OK, Bill Clinton.
President Clinton is, as I’ve said, a repugnant human being. Even if you (like me) disregard the wilder claims of his enemies, he is for certain a serial sexual harasser. He’s continually shown a willingness to sacrifice his principles, and worse, his subordinates and friends, on the altar of short-term gain.
And yet, I voted for him twice, once when it was pretty clear what he was. (I voted for Tsongas in the 1992 primaries, but the nomination was already wrapped up; if it had been in doubt, I don’t know what I would have done.) And if he were eligible, I’d vote for him again. Because most of the time, I agree with his politics.
Mickey Kaus isn’t a Clinton fan, but he demonstrates here Clinton’s value to those of us of a slightly leftish persuasion: he’s the balance to the special-interest groups farther to the left.
The If Game… If Bill Clinton had not been the kind of person (as opposed to politician) he is, the Democratic Party would probably not only control the White House now, it probably would be on the verge of long-term dominance. It’s not just sex — though I think that probably cost Gore the election. (In the sense that he lost at least some votes in Florida that way. There are probably dozens of things Gore himself could have done to win Florida. It was a coin flip.)
1) Clinton wasn’t the only Boomer politician who dodged the draft. He was the only one to so mismanage the situation, both during the Vietnam era and in 1992 campaign, that he couldn’t function as Commander in Chief. Remember, then-Governor Clinton, like Al Gore, supported the Gulf War. But by the time he was President Clinton, his relationship with the Pentagon — difficult enough for a Democrat — was hopelessly poisoned.
(Slightly off-topic: I don’t think Al Gore would have managed the current situation any differently than GW Bush; American foreign policy generally hasn’t changed much since ’91. There are two reasons to think it might have been worse, however. One is that the Democratic Party simply doesn’t have the military policy people that the GOP has. Second, I don’t trust the Republicans in Congress to allow a Democratic President to do his job.)
2) President Clinton had a need to gather all power onto himself. Maybe it was just because he didn’t trust the national Party, maybe it’s because of his personality flaws. There are two results from this, both of which are causing the party grief. One is that there was no “bench strength”. Gore was the nominee simply because there wasn’t anyone else, except Bill Bradley, who was even worse as a campaigner. Second, once the White House was removed as a center of centrism, the party started to drift back to the left. If a group of Clintonists had existed in Congress and in the various State Houses, they would have acted as a brake on this. But the party’s Congressional representation is mostly controlled by the left — I think Daschle’s OK, but the majority are old-style Democrats of the type that dominated 1968-1992. You remember, the ones that couldn’t get a Democrat elected to the White House, despite controlling both houses of Congress, without a major scandal? And the only Democratic big-state governor is Gray Davis, who is pretty much a centrist, I guess, but also Pure Evil.
It pains me to say this, but what the Democrats needed in 1992 was a Reagan. Not politically, obviously, or a mirror image as far to the left as Reagan was to the right. But someone who had some moral authority — which Clinton never had — and moreover, a party builder. The seeds of 1994 were laid in 1980. There’s an obvious joke about getting laid to be made here, but I will forbear it.