Januaty 26, 2001 (Ira Pilgrim)


Harry Truman said that "If you really want a friend in this town, get yourself a dog." When it was quoted to newly elected President Bill Clinton, he replied, "I wish someone had told me that before I showed up with a neutered cat."

I watched a television news segment of Bill Clinton at the ceremony where his wife was sworn in as a senator. He wasn't running for anything, nor is it very likely that he will ever run for public office again. The only job that a politician can aspire to after being the President of the United States is God, and that job isn't open to a mere mortal. The best that Jimmy Carter could do was hammer nails and go on good will missions. He was unsuited for any paying job, as are all ex-presidents. They can still make big bucks on the speaking circuit and will collect a pension for life.

At his wife's swearing in, Clinton was charm personified. It was at a time when he had nothing to gain and he was probably just being his every-day charming self. The movie Primary Colors did a pretty good job portraying Clinton, but it didn't hold a candle to the man himself. Bill Clinton could charm the panties off of a lamb chop.

The fact that Hillary won the senatorial election against a very able and personable Republican politician demonstrates that she profited greatly from her marriage to Bill, the greatest master politician since Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the man who out Reaganed the first professional actor to hold the job. The fact that a lot of people hate him with a passion testifies to his effectiveness at gathering votes. Nobody hates someone who is ineffective. Real hatred is reserved for the winners.

Whether you like it or not, the art of politics is the art of the salesman and has little to do with policy or programs or anything else that is of any real importance to you or me.

I neither hate nor love Clinton. I respect his virtuosity in much the same way as I respect YoYo Ma for his cello playing, Luciano Pavarotti for his singing, Pablo Picasso for his painting and other people who stand out from the crowd because of their virtuosity at one particular art. Love him or hate him, the fact is that William Jefferson Clinton is the grand master of the art of politics. The label "Slick Willy" was a good one. If a lot of people actually saw him having sex on the capitol steps, he could convince most of them that they didn't see what they actually saw. That is what he did with the Genifer Flowers affair, with Hillary's help. Didn't he convince a lot of people that the unprecedented prosperity that this country has undergone was his doing? It is to his credit that he didn't screw it up, but he had nothing to do with it happening. Nor will George W. Bush have much to do with it, if the economy goes into the tank or doesn't. The economy has a profound effect on the government, rather than the other way around.

Now the person who intrigues me is Chelsea Clinton. Will she become the American equivalent of Princess Di? She has had a most thorough apprenticeship in the art of politics and, to boot, was loved by both of her masters. I have never heard her say a single word, but she "looks intelligent." I wonder what will come out of her mouth when she eventually does open it. Will she eventually run for president?

The United States is entering on a new era when the presidents, from here on in, may all be the descendants of past presidents in much the same way as European royalty is organized. George W. Bush is the first since John Quincy Adams. What makes this likely is the fact that the children of presidents will have been coached from childhood about what is important in gaining public office, which is friendship with powerful people and money, money, money and more money.

Next column
Return to the Politics Home Page
Return to Ira's Home Page