I have always been puzzled by the nostalgia among Democrats for the Clinton years, a nostalgia that I have only been able to explain away as a result of the fact that the Bush years were so utterly disastrous that any presidency in recent memory -- even the Nixon presidency -- takes on the rosy tinge of the good ol' days.
(Keep in mind, though, that had Clinton homme not been such a moral disaster, Al Gore would not have had to run away from Bill, and thus could have won the 2000 election even more decisively than he in fact did ... so decisively that not even the Supremes would have been able to tilt the election for W. In effect, then, we have the Clintons to thank for eight years of Bush.)
In her op-ed "Last Year's Role Model" in this Sunday's Times, Lorrie Moore cuts through the tinge of nostalgia to say precisely this, blasting through the cant to reveal the bankruptcy of Hillary Clinton's credentials for the presidency:
though we are in the midst of an awful presidency, we should not be taken in by the rosy haze that gets cast over the Clinton White House; they were not years of great accomplishment. Baghdad was strafed and embargoed; Waco was gassed and burned; in all these events, children (Mrs. Clinton’s key policy focus) were appallingly killed.
While polar ice caps began to melt, Al Gore was left to do who-knows-what, only to regale us later in cineplexes with the consequences of those melting caps, rendering us panicked in our powerlessness. Nafta was signed and the World Trade Organization was created, national health care went nowhere, and by the second term’s close, the administration’s hope of getting things done had been hijacked by Kenneth Starr and the party dress he had confiscated from someone named Monica Lewinsky.
Mrs. Clinton’s scripted air of expectation might make one welcome any zeitgeisty parvenu. Her “35 years of experience” puzzle in their math. Like Rudolph Giuliani, who wants to keep voters safe from terrorism though his own mayoral bunker was beneath the World Trade Center, Mrs. Clinton wants kudos for the disaster of her failed national health plan. She counts heavily her eight years in the White House. Well, then, she’s already been there! Good for her. Next?
The answer? Like Moore, I think it's Obama, whose "sturdiness is equal to Mrs. Clinton’s, his plans as precise and humane. But unlike her, he is original and of the moment. He embodies, at the deepest levels, the bringing together of separate worlds. The sexes have always lived together, but the races have not. His candidacy is minted profoundly in that expropriated word 'change.'"