While Kenneth Starr's investigation continues to demonstrate that, in American society at least, the bag limit on witches is infinite, the President continues to offer more of the same in response. In recent days, the First Lady has taken to the network talk-show circuit to assail the "right-wing conspiracy" that besets her husband. While right-wing conspirators aren't exactly in short supply these days, and probably never will be, Mrs Clinton has yet to answer the one question I want answered, which is: "Is the President trying to save his job, or his agenda?"

Can he do both? Probably not. Ineligible for a third term anyway, and facing a Congress grown even more intractable, Mr Clinton is becoming the lamest of lame ducks, and with the not-unreasonable expectation that the GOP may retake the White House in 2000, many of his accomplishments may well be swiftly undone. If the President truly believes that he will be remembered primarily for his programs, the examples of Grant and Nixon before him notwithstanding, the most sensible thing he can do is resign immediately.

By packing his bags and leaving the Beltway behind, Bill Clinton will accomplish two feats that would be otherwise impossible. First, he will immediately shift the national tone, currently shrieking away at a prurient frequency that only puritans can (or would want to) hear. The voters, even as they're glued to the TV watching the latest revelations, insist that they are mainly interested in issues, and if there's any truth to that, they'll get their wish, which can only help beleaguered Democrats, who will get to spend time working on legislation rather than fending off the inquisition.

There's no reason to expect Republicans will be turned out of Congress in great numbers between now and 2000, so the Democrats must do their damnedest to hold on to the White House. Democrats with charisma being rare as hen's teeth these days, Al Gore would likely have been nominated by the party at their 2000 convention anyway. But the resignation of Bill Clinton would give Mr Gore the advantages of incumbency, and a couple of years to build a constituency of his own — minus whatever time it takes to clear up his fund-raising woes, which the GOP, knowing its own vulnerability, is not likely to press as a campaign issue anyway.

Of course, all this presupposes that the President's primary purpose is to preserve his policies. And it may turn out quite the contrary — that Mr Clinton's last two years in office will be spent simply trying to avoid being bracketed in the history books of the future with either Richard Nixon, up to now the only President who resigned, or Andrew Johnson, up to now the only President who was impeached. Trying to impress historians of the future, though, strikes me as a waste of time and effort. If Bill Clinton really wants to take the high road, he really should consider taking a hike.

The Vent

#88
8 February 1998

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 Copyright © 1998 by Charles G. Hill