Well, 5 weeks, 969 pages, and a continent ago I started reading Bill Clinton’s “My Life.” I finished it today. I would say anyone who is curious about the politics of the close of the millennium should read this book. Those that want a story that tells you that the American Dream is still alive, read this book. Anyone who wants a nice short read, this book is not for you. “My Life” does get tedious at times, as it is long; Clinton drops names and remembers events like no other. He also occasionally repeats himself. The majors points of interest, at least for me, that “My Life” emphasized were as follows.
Clinton viewed his 8 years as president as dedicated to transferring the world from a Cold War mentality to a world founded on global interconnectivity. This transition meant America had to focus less on traditional conflict and out spending the enemy, and more on dealing with Narco-trafficers and terrorists, building global consensus, paying down the debt, and re-investing in America through a focus on education and employment. He saw his domestic job as forging a more prefect union by expanding opportunity for all through common sense programs that gave people a hand, not a handout.
Politics versus Policy:
I guess it may be due to my own ignorance, or perhaps because I have grown up in these particularly political times, but I didn’t have a firm grasp between the difference between politics and policy. Policy is the actual law/act that happens, politics is more the wrangling and showboating to get the policy done. A major problem is that quite often politics takes precedence over policy. Politics should never replace policy, when that happens government becomes nothing more than empty words “full of sound and fury signifying nothing” to quote a different William.
The Ugly Stuff:
Starr was neither independent nor impartial. Independence should mean that Starr was not biased either for or against Clinton. The Republicans in Congress were able to spin it so the original counsel was supposed to be hostile to Clinton, and in fact the original Independent Counsel, Robert B. Fiske Jr, was kicked out
because he was appointed, rightly, by Reno. Starr spent 70 million dollars of America’s tax dollars, and 5 years of investigation. He was originally supposed to investigate Clinton’s business deals. When that turned up nothing he kept going, hounding people who knew Clinton, even imprisoning Susan McDougal for 18 months, trying to get her to falsely testify against the Clintons. Starr also was in cahoots with the right wing lawyers who had taken over the Paula Jones case. He was looking for ANYTHING to trap Clinton. It was not about Justice and rule of law, but about humiliating and emasculating the President of the United States. It was about power and politics, plain and simple.
The first year or so of Clinton’s presidency is pretty telling, in that he bungled dealing with the media and Washington’s Punditocracy pretty badly.
Bill isn’t really worried about his legacy, he says it won’t be fully understood until after he’s dead. Here are the things I thought will be remembered:
1. Globalization. Clinton was pro-globalization, and made no qualms about it. He saw the only way to live in a post-Cold War world was to integrate economies across the globe, to spread and create wealth for everyone. His micro-loan program created indigenous controlled businesses that helped local communities buy and sell goods in a global market. Clinton wasn’t for strengthening faceless multi-national companies, but bringing everyone onto an equal playing field, where healthy competition could happen. Globalization would also tear down walls of oppression, as globalization is not just a force for internationalizing good, but also for internationalizing information. Whether NAFTA, China’s entry into the WTO, etc did this is still up in the air, but I think his high ideals when it came to the benefits of globalization have effected globalization, and the world can never go back to how it was before.
2. His work on the Good Friday Accord. He made some pretty gutsy moves, including giving a former IRA terrorist a Visa to the US, putting him at odds with the UK. He worked to give both sides a voice, and brought many people into the peace process, changing violent malcontents into vocal dreamers. His policy decisions brought peace to Northern Ireland.
3. His commitment to peace in the Middle East. The best chance for real and lasting peace in a long time happened under Clinton’s watch, and if Issac Rabin had not been murdered I think there might be a more peaceful situation in Israel right now. That said Arafat screwed up big time when he didn’t work with Clinton’s later proposal.
4. He gave Democrats an answer to the Republican charge that the Democratic Party can’t govern. Lets face it the Dems had a long drought of controlling the Executive branch. It was easy enough for the Republicans to say “my opponent can’t govern,” when there was little empirical proof to the contrary. But now Democrats can say under Clinton/Gore we paid down the national debt, reduced welfare roles by creating new jobs, cut the crime rate, created better schools, lessened the number of abortions, and made the government smaller… In short, “to live like a Republican you need to vote for a Democrat.”
That’s about all I have for you.