Good to be King
the Democratic National Convention all the talk was of whether
or to what extent Bill Clinton would overshadow designated
candidate Al Gore. Having been in the hall for both speeches, I
would say the Democratic delegates gathered in Staples Center
well to the left of the general run of Democrats, let alone the
general population, even as GOP delegates in Philadelphia were to
the right of the party showed genuine affection mainly for
wanted to cheer Al Gore these hardened pols knew his speech was
a TV show and the purpose was to communicate enthusiasm to the viewing
public but Gore kept plowing through the prepared speech, stepping
on the applause and squelching it. Bill Clinton, consummate political
narcissist that he is, had no such problem basking in the adulation
of those who wanted to adulate.
adulation came despite the fact that, as Andrew Sullivan put it
in the 8/29-9/4 New Republic (in one of the few descriptions
that was not only accurate but that I wish I had written), it was
"a speech so stale in its rhetoric, so quotidian in its content,
so laden with half-truths and glaring omissions that it ranked with
Clintonís most memorable concoctions of higher blather." According
to Sullivan, Gore "seemed almost stunned by his bossís vanity."
In essence, said Mr. Sullivan:
behaved as Clinton always behaves: with no sense of duty, propriety,
or honor, and above all with no sense of responsibility for his
own actions. Even now. Even after everything. Even when the country
is more than willing to let go of the past, if Clinton would only
let go of his own self-serving distortion of it. The one thing Clinton
needed to do last week was take final responsibility for his actions
and set Gore free. He didnít. He never will."
who want to see Mr. Gore elected or who would just like to
see the country able to move on had hoped that after the
convention swan song Mr. Bill would fade quietly into the sunset.
Those who had such hopes reckoned without the massive Clinton ego,
or hoped even when hopes were unlikely to be redeemed. Not only
is Mr. Clinton not fading, he is calling attention to himself on
his image-polishing trip to Africa followed by a trip to
Colombia where he is also likely to receive undeserved plaudits
maybe Mr. Goreís handlers are strict traditionalists who really
believe that the "real" presidential campaign doesnít
start until Labor Day. So maybe this African trip didnít set their
teeth on edge. But I wouldnít bet on it.
I wouldnít bet that the Boy President wonít indulge in a lot more
foreign grandstanding between now and November. The theory that
he is a narcissistic sociopath whose near-genius at retail politics
is applied only to his own interests, his own ambitions, his own
purposes and almost never to any purpose beyond his personal interests
and ambitions looks more and more plausible.
of the media wanted to cooperate in making the presidentís selfish
gesture into something resembling a triumphal bit of legacy-building,
with major newspapers featuring front-page photo-ops of the benign
maximum leader being appreciated or even adored by throngs of attractive
Africans. But as has happened more than once with this president
(see the Middle East) a dogged determination to build a legacy by
taking credit for the work and accomplishments of others doesnít
always pan out.
hoped-for signing of a peace agreement for Burundi, which would
have capped two years of negotiations presided over by former South
African President Nelson Mandela (an effort to which Bill Clinton
contributed almost nothing but a few words of encouragement) didnít
happen. Instead an interim agreement that the actual armed protagonists
declined to sign was agreed to in an effort to save a bit of face.
Sonya Ross of the Associated Press seemed terribly disappointed.
"Going into its final leg, President Clintonís journey to Africa
seemed to be the stuff of legacies," she gushed in her report.
"He had secured a place in Africaís heart and history by visiting
twice, and this time he could visit Africaís most populous nation,
Nigeria, which moved from pariah to partner during his time in office."
the gush, the question I have when a presumed reporter writes a
phrase like "he had secured a place in Africaís heart and history,"
is "How could she possibly know?" followed by "How
could she presume to imagine she knows?" Leaving aside the
heart part (utterly unknowable) the trip is likely to be part of
a comprehensive minute-by-minute African history if anybody ever
writes it. Whether it will have anything resembling an historic
impact is something nobody knows yet or will know for years.
here are reporters concocting such blather. Itís hardly unusual,
of course. Listen to any of those featured on the political chat
shows and youíll hear people blithely opining on "what the
American people want" (something they couldnít possibly know
even if there were a cohesive entity known as "the American
people") or "what our readers think" or are concerned
right, Iíve been guilty from time to time. But I write on a page
that has OPINION at the top in 72-point letters. And I hereby give
anybody permission to scold me next time I presume to speak for
others or to plumb the depths of a continentís heart.
Mr. Clinton was wending his way through parts of Africa where he
could be guaranteed a godlike welcome, he was studiously avoiding
a part of the continent where an apparently escalating war involving
China, slavery and oil is heating up. The London Telegraph reported
on Sunday that 700,000 Chinese troops were in Sudan, where the regime
is keeping people in outright slavery and financing its depredations
by exporting oil to China.
news outlets only WorldNetDaily.com
seems especially interested in the conflict in Sudan Perhaps
thatís because it is Christians being persecuted by an Islamic regime
or perhaps itís because itís just not fashionable yet. But the conflict
there, while it might not have as many victims yet as the Tutsi-Hutu
war in Burundi, is real enough.
we should be grateful that Sudan is not on President Clintonís radar
screen yet. A U.S. intervention there would be unlikely to end the
slaughter and might involve this country in yet another endless
conflict with no exit strategy. But the fact that the Chinese seem
to be stirring up trouble in Africa whether or not itís because
the Chinese think the White House is bought and paid for as WorldNetDaily
editor Joe Farah suggests might seem to be of passing interest.
TO CAIRO AND COLOMBIA
Mr. Clinton travels to legacy-enhancing places. He flew to Cairo
and made another attempt to jump-start Middle East peace negotiations
before he has to leave office. From there itís on to Colombia, where
the United States is sending $1.3 billion in aid to fight drug traffickers
and guerrillas, yet another splendid little war that is likely to
cost a lot more in money and lives before US involvement is finally
Colombia, accompanied by Dennis Hastert, Madeleine Albright and
"drug czar" Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Clinton will receive
thanks from Colombian president Andres Pastrana (AP piece by Andrew
Selsky). And heíll probably get another photo-op with yet another
poor person who wants to refer to him as "Saint Bill."
Antonia Sarmiento, 73, has lived in the same one-room shack since
1948, but itís near a new courthouse the president is supposed to
dedicate. So Colombian officials have torn down the shack and put
up a small brick house. Ms. Sarmiento has erected a shrine to the
president of the Indispensable Nation and keeps two candles burning
by his photograph.
OF THE WORLD?
the movie "Titanic," the jejune fictional character played
by Leonardo DiCaprio rides on the front of the ship briefly and
declares, in his adolescent way, "Iím King of the World."
Itís a moment of supreme silliness.
itís beginning to look as if the eternal adolescent who still infests
the White House partakes of the same syndrome. He is still in office.
And he still has the capacity to travel the world and be greeted
as a proper king should be greeted, with adulation and gestures
of hypocritical respect from other national leaders. If a trip happens
to coincide with a positive development for which he can take credit,
so much the better. But perhaps the real point is to bask in the
roar of the crowd.
is unlikely to be much better and Gore is a horror. But it really
is time for this one to go.
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