Bill Clinton in his Labyrinth

by Michael O. Allen on January 19, 2008

Bill Clinton is one of my favorite politicians. I appreciate the joy he brings to being in the public sphere. His presidency was a triumph. He accomplished a lot, especially for the economy, the environment and the general feeling he left that he had brought our nation back from the brink where the Reagan and the first Bush maladministrations left us.

Bill Clinton showed his fortitude and courage at the lowest moments in his political career. Anyone would have understood (well, maybe not) and forgiven him if he’d decided he did not feel up to delivering the 1998 State of the Union Address. Ken Starr and his posse were braying at the door. There were traps, perjury and whatever else, everywhere. And, in a closet somewhere, hid a certain stained blue dress.

Bill Clinton walked into the well of Congress in January 1998 defiant and strode out triumphant having delivered one of the best speech of his life.

That performance quelled, for a moment, the storms that would engulf him for much of 1998, one demeaning revelation after the other. But his travails served to focus him on his job as president. He expertly steered the ship of state and when he turned up in January 1999 to deliver the State of the Union Address, he reported to the country that he was just fine, thank you. And the nation, not half bad. The best economic climate in a generation and much, much, more.

Bill Clinton left office one of the highest rated presidents and he has continued to do good works even as he joined the ranks of one of the wealthiest men on the planet.

But Clinton is also a tragic figure. He possesses such prodigious talent, such intellect, yet barely scratched the surface of what he could have accomplished as president. He still has ambitions, things he wants to accomplish for the nation and for himself. I suspect that is why he’s fighting so hard to get his wife elected president. You cannot fault a man for that.

The problem is that the strain on him is showing.

Where is the old happy warrior? Why has Barack Obama’s candidacy so spooked him? Obama is Clinton’s truest heir. His pitch to the Reno, Nev., Journal Gazette, despite the backhanded slap at Bill, is classic Clintonism.

Whatever happens in this election, I want the old Bill back.


{ 1 comment }

Todd Drew January 21, 2008 at 6:00 AM

Perhaps Bill is trying to say what Hillary’s campaign wants him to say instead of what’s really inside him. If they unleash the real Bill he may very well win the thing as a write-in candidate. And that would certainly be a mess with the whole term-limit thing, but it would be fun to watch.

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