes, even as they continued to disagree over basic policy matters.

I am going to hold out hope — being the eternal optimist I am — that we can find our way back to the way it was. Meanwhile, I will offer a word of thanks to Sen. Dole for reminding us of the lessons he taught us about graciousness and class.


Another hero has departed

A former U.S. senator, presidential and vice-presidential candidate, and World War II hero has left us and the world he leaves behind should mourn its loss forever.

I refer to Robert Dole, the one-time senator from Kansas.

Oh, my. He was a Republican tough guy who emerged from the crucible of world conflict to become eventually a statesman and a man who built solid relationships and friendships across the vast span of the political spectrum.

To be candid about Dole, he leaves behind a complicated legacy.

He was wounded grievously near the end of World War II. He lost the use of his right arm. He rehabilitated himself after the war ended. Dole would run eventually for Congress, ending up in the Senate.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford selected him to run as vice president as Ford sought election to the presidency. During a vice-presidential debate with his friend Sen. Walter Mondale, Dole blurted out a remark about how the nation had suffered during “Democrat wars,” saying that Democratic presidents were on the watch when World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War all broke out. It was an unfortunate analogy to make.

He snarled at Vice President George H.W. Bush on national TV — against whom he was competing for the 1988 GOP nomination for president — telling Bush to “stop lying about my record.”

Over time, though, Dole’s image softened. He morphed into an elder statesman, an individual to whom other politicians — of both parties — turned for advice and counsel. His good humor replaced the occasionally tart tenor of his comments.

He ran for president in 1996 as the GOP nominee, challenging President Clinton’s re-election effort. I did not vote for Dole. However, I want to stipulate in the strongest terms possible that I never lost my abiding respect for the service and sacrifice he gave to the country we all love.

His brand of politician, I hate saying, is vanishing before our eyes.

May this good and heroic man rest in eternal peace.


Character still matters

Do you remember a time when Republican politicians recited the mantra that “character matters”?

I do. It became vogue when Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton sought to become president in 1992. Republicans got wind of some alleged indiscretions involving the young governor. They whipped it all into a frenzied rally cry that sought to undermine the candidate’s presidential aspirations.

Well, character still matters. Except that Republicans have gone deaf and blind on what the rest of us have seen about a prominent GOP politician. That would be … umm, Donald J. Trump.

The former POTUS is an admitted sexual assailant; an admitted philanderer; he has denigrated prisoners of war, calling them “suckers” and “losers.”

Character, anyone? Yeah, it still matters now just as it did in the early 1990s when Republicans sought to make character an issue in another presidential campaign.

Except that these days the GOP is turning away while one of its own flouts the very institutions he once vowed to preserve and protect. His lack of character also revealed itself when he disparaged a great American, Colin Powell, only hours after the great man’s death.


What will we say when it happens?

My mind does have this way of wandering into strange places on occasion, which I think is a consequence of being retired; too much time on my hands and too much time for my noggin to venture where it doesn’t usually go.

For example, I have been thinking about the day Donald J. Trump departs this good Earth. Hey, it’s gonna happen!

Tradition and custom usually mean that when political figures check out, politicians of all stripes gather to say generous things about the newly departed. When President Nixon died, the current president, Bill Clinton — obviously no fan of the deceased POTUS — gave a stirring eulogy at his funeral in California. President Obama did the same when he spoke at the late Sen. John McCain’s funeral in 2018.

Then again, how does one muster up the good will to speak charitably about a president who has spent his entire political career trashing, denigrating, defaming others? Most of his victims have been fellow pols.

I am not really wishing it to happen any sooner than it inevitably will. I simply am thinking out loud about the prospects when the opportunity presents itself.


‘Compartmentalize,’ Mr. POTUS-elect

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Part of President Clinton’s success in the White House involved his ability to “compartmentalize” his relationships with political foes, including the politicians who sought his removal from office via impeachment after he messed around with a White House intern.

Clinton was able to set whatever personal animus he had for those individuals and work constructively with them to, oh, balance the federal budget and keep the economy steaming merrily along.

President Biden might encounter a similar challenge when he takes office in 16 days. At this moment, 11 Republican senators and 140 House members want to challenge his duly constituted election as president of the United States. They are dancing to the tune being called by the Seditionist in Chief, Donald Trump, who continues to rouse the rabbles by insisting there was voter fraud … where there wasn’t. Not even a little bit!

I am appalled to say that the Senate GOP ringleader appears to be the Cruz Missile, Texas’s junior senator Ted Cruz, who has managed to make me detest him more now than when he first entered the Senate.

Joe Biden has built a lengthy list of professional relationships with members of Congress on both sides of the great divide. He served for 36 years in the Senate, eight years as vice president. The man knows the players, he knows what makes ’em tick, can find their hot buttons without even trying.

He also will have to deal forthrightly with their insurgency, with the aim of subverting a legal, free and fair election. They want an “audit” of the results in several states before certifying the Electoral College vote this week. They won’t get the audit, but those 151 members of Congress will be on the record insisting on getting it.

How will the new president work with them? He must be able to compartmentalize those relationships the way President Clinton was able to do during his two successful terms in office.

If he can do that and give Americans the kind of leadership and governance that’s been missing for the past four years, President Biden will be able to craft a highly successful tenure in the nation’s highest office.

Here is hoping for President Biden’s success right out of the chute.