As we prepare to enter "the silly season," backers of Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) should think seriously about what and whom they are backing. Just as Hillary played a prominent role in the administration of her husband, President Bill Clinton, so too Bill will play a prominent role in a Hillary Rodham Clinton administration. As the Clintons made a point of saying when Bill first ran in 1992, "You get two for the price of one." More on that Faustian bargain in a moment.
For now, let me be clear that I do not believe that any person should be branded an entire life for sins that he or she committed, especially if there was no loss of life. Unfortunately, though some might rate President Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs as venal sins, they did lead, at least indirectly, to loss of life.
By my logic, had President Bill Clinton not egregiously abused a gross imbalance power to manipulate a young - albeit willing - intern named Monica Lewinsky, there would not have been a stained dress, let alone impeachment hearings. Nor would there have been a scarlet letter forever pinned to Clinton's otherwise stellar two-term tenure.
His one glaring policy misstep - failing to kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance - can also be linked to the Lewinsky scandal, since Clinton feared a Wag the Dog accusation if he took innocent lives in offing the world's most wanted terrorist. It can be logically inferred that 9/11 might never have happened had the inspirational jihadist, and key 9/11 fundraiser, been removed from the world stage.
Nevertheless, I am enough of an independent voter to know that, regardless of what Mr. Clinton did or did not do, the ravenous Republicans were out for blood from day one of his administration. The pudgy kid from Hope, Arkansas who rose from an alcoholic home to earn a Yale law degree was just too darn good at the political game. And the GOP knew that the only way to thwart his folksy Teflon charm was to wage nasty and ad hominem war on him from the get-go.
Bill Clinton's cocky mistake was handing his opponents a scandal that fit squarely into their longstanding, if gauche, "Slick Willie" narrative. As tycoon Noah Cross (John Huston) famously said in Chinatown, "You see, Mr. Gittes, most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and the right place, they're capable of anything."
Like the patently evil, though by no means morally equivalent, Cross, the prideful President thought he too could get away with anything, including having sex with a gullible intern smack dab in the middle of the Oval Office. And like the many real life Noah Crosses that helped create the country we have today, Clinton used all his enormous influence to stay in power, even after being outed.
He then spent the subsequent years helping us forget his iniquities by performing philanthropic good works via his eponymous Clinton Foundation (though even that altruism has had its share of inexorable Clintonian controversy).
While able to legally hair-split his way out of the Lewinsky debacle, and subsequently resuscitate his damaged reputation, back in 2000 Mr. Clinton was unable to clear the guilt-by-association rap from his compatriots. Rightly or wrongly, in the 2000 Presidential election, the silent majority of Americans - especially the kind of battleground-state centrists who decide national elections - felt that Bill Clinton not only disgraced the Presidency, but he had damaged the country itself. And because he was not remotely transparent in response to the scandal he created, Clinton's betrayal unfairly tarnished his Democratic successor.
In the 2000 Presidential election, Al Gore should have crushed George W. Bush like a Georgia peanut. Instead, his poorly executed campaign (how his hugely incompetent and barely articulate campaign manager, Donna Brazile, is still allowed to opine on national TV is beyond me), his immature antics during the Presidential debates, and especially the memory of Bill Clinton's moral lapses, cost Gore the election (no matter what diehard Clintonites believe).
With the bipartisan successes of the Clinton administration (welfare reform, 100,000 more cops on the streets, balancing the budget almost every year, a robust economy, and a nation not at war), Al Gore could have been the stiff, goofy, flawed candidate he was and still beaten the ridiculously well-funded, if clearly incompetent, George W. Bush.
But he didn't. And that's because Al Gore could not overcome the elephant in the voting booth, William Jefferson Clinton. And, notes FactCheck.org, even if the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed a recount in the four heavily Democratic Florida counties that the Gore legal team requested, Gore would still have lost to Bush, as all objective studies of the Florida recount have since concluded.
And with George W. Bush winning the White House, guess what we got? Instead of the post-9/11 "quiet war" that Bush initially promised - wherein the leaders of Al Qaeda would be discreetly offed one-by-one like so many Black September terrorists - we got the Dick Cheney approach to foreign policy. The former VP is a chicken-hawk who earnestly believes - to this day! - that there is no problem in the world so nuanced, parochial or complex that it cannot be solved by dropping more American ordnance on it.
So, thanks to Al Gore's electoral defeat, the world was gifted another big, loud, expensive and useless U.S. military incursion onto Mideast soil. The result? 1. Tens of thousands of dead and wounded American soldiers, many with PTSD so severe that they will never ever be able to hold a regular job, let alone sleep another night without waking up in terror. 2. Over 150,000 dead Iraqis - 70% of whom were civilians - which has provided essential fodder for ISIS and Al Qaeda recruitment videos for years to come. 3. A far more influential and meddlesome Iran. 4. Putin running wild in Eastern Europe and around the world because a distracted and naive "Dubya" failed to properly read into his dark KGB soul. 5. An American public now extremely gun-shy of doing anything militarily abroad, even where there is clear cause for such action (e.g., robustly arming and training the Ukrainian army almost one year ago, supporting the Syrian resistance before it was infiltrated by ISIS nearly two years ago).
You may say that Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War. And were he still a Senator, Al Gore might have too. But not if he were President. Not after 9/11. Because any Democrat President would have known that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Though clearly one of the world's sundry bad guys - albeit a bluffing one, in order to keep Iran and his own people at bay - Saddam would not even have been a top-10 priority in a post-9/11 Gore White House.
You may think Bill Clinton's peccadilloes were a minor personal matter. But they were not. They changed history.
Nevertheless, even after George W. Bush's disastrous adventurism, you may be equally upset by President Barack Obama's more cautious approach to foreign affairs. Moreover, even as a Democrat, you may strongly dislike Obama's banker-bashing rabble-rousing or his soft stance on amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Nevertheless, there is absolutely one thing you cannot deny about Barack Obama: his personal life has not embarrassed this nation. You can question his choice of White House visitors or his lowest common denominator approach to media and social media, but, in his personal conduct, Mr. Obama did not bring ignominy to the Oval Office.
Bill Clinton's conduct clearly did. It is the great tragedy of Mr. Clinton that a man so immensely talented in one area could be so hopelessly adrift in another.
I forgive Bill Clinton. And so should this country. Unfortunately, we paid a horrible price in prestige and leverage because someone as incompetent as George W. Bush was let into office because of Clinton's tragic defects of character. In his personal moral conduct, George W. Bush never embarrassed this nation. However, he did damage this nation in a far more lethal, long-standing, and public way, with his horribly misguided and deceitfully sold Iraq misadventure.
This is why it is so critical we elect a President in 2016 who is emotionally and intellectually wise enough to not hurt this nation on either a personal or policy front. We need a leader who will, in the words of Hippocrates, "Do No Harm."
As you scan the increasingly large field of presidential candidates over the next year and a half, think long and hard about the moral character, emotional temperament, and mental discernment that they and their spouses will bring to the Oval Office.
As recent history shows, when it comes to America's most powerful elected official - whose decisions affect billions of people around the planet - it pays to be extra judicious in your selection, instead of blindly trusting that those families who have disappointed us before will miraculously not do so again.