The Seinfeld Presidency
When comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, described his former television series, he said, “It was an entertainment about nothing.” The same thing could be said about the Clinton years.
But one must admit the Clintons have been entertaining. Fortunately, these eight years of entertainment came at a time when the economy was good and previous administrations had created conditions for a military détente with those who wish America ill.
Actually, the Clintons exceeded this observer’s expectations. When the Clintons moved from Arkansas to the White House, I thought we’d see a re-run of “The Beverly Hill Billies.” But we got much more than the Clampetts. We also got “The Addams Family,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “South Park,” Lolita and “The X-Files,” all rolled into one. We saw everything but “Law and Order.”
Almost every week the Clintons gave us some new twist or shocking revelation. But like the wag’s subtitle for Lolita: “too much, too soon,” the twists and shocks came so often that some people tuned out. In a democracy, that is not good.
But no fiction writer could have dreamed up all the bizarre things that have taken place during the last eight years. Just imagine a Hollywood screenwriter pitching a movie story line based on the Clinton years to a studio head. He would be told: “Nah, no one would believe that. Stick with something more plausible like ‘Wag the Dog’ or ‘Primary Colors’ or ‘Absolute Power.’”
Yet, despite their personal and legal problems, the Clintons caused some fundamental changes in the American body politic. In 1994, their scheme to place one-seventh of the American economy under government control via socialized medicine scared the electorate into turning the Congress over to the Republicans for the first time in 40 years.
Once the new Congress had eight out of its ten promised reforms in place, the stock market shot upward like a cherry-bombed tin can. Only since the price of crude oil hit $32 a barrel has the tin can shown signs of coming back down.
Unfortunately, House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, turned out to have a family life almost as dysfunctional as that of the Clintons. He fell from grace and the GOP legislative agenda was never fully enacted.
If Clinton and Gingrich had been men of high character, they could have overcome partisan concerns and could have used this good economy and this period of military détente to accomplish great things. Eight years of golden opportunities were wasted.
But the Clintons and their entourage never disappoint. Many weeks ago, I predicted an October surprise. I was wrong. It came in November with the not-so-new-news that George W. Bush had been ticketed for a DUI over 24 years ago.
Predictably, the Gore campaign hastened to disclaim involvement. But as Bill Clinton said when his Democrat rival, Jerry Brown, floated the story about Gennifer Flowers: “Down in Arkansas, if you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, you kinda figure someone put it there.”
But some political dirty tricks backfire. If nothing else, the DUI rehash drove home the point that George W. Bush hasnt had a drink of alcohol in 14 years. He quit cold turkey. And, without a government program. Evidently, a man of iron will.
Also, The Law of Unintended Consequences is always in effect. Whoever planted the DUI bomb failed to see that a 24-year-old story about George W. Bush would also bring Al Gore’s much more recent history of pot smoking back into the public eye. This brings to mind another old saying: “When you seek to kill your enemy, dig two graves. One for your enemy and one for yourself.”
And so the Clinton-Gore years end on the same low note that they began. In Macbeth, William Shakespeare characterized the Clinton years even better than Jerry Seinfeld when he wrote: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today.