"A look back at our 42nd President."
By Ken Kreps
©2001, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, all rights reserved
Bill Clinton is both, one of the most popular and most hated Presidents this country has ever seen. He managed to pull off the very difficult trick of maneuvering his personal life into near shambles, while leading the country into one of it's most prosperous economic periods in recent history. His political accomplishments are legendary and that, above all, is why his job performance ratings have been consistently above average.
The Clinton haters, on the other hand, fueled to a large extent by the religious right's mighty hand of God attitude, have been unmerciful in their criticism of him and his accomplishments. Taking the moral high ground (which in itself, is strange considering the fall from grace taken by some of the religious right's highest icons in past years) they led the fight, with hired political assassins like Ken Starr, to have him removed from office. They came close but failed as the Senate, faced with unfailing public approval for President Clinton, took the wise and prudent action of not removing him from office. Before we give them too much credit, let's understand that their actions were done mainly in defense of their jobs, as they did not want to go home and face an enraged electorate during the coming elections, having removed one of the most popular Presidents of modern times.
What then does President Clinton leave as his legacy? The answer to that simple question is complicated and lengthy, but a summary of his accomplishment would have to include the following:
· One of President Clinton's internal campaign slogans during his first run for the office of Chief Executive was, "It's the economy, stupid." Once elected, he never wavered from that philosophy as he led the nation into a succession of stable and prosperous economic years. We now find this threatened by George W's plan for an ill advised, across the board tax cut which will amount to little more than welfare for the wealthy.
· The country now has a balanced budget for the first time in many years. This balance produced a surplus that both Al Gore and George W. Bush spoke of often during the campaign, as they each detailed their plans as to the best way to use this surplus for the good of the American public. Of course George Bush merely inherited the good work Bill Clinton and Al Gore did to make this surplus a reality after they inherited both an unbalanced budget and a deficit from George Bush Senior and, before him, Ronald Reagan
· He formed a bond with the African-American community like no past President has ever accomplished. This was not simply a window dressing bond, but instead, African-Americans (while still not enjoying the full fruits of their labors as do their white counterparts) made great strides towards a better life. Bill Clinton is truly one who believes that equality should be extended to all and backed that belief with actions to match. One has to seriously wonder, after the disenfranchisement of thousands of African-American voters in Florida (orchestrated by none other than Jeb Bush, the President's brother), how much the station of black Americans will slide downhill under the leadership(?) of Dubya with appointees like John Ashcroft, as with friends like Ashcroft, black Americans don't need any enemies.
· 22,000,000 new jobs were created under the Clinton administration. Indeed, unemployment reached record lows during his time in office.
· Statistics show a lowering of most categories of crime during the Clinton Years. Can his administration take all the credit for this? No, of course not. However, putting thousands of extra police officers on the street had to be a contributing factor. Stronger gun laws would have helped also, but thanks to the inane hammering against them by the NRA, few were allowed to pass and consequently, crime was not lowered as much as it should have been. Still, in spite of the gun lobby, crime was still reduced under Clinton.
· Welfare roles were reduced and more people were returned to useful lives. Money was spent to help people learn new job skills and to end their dependence on public money as a way of life. Strangely, the conservatives tried to do this for years and failed. Their ways were harsh and would have left many needy people to their own devices. Clinton's way was humane and restored dignity to many.
· Bill Clinton proved to be a timely and necessary friend to the environment, particularly in the last days of his administration as he used Presidential decrees to protect much of the spectacular lands of this country. George W. Bush talked of drilling for oil on protected lands while President Clinton, by his actions, was increasing the federal government's protection of some of our national treasures.
Bill Clinton leaves office having survived the tirades and brutal frontal assaults of the right. He's still the target of right wing slings and arrow even after leaving office. They still pick at this pardon or at that presidential decree with the same knee-jerk reaction they used when he was in office. Dwight Eisenhower, the elder Bush and Jerry Ford all made some extremely dubious, last minute pardons that didn't raise nearly as much opposition their Democratic foes. I had a Republican tell me the other day, "George W. Bush is the President. Get over it." I believe that can now be turned around to the Republicans when we tell them, "Bill Clinton is not the President. Get over him." Their hatred for Mr. Clinton is beyond all reason and is either fueled by a desire to shift attention from the actions of George W. Bush in his first days in office or by envy over the fact that President Clinton was able to accomplish many of the goals in his two terms in office that Republicans had only talked about for years.
The Clinton Years are over and the Bush Years are just beginning. It's interesting to note that on the day George W. Bush was inaugurated President Clinton left office with a 58% approval rating. How is this possible in light of (1) the mistakes he made in his personal life and (2) the constant sniping and back biting from the right? The answer is simple. Bill Clinton leaves us with a much better nation than we had when he took office and the majority of the American public knows that. True, he had some failures such as the lack of full acceptance of gays in the military, a comprehensive healthcare plan for all Americans and the furtherance of human right in countries such as China. None of these seem likely to make any progress under George W. Bush. While not a card- carrying member of the religious right, Bush owes them a great deal for their support and, with their bible belt view of gays, it's unlikely any progress will be made in that area. Bush's healthcare plan relies too much on the private sector and since it's the private sector that caused much of the healthcare woes we now suffer through in this country, no improvement in the status quo can be expected. As for anything dealing with foreign policy, Bush is the proverbial square peg in the round hole.
And so it is with sadness and the realization that nothing lasts forever, that I bid William Jefferson Clinton farewell with my heartfelt thanks for a job well done. I miss him greatly since he stepped down from office, and I have a feeling, as we get further into the Bush Presidency, many of you will feel the same way.
Now, Hillary Clinton is the front runner for the Democrat's next presidential candidate, and the Clinton bashers are out in full force, once again. Their venom seems to have no limits, as they bemoan the calamity which is sure to befall the United States if she becomes our next president and moves back into the White House (husband, and all). Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Bush has issued an executive pardon to Scooter Libby, driving his presidential approval rating even further into the dumper.
While much has transpired with Bush in office over the last six plus years (seems a lot longer, doesn't it), history has deviated little from the predictions many of us made when Bush was first appointed president by the not so Supreme Court. The Republicans still haven't dialed back their hatred for the Clintons, the budget surplus is long gone, our country is involved in a no-win war which is killing thousands, while not reducing terrorism one iota, the environment has been allowed to become the toy of big business, nothing has been done to address the healthcare mess in our country that allows over forty-five million people (including children) to go without coverage, the vice-president claims that laws apply to everone else, but not to him, and Bush's approval rating is still dropping like a stage-coach stock in the age of technology, as he pulls off the biggest, in-your-face, pardon of them all. As Sonny and Cher used to sing...."And the beat goes on, and the beat goes on."
Ken Kreps is an actor and writer, and has recently returned to the Pacific Northwest, after having lived in Los Angeles. He now lives with his wife in a suburb of Seattle. He has appeared in two episodes of a popular network television series, in a television pilot, in a number of independent films, television commercials (both local and national), corporate-industrial films, two docudramas on Japanese network television, and various types of voice-over work. He has written a number of published articles, essays and short stories, as well as numerous consumer pieces. Ken has written scripts for Imagination Theater, an award winning audio drama series heard on over 120 commercial radio stations across the nation, as well as on XM Satellite Radio. He has also written four short film screenplays. For the past fifteen years, Ken has concentrated on acting, studying in Los Angeles, Seattle and Dallas.