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Will the Real Bill Clinton Please Shut Up?
November 2002

So my sister came along and figured out what my problem is. I think her exact words were “I think I’ve figured out why your writing is so lame.” Yeah, I laughed, too.

According to her, the trouble is that having an adult in the oval office is not good fodder for humor. That’s why Leno, Letterman et al ad infinitum loved having BJ Clinton in the office. Bad for the country, great for the humor industry. It’s the same thing as the journalist who said he loved Richard Nixon because Nixon was good for his business.

I’ve tried to explain why I beat on Clinton so much. Of course, there is that whole “I resent the irreparable damage he’s done to the country I love” thing. But when you boil it down, it’s just laziness. For comedians, Clinton’s a freebie. He’s a ridiculous buffoon and it takes no effort to use him to get a laugh, so we use him to get a laugh.

See, that's why President Bush drives Bill Mahre crazy. Mahre hates Bush, but Bush doesn’t do anything ridiculous that can further Mahre’s career as a comedian. That just frustrates him like Hillary holding a document with no shredder in sight.

So my writing is now lame because Clinton is gone . . . or so we wish. Humorists of the world, take heart. Clinton is still among us.

Clinton is the wart on our nose that we do not have a treatment for. We just can’t get rid of him. Just this morning I heard on the radio that a book is being published about Clinton’s efforts to stop Bin Laden. You can find it in your local bookstore under the heading of fiction (credits to Rush for the line).

Tell me you didn’t see this one coming. Clinton was a young man (some might say a child) when he left the presidency, and with the new treatments for STDs, he has a long life ahead of him. He’s going to dedicate that life to re-writing the facts about how awful his presidency was. Now, there’s nothing new in this. His re-writing of history started before he even took office. One of the funniest things I ever saw (that didn’t involve midgets and balloon animals) was on This Week Without David Brinkley when they were talking about renaming National Airport to Reagan National Airport. George Smurfanolopolous threw up his hands in exasperation and said “Oh, this re-writing of history just has to stop!” Somebody hand me a tissue. What’s that? Yeah, now that you mention it, it did sound kind of rehearsed. We used to have a saying: the skunk smells his own hole.

Paradoxically, what Clinton has going for him in his attempt to whitewash history is that he was such an outrageously bad president. Because he was such a horrendous excuse for a leader, he got attacked by people who were of the opinion that the oval office should be occupied by an adult. That had a couple of effects. First, because he did so many bad things, he was constantly in the news. He’s a man with all the impressiveness of a Milliard Fillmore, but he got the publicity of a JFK. I’ve talked about this before, that had JFK not been shot, his presidency would likely have been a footnote. Clinton is similar except that his fame was sealed by the shot Monica took.

Second, because his egregious actions were opposed so much, historians will start to wonder. “Man, this guy was constantly taking flack. It simply isn’t possible for a human being to be as horrible as every source we encounter says this guy was. You know, great men throughout history all faced great opposition.”

What we’ve got here is a classic example of the most common logical mistake made today: non-sequitir due to backward reasoning. Let’s suppose it’s true that every great man in history has faced opposition (mathematically: the group of great men is completely contained in the set of men that faced opposition). Does it then logically follow that the only men that faced opposition were great men? To refute that argument, all you have to do is find one man that was a member of the set “Men who faced opposition” and not a member of the set “Great men.”

So Clinton will be aided in his quest to rewrite history by how StephenKingesque the truth is. Hannah Arendt observed that the liar is sometimes more easily believed than the truth teller, because he can tailor his story to the expectations of the audience.

In addition, he will be aided by a cadre of willing buffoons who for one reason or another have supported him in the past and therefore have to prove they weren’t fools.

For example, that great intellectual giant Barbra Streisand (simply BS to those of us familiar with her views) exclaimed at how amazing it was that certain ideas expressed hundreds of years ago “still rang true.” Since the idea that she was expressing was a complete fabrication, I’d like to supply her with a real idea expressed more than two centuries ago that still rings true:

"There is seldom an instance of a man guilty of betraying his country, who had not before lost the feeling of moral obligations in his private connections. ...Before (he) was detected of holding a criminal correspondence with the enemies of his country, his infidelity to his wife had been notorious."
-- Sam Adams, 1775

Now that’s a sentiment that rings true.

Frank Leany


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