Fate of the Nation
This world, Horace Walpole famously remarked to the Countess of Ossory, is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel. Something similar can be said of the Clinton Presidency. At one level, it has been nothing but a catalog of embarrassments — a comedy, perhaps, if things like the dignity and inegrity of our public institutions do not mean very much to you. Looked at from another point of view, it has been a tragedy; the tragedy of a great nation at the height of its power and prestige brought low by a leadership of fools, crooks and traitors.
It seems to me that relief at the coming end of the Clinton presidency has addled the minds of some of my colleagues. There is a blithe, dismissive attitude to the events of the past eight years; a feeling that, well, the man was awful, but he didn't actually do much harm, thanks to Alan Greenspan and the Republican Congress.
I beg to differ. I believe that Clinton — aided and abetted, let it never be forgotten, by the Democratic Party united solidly behind him — has done terrible harm to this nation. The only open question in my mind is whether it will be possible to undo what has been done.
I am not thinking of the degradation of the Presidency. Embarrassment is a thing soon forgotten. We wish to forget it; we have evey motivation to forget it. A couple of serious Presidential terms could restore dignity to the office. Nor do I have in mind the ruthless subverting of federal agencies to political ends: the use of Justice as a personal law office for the President and his wife, of the IRS as an instrument for intimidating the President's personal enemies, of the INS as a machine for the production of Democratic voters, of Commerce as a laundromat for the money of Presidential pals. The remedies for all these things exist in the system. If the Republican Party had been stronger in Congress, or had had really vigorous and committed leadership, these perversions might already have been dealt with.
What was done these last eight years that it might not be possible to undo, was the undermining of this country's strategic position in the world, and the gutting of our military. These things arise very naturally from Bill Clinton's personality and beliefs: the first, from his life-long sympathy for socialism and long association with people of the extreme Left — like, for example, his wife; the second from his youthful pacifism ("I detest the military").
The leftist origins of the Clintons' world-view has made them — and by extension, the nation — willing accomplices of every thug dictator with sufficiently Red credentials. Clinton and the people around him actually see nothing much wrong with Fidel Castro, and their inclination is to take Castro's side in any dispute, as we saw earlier this year. Nor do they see anything wrong with the Chinese Communist Party, an organization which, in Bill Clinton's lifetime, has murdered 60 million of its own people. Nor even with the North Korean Communist Party: at a vast rally in Pyongyang a few days ago, organized by the North Korean dictator to commemorate his father's launching of the Korean War (in which 34,000 Americans died), Madeleine Albright smiled, applauded and joshed with the lunatic Kim. Stalin? Mao? Kim? Castro? Oh, no doubt mistakes were made; but their hearts were in the right place. You can tell their hearts were in the right place because they were anti-American; and we all know, don't we, that in any dispute to which America is a party, America is wrong.
I do not know whether Bill Clinton is our first black President, as Toni Morrison (first person to get the Nobel Prize for Blackness) has said; nor whether he is our first homosexual President, as he himself seems to claim in a recent interview for the homosexual magazine Advocate; but surely it is clear that he is America's first anti-American President.
Many of us thought that the anti-Americanism of boomer intellectuals was just a pose, a harmless affectation. No, they meant it. They hate this nation. If any part of her power can be handed off to some international authority (NATO, the UN), it will be. If she has any strategic advantage (the Panama Canal, a head start in anti-missile research), it will be given away or sold to our enemies. If her military can be enfeebled by foolish social experiments and the denigration of masculinity, it will be. If a populous, rising despotic power plots against her, and briefs its own generals to prepare for "inevitable" war against her, those same generals will be feted at the White House by a smiling President, and their every wish granted. If any commentator dares point these things out, the eyebrows go up, the fingers wag, and a gang of liars who "detest the military" and believe their own country to be illegitimate, founded on genocide, greed and exploitation, will scold the commentator as "unpatriotic." Then shills are brought forward (see, for example, Gregg Easterbrook in The New Republic, 9/11/00) to "prove" that our military is better than ever — a thing no actual military person believes.
The results can be inspected in the 1999 Cox Report, in Bill Gertz's book Betrayal (and soon in his new, even more devastating book The China Threat), in the flood of trained, experienced pilots, sailors and soldiers leaving the services in disgust, in the spectacle of hard-won national secrets sluicing out of our weapons labs, in the planeloads of businessmen from nations supposed to be our allies, shuttling into Iraq. (It is plain that the U.S. government does not believe in its own Iraq policy: why, then, should anyone else?)
Some time soon, America will be challenged. Perhaps it will, as Mr. Gertz believes, be China that throws down the gauntlet. Perhaps it will be some lesser power, better prepared and more ruthless (suitcase nukes, bio-weapons) than Milosevic's Yugoslavia, better equipped than Iraq in 1991. Perhaps it will be some conspiracy of powers — China plus Iraq, North Korea plus Iran — testing our much-advertised ability to fight two small wars simultaneously. We cannot be sure what the challenge will be, but we can be sure it will come. Can we be sure we shall be able to meet it? No, we cannot be sure, not at all. That is the Clinton legacy.