...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...
i've been slogging my way through My Life, by Bill Clinton for the last week or so. i'm about 90 pages into it. The book is written in casual prose, almost like a blog, and it's easily accessible to the least common denominator. Anyone expecting multi-syllable words and complex sentences from this "Rhodes Scholar" will be disappointed. Clinton is a competent writer, but he's no Thomas Jefferson. He's not even a Theodore Roosevelt. Further proof to my mind that those fawning ignorami who insist that he was "our smartest president" are way off base.
Clinton delights in naming people he knew as a young man, probably for their own benefit, so they can point to the book and say "hey, I'm in it," or "hey, my dad/brother/sister is in it." The first few chapters are full of anecdotes that are only marginally interesting: Bill's boyhood encounter with an angry ram, the famous confrontations with his abusive stepfather, the famous handshake with President Kennedy, the time Bill's car got stuck in the mud at a bauxite quarry.
i'm no fan of Clinton as a president. He had some successes in office, but lord knows he hurt this country in many ways, which we are only now beginning to fully realize. But as a man, as a historical character, he fascinates me. Like Henry VIII, he's a tragic leader who cannot be ignored if you have any real interest in history. And like King Henry, Bill Clinton was a sincere idealist, who left his country in a mess because he let his cock do more thinking than his head.
At this early stage in my reading, i thought it might be fun to see what Clinton had to say about the man who aspires to carry on his progressive Democratic legacy. i'm talking about the presumptive Democratic nominee for president at the time of the book's celebrated release: Massachussets senator John Kerry. As you may have heard, Clinton's book damns Kerry with faint praise. Actually there's almost no praise at all.
According to the index, John Kerry is mentioned only seven times, despite his being a "prominent" United States senator since 1985, throughout the entirety of Clinton's two terms. By contrast, Senator John McCain is mentioned eleven times. The other Kerry, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, earned seventeen mentions in Clinton's index despite having been senator for only eleven years compared to John Kerry's twenty years. In fact, all but one of John Kerry's seven apearances in President Clinton's book are in passages where he's only one name in a list of names.
Here are the seven passages that mention the "prominent" senator from Massachussets, John Kerry:
. . . America's efforts to reconcile and normalize relations with Vietnam were led by distinguished Vietnam veterans in Congress, like Chuck Robb, John McCain, John Kerry, Bob Kerrey, Chuck Hegel, and Pete Peterson, men who had more than paid their dues and had nothing to hide or prove. [p. 161]Besides repeating the "little-known fact" that John Kerry served in Vietnam, the best Clinton can muster is to say that Kerry knows a lot about technology and the environment. Actually, i thought that was Al Gore's bailiwick.
. . .
There was support in Congress from her brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senators Chris Dodd, Pat Moynihan, and John Kerry; and New York congressmen Peter King and Tom Manton. [pp. 578-579]
. . .
My decision was strongly supported by Vietnam veterans in Congress, especially Senators John Kerry, Bob Kerrey, and John McCain, and Congressman Pete Peterson of Florida, who had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than six years. [p. 581]
. . .
After the meeting I went to Boston for a fund-raiser for Senator John Kerry, who was up for reelection and would likely face a tough opponent in Governor Bill Weld. I had a good relationship with Weld, perhaps the most progressive of all the Republican governors, but I didn't want to lose Kerry in the Senate. He was one of the Senate's leading authorities on the environment and high technology. He had also devoted an extraordinary amount of time to the problem of youth violence, an issue he had cared about since his days as a prosecutor. Caring about an issue in which there are no votes today but which will have a big impact on the future is a very good quality in a politician. [p. 659]
. . .
. . . [I]n July[,] I normalized relations with Vietnam, with the strong support of most Vietnam veterans in Congress, including John McCain, Bob Kerrey, John Kerry, Chuck Robb, and Pete Peterson . . . [p. 665]
. . .
At the end of the month, I announced that the Veteran's Administration would provide compensation to Vietnam veterans for a series of severe illnesses . . . that were associated with exposure to Agent Orange, a cause long championed by Vietnam veterans, Senators John Kerry and John McCain, and by the late Admiral Bud Zumwalt. [pp. 713-714]
. . .
. . . [F]our of the seven Senate candidates I had campaigned for won: Tom Harkin, Tim Johnson, John Kerry, and, in Louisiana, Mary Landrieu. [p. 734]
Sure, one might attribute the lack of extended praise to the mighty Clinton ego, but if you look elsewhere in the book you will find paragraph after paragraph where Clinton ladles extravagant compliments over the most minor characters in his life. i would think he'd have spent a little more time on the "next Democratic president of the United States" if he had really wanted to.
Then again, it's very likely that Clinton has someone else in mind to be the next Democratic president. Who could that be? Hmmmm . . . i don't know . . . Let me see . . . could it be . . . Satan?