Paris, Saturday, June 10, 2000Two-Term Bubba
For what, say in 20 years' time, will Bill Clinton be remembered? Twenty years ago Ronald Reagan was on his way to the White House. Looking back, the old Californian cowboy cum thespian is the last Cold War hero, indelibly associated with the collapse of the Soviet Union's "evil empire." Eight years ago, George Bush was heading for electoral humiliation. The Gulf War, still unfinished 10 years on, is his epitaph, plus a lethally broken promise of "no new taxes." When it comes to two-term Bubba, the country & western boy from downtown Hope, Arkansas, the quick answer may be Monica, impeachment and nationally televised groveling as performance art. But would such a memorial be fair?
The coming months will bring many earnest, instant assessments of the "Clinton legacy." The president, spinning to the last, is already energetically weaving his own historical tapestry. Northern Ireland: that's one in the pot, for sure. Forget George Mitchell and Mo Mowlam. Bill will claim this as all his own work. Kosovo? Strike two, for global leadership, smart politics and smart bombs (the Chinese embassy apart). And don't forget that famous 1993 handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. Who was the guy bear-hugging them together on the South Lawn? Yup, the very same fella who brought you the Dayton peace accords in Bosnia, NATO enlargement, NAFTA and the much-loved World Trade Organization. If only that ornery Mr. Assad in Damascus would seize the moment, it could be peace in our term from Golan to Galilee and another wing on the WJC presidential library.