The "Comeback Kid's" Last Dance?

John blueoval at SGI.NET
Thu Feb 8 05:55:26 MST 2001


R. Emmett Tyrrell

February 8, 2001

The teflon finally wears off Clinton

WASHINGTON -- The political jungle suddenly throbs with news. The Clintons' 
glory shrinks by the day. The newly arrived Gentleman President swells in 
national esteem.

The Clintons' collapse does not surprise me. Nor do the pardons and the 
disappearing White House property -- months ago I joked about pardons 
forthcoming for Clinton cronies and about property being carted away from 
the White House. The Clintons usually live up to my jokes. Moreover, there 
is the aura of the office.

Years ago the pundits spoke of the mantle of influence that exalts the 
president, rendering him comparatively impervious to passing scorn. For 
Clinton the mantle was made of Kevlar. It protected him from the longest 
series of public scandals in American presidential history. No demagogue 
from history's backwaters, not the Longs of Louisiana nor the Tammanyites 
of New York, courted public indignation as recklessly as did Bill and his 
lovely wife Bruno. Now the White House mantle protects Bush II.

The media's sages are genuinely indignant over the Clintons' cheap exit 
from 1600 Pennsylvania. This follows the media's pattern of the past eight 
years, to wit: high hopes for the Clintons, the shock of some transient 
scandal, despair among the sages...time passes and high hopes revive. This 
time, however, I doubt the high hopes will revive.

Those pardons did it. The other day a former friend, a man of vast 
commercial and cultural endeavors but dependent on The New York Times, 
called me and said, "I'm sorry." Years ago he broke off our friendship 
thinking the Clintons had been set up by their critics. With the shocking 
pardon of Marc Rich he saw the light. He was sorry the friendship had been 
broken -- it is renewed. Others are also seeing the light. The shameless 
misuse of presidential pardons woke a lot of people up, and now the 
Clintons no longer have the aura of the White House to protect them.

Soon what we in the media are pleased to call "investigative journalists" 
will be digging about in muck of the Clintons' 30 years of public life. 
They will turn up more squalor than has been turned up on all the Kennedys 
combined. In time even I -- governed by the facts, as always -- will 
protest Bill's innocence, at least about the wildest stuff. "No," I see 
myself writing, "Jeffrey Toobin's revelation that Bill Clinton committed 
cannibalism in the Oval Office on November 15, 1994 is false. The evidence 
is clear; he ordered pizza." -- "The Starr Report," New York, Pocket Books, 
521 pages.

But on to a more pertinent question. Is the Gentleman President's lofty 
status in the polls a precursor? His approval rating has vaulted to 57 
percent. His disapproval rating is but 25 percent. Many Democrats are 
bemused into friendliness towards a man they so snootily dismissed last 
fall. He hugs them, slaps them on the back, gives them nicknames. "Is that 
all they wanted -- nicknames?" asks an old hand from the regime of Bush I. 
"The boss had many a pet name for them by his second year in office." The 
question is: Are the policies that GWB wants to advance going to elicit 
venomous political warfare from the Democrats?

Consider but four: abortion, faith-based services, tax cuts, and 
educational reform. Americans are enchanted by "education." Moreover, most 
know that education is in trouble. They will support most of Bush II's 
reforms, and no Democrat pleading for the status quo has a chance against 
the president. Tax cuts are only controversial where rich liberals dwell. 
Everyone else yearns for them and most even understand their value to a 
weakening economy. Faith-based services provide service first. That is what 
will fetch the average American. The church-state issues are secondary and 
highly contrived.

Again, only rich liberals will be terribly exercised over it. As for 
abortion, there is not much Bush II can do to change things. Abortion has 
settled into the law. Not even a Supreme Court populated by Antonin Scalias 
is likely to do much more than return power over abortion to the states, 
and very few states are likely to end abortion now. The abortion issue is 
exaggerated by zealots on both sides. It is not likely to cost GWB much at 
the polls.

That, of course, does not mean that the fires of partisanship will not heat 
up and broil the new president. There is always an element of the 
irrational about modern political partisanship. Think about the amazing 
wrath the liberals developed for GWB's father, surely one of the most 
pleasant men to hold office in years. He changed his stance on tax cuts. 
That should have pleased them. He brilliantly executed a victorious war and 
humanely ended it. He should have been at best only a mild irritant to the 
liberals. Somehow, he roused their hackles to nigh onto Nixonesque intensity.

Our Gentleman President might do the same. How? What if he is caught 
holding doors for women? Or what if he applies a nickname to a 
congressional prima donna who transmogrifies it into one of the many "isms" 
that vex them say "sexism." What if he calls Congressman Maxine Waters 
"Sweetie" or "Cupcake"? Right now, even that might not hurt the Gentleman 
President.

©2001 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
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