The Clinton Legacy

By Colin Campbell; Bert A. Rockman | Go to book overview

11
Clinton in Comparative Perspective

GRAHAM K. WILSON

What will President Clinton's political legacy be to the repertoire of leadership styles and strategies in advanced democracies? Note the stress here on the word "political"; this chapter does not aim to examine Clinton's foreign policies or the degree to which he deserves credit for progress toward peace in the Middle East or Northern Ireland. A focus on Clinton's political legacy asks instead whether there are important aspects of his style and strategy that have been, or are likely to be emulated profitably by leaders in other advanced industrialized democracies.

At first glance, it seems obvious that Clinton's saga is of little relevance to other democratic leaders. The Clinton story will strike many as a uniquely American tale. Beginning in a "little town called Hope" as the 1992 campaign materials emphasized (glossing over the fact that the president spent little time there), the story of how the son of an easy-living mother and an alcoholic stepfather rose to be a Rhodes scholar, governor of Arkansas, and, ultimately, president of the United States1 embodied national ideals of equality of opportunity. Top politicians in other countries such as Britain also often come from humble backgrounds; nonetheless, this familiar "log cabin to White House" story has often been thought to embody the promise of American life. The latter stages of the presidency, as Clinton was forced to reveal intimate details of his sex life as he fought against charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power, also seemed peculiarly American, though as a nightmare, not a dream. As the United

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