Thursday, June 02, 2005

You can't be neutral on a moving train

I was going to title this post "Why I am not a Clinton Democrat," but that seemed too deceptive since I'm not really a Democrat at all. I mean, I'll vote for whomever they run in 2008. I have commented here more than once that I would have voted for Socks if he ran against W--and frankly, I might prefer Socks to the Other Clinton, but hey, I'll hold my nose and do it.

In any case, here are some excerpts from Clinton's appearance on Larry King yesterday.

On W:
KING: How do you explain the friendship with President Bush?

CLINTON: Well, I just like him. First of all, I've always liked him. I've always admired him. I mean, he gave his life to public service. He comes from a family who did. His father was a distinguished senator from Connecticut.

And so I share an interest in public service. He likes sports. I like sports. He likes people. And I think he's a genuinely good man. I like him. I like his wife. I like his family. I've liked him since I first met him in 1983, two years before you went on the air here.

KING: In fact, you're going to his house.

CLINTON: I am. He invited me to come up to Kennebunkport where I have not been for 22 years.

KING: Beautiful.

CLINTON: And to play golf with him and ride in his boat. And I'm looking forward to it.
He likes sports--I like sports??? Why am I reminded of that fictitious Kerry moment "Who among us doesn't like NASCAR?"

On Felt/Deep Throat:

KING: What do you make of the Mark Felt story? Is he an American hero?

CLINTON: I think he did a good thing. And I think it's -- it was an unusual circumstance. I think Felt believed that there was the chance that this whole thing would be covered up. Ordinarily, I think a law enforcement official shouldn't be leaking to the press because you should let criminal action take its course.

When he did that, he obviously believed there was a chance that the thing would be covered up. And there was some evidence -- we now know that there was also a problem with trying to use the FBI, and the IRS, and other agencies of the federal government for political purposes back then. So there's some reason to believe he was right.

I don't think that -- he always felt ambivalent about it, apparently. And I think that's good. Because, on balance, you don't want law enforcement officials leaking to the press, even the truth, much less some vendetta or something that's not true. But under these circumstances, I think he did the right thing.
So "back then" when federal agencies were used for political purposes, it might be okay to leak crimes to the press, as long as you feel guilty for it. Let me say, it is difficult to type with my eyes rolling to the back of my head this way.

On Hillary's propensity to stick by her convictions:
CLINTON: . . . You just look at her whole life. There's a remarkable consistency in her life. She decides what she believes. She'll change her mind, if the evidence warrants it. I mean, she's not a dunderhead or any -- you know, she's not...

KING: She was a Goldwater Republican.

CLINTON: Yes, but -- she was a Goldwater Republican. And Hillary used to joke with me that Goldwater carried her hometown 3 to 1 and the others thought he was too liberal where she grew up. But you know, and we liked Barry Goldwater a lot. We went to see him when he was ill in Arizona before he passed away.

But she has always been somebody who was just convicted. I mean, she lives by a conviction. And...

KING: Stays the course?

CLINTON: She stays the course, you know?
We liked Goldwater??? We liked Barry Goldwater a lot??? Hello? Do we even have a Democratic Party anymore?

The Mister Rogers moment:

CLINTON: I mean, you know, this idea that somebody we disagree with on economic or social policy or something we have to turn into some kind of ogre or demon, I think, is a mistake. I mean, it's like telling the American people or half the American people that don't agree with you they're all fools. That's just not true.

Most of the people I've known in politics, by the way, in this country and in other countries, before I became president and when I was in the White House, most of them have been good people. They'd been smart, hard-working, well-motivated, and they pretty well did what they believed was right.
He later mentions "adoring" Billy Graham because, "Whether you agree or disagree with everything, he is a man who lives his faith," and respecting Karl Rove because "he's a good grassroots politician." I need to cut in here and state a fact which is so flamingly obvious there should be no need to waste the energy typing it, and yet: Being a person of conviction doesn't make you admirable unless your convictions are admirable. Duh, right?

On the war du jour:
KING: You supported the president when he went into Iraq. Do you still support him?

CLINTON: Yes, I felt, as I said then, I felt that we should have let the U.N. inspectors finish their job. But once he made the decision to go forward, I thought all Americans should have said, well, we're in this thing now. We've got to back our troops and we've got to hope that the enterprise succeeds because there's no question that Saddam was a bad guy. The Iraqis would be better off without him, if we can build a coherent country here.
What to say?

All day I have been thinking off and on about what it must be like to live somewhere that 30 to 40 people die every day.

In sum, the transcript speaks to an ethical shallowness--a man for whom "liking" people is more important than standing for principle. Because if we can all just get together over a good game of golf, everything's going to be okay. Is it wrong for me to say that I think Clinton really, really needs alanon or acoa? I thought that through his presidency. He is like the coda poster child.

Anyway, I am going back to Woodward and Bernstein on Larry King. At least they aren't talking about adoring Billy Graham.

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