Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

The Big Dog, Betrayal, Principles, Narcissism, and 1976

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In the comments from last night’s “Ugh” post, Mike Young makes a point I wanted to follow up on:

I’d vote Mccain before Clinton. A lot of my under 30 friends would probably vote an independent Ron Paul ticket or Bloomberg before Clinton. I’ve never met any passionate political participant who grew up in the 90s–liberal, conservative, religious, agnostic, blonde, or tall–who likes or even doesn’t despise Hillary Clinton. She’d probably still win the general (they’re the Clintons, dummy) but she’d do it by setting fire to the future of the Democratic Party.

I’ve think I may have met a few here and there, but it’s definitely not the overwhelming sentiment. I was thinking about this today in connection with reports that even party bigwigs like Ted Kennedy and Rahm Emanuel are now calling on Bill to reign it in. Of course he won’t. When has he ever been persuaded to reign any of his excess in?

I’m reminded of a pair of columns I wrote back as a undergrad for the student newspaper in January and February of 2001. The first one tried to come to peace with Clinton, with whom I always had a rocky love-hate relationship with while he was president. It starts, “I like Bill Clinton. I haven’t always,” and goes on to talk in generally pro-Clinton terms about my conflicted feelings about the Lewinsky scandal. Just two weeks later, I was moved to write this fiery excoriation after yet another indignity and betrayal—the pardon scandals, remember those? We’ll get the mother of all replays exactly one year from today—from the man who was a master of the form:

Conservatives are falling over themselves to point out the “hypocrisy” in Democrats; you loved him while he was president, they ask, so why don’t you love him now? The answer is that this infraction is of a darker character than the other scandals — and the answer is also that this is the last straw. We could forgive the man for Whitewater, for Monica, for all the petty and insignificant scandals trumped-up by Clinton’s enemies in the right wing. We could forgive the man for causing embarrassment to the Democratic Party and to the country, for allowing his own personal foibles to overshadow the governing of a nation, and for failing to back up his acclaimed status as “Best Politician Ever” with substantive reforms and meaningful acts. We were content to look back with a wry smile on the Clinton years and wonder what might have been, as George Stephanopoulous does in his memoir, “if the President had been a better man.” Clinton may never have been remembered as a great president, but he probably could have been remembered as a good one.

The pardons change all that. The pardons are a parting shot at everyone who ever supported him during the trumped-up impeachment and years of Republican-sponsored scandals. The eleventh-hour abuse of the pardon power, for no reason that he could readily cite, to benefit a man who has indirectly pumped a significant sum of money into Clinton’s hands, is more than just the latest in a series of scandals; it is the definitive scandal. It is the final proof that William Jefferson Clinton cares about no one but himself and no thing but his own immediate advantage. It is the abuse of power for its own sake.

It’s over, Bill. Pack up your things, leave your key on the table, and get out of my house. I don’t want to see you anymore.

The possibility that the Clintons will return to the White House and inflict their narcissism and neuroses on the country and on the left for another 4-8 years is still too much to contemplate. It’s honestly hard for me to say—and I say this as someone who more than once in the past has railed against not voting for the Democratic candidate, whoever it is—whether a return to Clintonism would really be better for the left in the long run than four years of McCain followed by the election of an actual progressive (Obama! Gore!) in 2012. Maybe I’m right and Obama is the Democratic Party’s Reagan, but it’s 1976, not 1980; maybe things still have to get even worse before people finally wise up.

At least there’s only a few more weeks of this before I know whether or not I’m going to be knocking on doors or holding my nose come November.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 20, 2008 at 3:19 pm

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