Tags: Clinton | Takes | the | Stage

Clinton Takes the Stage

Tuesday, 26 September 2006 12:00 AM

Bill Clinton is both a personal and national tragedy, a grievously wasted talent who blew his chance at greatness, forever an impeachable witness to history.

His cannily contrived appearance on Fox News Sunday, where he stole the interview away from straight-arrow journalist Chris Wallace, was the former president's latest failed effort to reinvent, resurrect, or redeem himself and his self-ruined reputation.

Clinton has been pining to rebut the rap he has carried around with him as the president who failed to go after Osama bin Laden when he had a shot. It was crystal clear Clinton has been boiling about this deep, deep inside. It all came out like magma spewing from a volcano.

In rapid fire, he rattled off riposte after riposte, trying to make a case that it was really he, not George W. Bush, who was bin Laden's authentic nemesis.

Maybe every word Clinton uttered during the Fox News Sunday interview was the gospel truth. Who knows whether he was telling the truth or lying again this time?

It's important, too, whether it was lies or truth. This had to do with war or peace, and may well have had significant relevance to America's ultimate survival.

It isn't every day this nation — indeed, the whole world — has the opportunity to listen to a former president, especially one during his successor's tenure, recount details of critical historical events of such gigantic importance.

You want to believe what you are hearing, because you yearn to hear the truth. No one wants to think he is being told rubbish, not about the nation's vulnerability to terrorism. And certainly not by a former president. Good news or bad, you want what you are hearing from such a source to be accurate, and thus believable.

With Clinton, though, you never know.

To put this in context, imagine a rather mundane, straight-forward trial, the kind that takes place every day in the courthouses of communities all across America.

The judicial process is at work. Prosecutors and defense attorneys are striving to get the truth — the whole truth and nothing but the truth — spread out before a jury of the defendant's peers.

On the stand testifying is the defendant: a relaxed, affable, apparently sincere, well-groomed fellow (except for his short socks, which give him just the right homey touch).

His presentation is articulate, dramatic, impressive, persuasive, his testimony devastating for the prosecution. The defense attorney sits down, satisfied with what the verdict will be.

On rebuttal, the prosecuting attorney rises and begins asking questions of the defendant, each one aimed at establishing him as an unreliable witness.

Then comes the closer:

"Is it not true," asks the prosecutor, "that you looked a television camera straight in the lens, took out a long index finger and waggled it, saying you never had sexual relations with a certain young woman?"

The defendant chews his lip.

"The witness will answer the question," the judge instructs.

"It is true," the witness finally admits.

The prosecutor continues: "And did you not admit later that this was a lie."

"Yes, and I also apologized. That made it all right. I said I was sorry."

"And is it not true that you were later held in contempt by a judge for lying under oath?"

"Yes, but . . ."

"Members of the jury, how are we to know when this witness is lying or when he is telling the truth?"

The same sort of tableau has to be playing out in the minds of all who saw Clinton's frankly masterful performance Sunday. Thanks to his actions in the Oval Office during his own presidency, how does anyone know when this fellow is lying or telling the truth?

You can't help liking the scoundrel.

What a star he could have been on the stage or the silver screen. As an actor he could have played almost any part — and had his audience wanting to believe every line.

Too bad for him; he opted instead for a slightly different theatrical venue. He determined to make his fame and fortune on the most exhilarating stage of all — presidential politics.

Heaven knows, Clinton has made a fortune, many times over, as the result of his tour of politics. As for fame, well, of that he has a gracious plenty, too. Trouble is, it is not the kind of fame you'd wish on your worst enemy.

By his own deeds, and from his own lips, orchestrated by his own digital baton, Clinton has doomed himself to an indelible reputation of "liar, liar, pants on fire."

The news media didn't do this to him. No vast, or not-so-vast, right-wing conspiracy or non-conspiracy did this to him. He did it to himself, all by himself.

And now he's stuck with himself, as he really is.

Whenever he opens his mouth — and especially when he double-clutches down into that "I'm sincere, I've been aggrieved, I'm a victim" gear of his — everyone who hears him has to be asking: "Yeah, but is this just another one of your whoppers?"

When he told something that turned out to have been not altogether accurate it was not because he had repeated what he had been told by experts who were supposed know better. Rather, it was because he had made up lies and knew better.

The democracy could always use honest enlightenment about what really happened as history was in the making. Just one example: When former President Harry S Truman recounted why and how he fired Gen. Douglas McArthur and why he dropped the atomic bombs on Japan and how he felt about having done it, there was no credible reason not to believe his every word.

The saga of William Jefferson Clinton is at once a personal and national tragedy. He had so much to offer his country, its people and its history.

Instead, he chose, deliberately and cynically, to go down forever in history as an irredeemable liar — Clinton the unbelievable.


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Bill Clinton is both a personal and national tragedy, a grievously wasted talent who blew his chance at greatness, forever an impeachable witness to history. His cannily contrived appearance on Fox News Sunday, where he stole the interview away from straight-arrow...
Tuesday, 26 September 2006 12:00 AM
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