Clinton's Endless Exit
Sperling, Godfrey, The Christian Science Monitor
I wrote my "goodbye" to President Clinton as I left for a Florida vacation a few weeks ago. But now that I've come back, I find he's still here, an ex-president on center stage.
So here we have Bill Clinton, still surrounded by controversy, still holding the cameras and public attention. Indeed, with the scandals over his pardons and the loot he took from the White House when he left, Mr. Clinton has, almost daily, challenged President Bush for the national limelight.
"Mr. Excitement." "Mr. Entertainment." That's Bill Clinton. For weeks before his exit as president, I would hear journalists at Monitor breakfasts commenting about how much we reporters would miss Clinton. "What are we going to write about?" I heard one newsman say. And more than once I heard reporters say something like this: "After Clinton, any president is bound to be boring."
Well, all I can say is that I'm ready to be bored. I'm ready for a president who doesn't hug the spotlight and goes about his job in a businesslike way. I, for one, don't need to have a rock star at the helm of this country. And as Mr. Bush's approval ratings rise - a CNN poll had it up to 67 percent, some others in the high 50 percentiles - I've concluded that most Americans are finding this quieter presidency to their liking.
This growing public acceptance of the Bush presidency was evident in the response to his address to the nation last Tuesday. Critics gave the speech a good grade, partly because it exceeded expectations. And many Democrats, even against their will, found themselves warming up to a man who employs the soft sell - just the opposite of the way his predecessor pushed his programs.
I note that a number of leading Democrats, including Jimmy Carter, have expressed their revulsion over Clinton's shocking pardoning performance. And there seem to be cracks in the solid backing of Clinton among African-Americans. A New York Times columnist, Bob Herbert, himself an African-American, writes, "The man [Clinton] is so thoroughly corrupt it's frightening.... Cut him loose," Herbert advises the Democratic Party.
Here I would like to examine some questions arising out of Clinton's continuing presence on the center stage:
Has it damaged President Bush's effort to launch his agenda? …