Saturday, August 8, 2009

Bill Clinton, My Hero

Ah, Bill Clinton, my hero. I always thought of Bill as larger than life - larger than life intellect, larger than life appetites, larger than life ability to connect with people. The appetites tarnished his reputation in spite of the other achievements. I doubt if we'll see schools or highways or bridges named for him any time soon and that's too bad because Bill Clinton is us, classic American achiever, son of poverty and alcoholism who climbed to the top via sheer hard work and ambition, a collection of out-sized strengths and weaknesses that are often contradictory.

Still determined to make a difference (and perhaps, reparation), the years since his presidency ended have been dominated by sweeping acts of service - by the Clinton Global Initiative, by his contributions toward ending AIDS, by his work with George Bush I in raising funds to assist those struck by disaster, and most recently by his successful rescue mission to North Korea. Bill Clinton is still casts a giant shadow on the world stage.

By contrast, consider the president who succeeded him - George W, a spoiled child of the silver spoon, accepting the presidency as his by inherited right. He never seemed to enjoy his job very much, ceding much of his power to Cheney and Rumsfield and Rove, fleeing to his ranch in Texas as often as possible. He appeared to be relieved to be cutting brush rather than making policy. He was frequently tone deaf about the needs of his people (Katrina) and often inarticulate about what he was in the White House to achieve. What I most often thought about W during his eight years in office was that he was in over his head.

I may be underestimating W. Perhaps after a long post-presidency rest, he'll re-enter the fray. Maybe he'll become a globe trotter, like Clinton, working tirelessly to improve life for human kind, meeting with other world leaders to plan strategy for issues he believes are critical for the benefit of America and the world (whatever he thinks those are). Perhaps future presidents will think of him when they need someone to send on a high-profile rescue mission.

But, I doubt it. Because if George W Bush's vices were small, so were his gifts. That's often the way it works.