Magazine article Insight on the News

The Year of Living Dangerously

Magazine article Insight on the News

The Year of Living Dangerously

Article excerpt

Whatever the embarrassment, Bill Clinton has found ways as president to change the subject. Is he just doing what all presidents have done? Does anyone, anywhere, care?

It's been a hell of a year for William Jefferson Clinton -- a year that few mortal men could have withstood. It was little more than a year ago that a stunned nation tuned in to watch their president, shrouded in shame and scandal, deliver the State of the Union address. A great many viewers, polls indicated, were less concerned about the union than with the state of the president and his marriage, though his much-anticipated mea culpa would not come for many months.

By the time of this year's State of the Union address, however, the president was so far into mea culpas and self-flagellation that he was declaring his love for Hillary Rodham Clinton from the rostrum of the House of Representatives that had just impeached him. Though he only is the second president to be impeached -- and as his political and historical fate was on trial in the Senate -- Clinton was, to the chagrin of many Americans, still thriving.

According to United Press International, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi remarked after the speech, "That's the worst I ever heard. The man has no shame." Perhaps not. The president is holding up so well that after the House passed two articles of impeachment, a reporter asked how he felt about it and the president responded: "It's not so bad." A Washington wag cracked that "not so bad" depends on what one thinks bad is. Or, more accurately, what the Senate thinks it is.

And the spin being put on the polls by the president's allies says the American people already have made up their minds about whether Clinton should be removed from office, since his job-approval ratings are at an all-time high. Never mind that in these same polls his character rating is at an all-time low.

Meanwhile, politicians and pundits have been saying they suspect the president of manipulating the press and using the authority of the Executive Office to protect his hide. His supporters argue that the president's resilience under exposure and attack is due to his political savvy and a result of his doing such a good job with the economy. "He's the best political candidate in the last 20 years," says Henry Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant. "He's an amazing guy with raw political ability. No one even comes close to him. How do you stop the energizer bunny?"

John Franzen, another political consultant on the left, agrees that the president "has a lot of inner strength. This is a guy who grew up in the school of hard knocks" But, Franzen adds, "You also have to give the American people a lot of credit, too. …

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