No Admiration for President Clinton
Jude Wanniski
August 28, 1997


Memo To: “Disgusted” Website Fan
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Admiring Bill Clinton

In response to my Monday list of “Most Admired Men,” a regular visitor to our website e-mailed me his “disgusted shock” in finding President Clinton’s name on the list. He listed several of the many scandals that have embroiled the President, including Billy Dale and Travelgate. He pointed out that two of the people on my list of “Ten Most Dangerous” were appointed by Clinton (Bob Rubin and Madeleine Albright) and that another, Jeffrey Sachs, is financed by the Clinton State Department.

“Who is more of a compulsive liar than the President. With so many examples of abuse of power and so many scandals surrounding Clinton, it boggles the mind you could have any admiration for this person... I guess it was admirable that his first goal was to take over 1/7th of our economy by socializing our health care system? It certainly met defeat and he continues to plough ahead, only incrementally now, and less obvious to the public. What honorable subterfuge. The only thing less honorable is the Republican Party let it happen.

“He made a promise to reform welfare and, when it was politically expedient, i.e., he couldn’t get out of it, he signed it. Of course, as a man of honor, he is now doing all he can to undermine it. Have you seen any of his Executive Orders? How about the many attacks on our Constitution? Clinton has actually weakened a number of our fundamental guarantees, including those of free speech and the right to trial by jury and that against double jeopardy. He has also supported retroactive taxes, gun control, and warrantless searches and seizures. The President’s legal team is constantly pushing for judicial rulings that will sanction expansions of federal power. The Clinton White House has, for example, supported the federalization of health care, crime fighting, environmental protection, and education. I suggest you read ‘Dereliction of Duty,’ by Timothy Linch of the CATO Institute, CATO Policy Analysis No. 271.

“‘A good President’ with ‘dignity.’ Scandals, covered up through tactics of deny, delay and defame your detractors. Once again using and abusing his power by illegally obtaining FBI files and hiring investigators to threaten those who would expose him. What a good President.

“But you’re right, he’s keeping the peace (in fact our troops are thinly spread all over the world, even unconstitutionally handed troops over to the UN) and we have prosperity. The economy is humming along quite nicely. What else could possibly matter? Apparently to you and many other Americans, nothing. I expected better from you, not some twisted reasoning for being charmed by a charismatic cad. I only hope I can continue to read your articles, learning about economics and supply-side, without gagging on the thought of your admiration for our treacherous, treasonous President. Maybe someday you’ll be able to see beyond our happy economy of the present and Clinton’s public facade to see him for what he really is.”

My Reply....

Sorry to cause such heartburn. I knew the entry would cause some distress, but I did not expect as much from any of our website followers. My general defense is for a political leader who has been able to overcome the odds, as he has, in pursuit of a worthy goal. It may be that Clinton's goal was never peace and prosperity for his fellow citizens, but only fame and a place in history for himself. As long as he figured he would have to produce peace and prosperity to get onto the A or B list of Presidents, that's still okay with me. My friends on the editpage of the Journal who have more of your view than mine have assessed him as the "most existential president in our history," that he will do or say anything, from moment to moment, to get his way. I finally concluded he was more like a mouse in a maze, who knows if he finds his way to the exit, he will find a piece of cheese. His twists and turns, his deceits, his transgressions, can all be seen in that light. At least I can.

There runs through the history of political ideas the notion that the masses of people will allow a successful leader to operate at a different level of principle than they expect of themselves and their children. The leader will have the mandate of heaven as long as the people prosper and they are able to defend against invaders. If we do not understand that concept, we will be confused and disturbed that Richard Nixon was forced from the presidency for covering up the involvement of his staff in an unsuccessful attempt at a political burglary of information -- yet Bill Clinton can survive the myriad scandals that have touched him. Years ago, I asked Nixon if it ever occurred to him that he may not have been impeached if he had not closed the gold window. He answered immediately, "It's true that it is very rare in history to see a political leader touched by scandal and brought down during an expanding economy."

My admiration for Clinton is not of the kind that would cause me to hope my sons would grow up to be just like him -- except for that quality of doggedness in pursuit of a worthy goal and its achievement. Every step of the way my political friends have been predicting that just around the corner, Clinton will finally get it. For awhile in his first term, I thought so too. Early in 1995 I came to have a better sense of the man and little by little began to hope that he would make it. I did everything I could to prevent his re-election, but never by encouraging the idea that he could be brought down by scandal. It is so rare in history to find political leaders who can succeed at these high levels that it is too much to expect those few to possess all the qualities we admire in our ideal men.