- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2000

If it limps like a duck, quacks like a duck and sends a laundry list of lame wishes and crippled dreams to Congress, it must be a certain kind of duck.

President Clinton, as expansive as a five-year-old climbing upon Santa's knee one more time, made his farewell State of the Union address Thursday night and it was all everyone could do to keep a straight face.

There were a lot of no-shows. Al Gore was there, of course, basking in the president's praise, grateful that he's Bill's kind of guy. (Wink, wink.) But a number of members of Congress weren't, for the usual reasons. Some were off on important business, like shoveling snow, buying stamps, scraping the ice off the windshield. For the first time in anyone's memory not a single justice of the Supreme Court could make it.

There was the blizzard, of course, and some of the old guys knew better than to get on the business end of a shovel in this weather, and several pleaded that out of town travel kept them away. The justices, as usual, furnished few details, but Stephen Breyer was thought to be in Alexandria, Va., looking for a working ATM machine; Ruth Bader Ginsburg was looking for shampoo in Falls Church, Va., and someone thought he saw the chief justice buying razor blades at the Rite-Aid in Bethesda, Md.

The no-shows there were millions and millions more from sea to shining sea who forgot to turn on their television sets missed the president's recital of not very imaginative ways to spend their money. Mr. Clinton could afford to be imaginative because he was blowing smoke and everyone, himself included, knew it.

An impertinent man might say he's irrelevant now, left only with the authority to assign Air Force planes to Hillary's Senate campaign, the means to get the country into war and the ability to undermine Al Gore's haunted quest for the White House.

The president has been in this fix before. In the wake of the great Republican revolution of '94, Mr. Clinton called a press conference to announce that despite what everyone thought, he was definitely not irrelevant. "The Constitution gives me relevance," he said, and invited reporters to look it up.

His lies under oath in the Paula Jones lawsuit, Monica's stained dress, the limp cigar, Hillary's vast right-wing media conspiracy and the impeachment all the sordid particulars of the legacy history will remember him by lay in the future.

Now that same Constitution will further spare us one Clinton in the near future (and his legacy will spare us the other), and his State of the Union address, meaningless as it may be, demonstrates only how much we'll miss him. The big spending boondoggles he proposed last night, proposals repackaged from past years and recycled with spending figures double or triple the original, are interesting only as flights of an overheated imagination.

Republicans ridiculed the proposals but did not say they would not work with him on such issues as education and health care, which they were going to do, anyway. But House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert spoke for the many: "If we enacted all the new programs the president has talked about, we'd spend just about the entire surplus on bigger and more expensive government."

The president's tax relief is a mish-mash of proposals by Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, presidential candidates and presidential candidate wannabes. He wants to raise the minimum wage, and if this means a lot of minimum-wage workers will lose their jobs, well, that's just a risk he'll have to take. He wants tougher gun laws, because enacting new laws is easier than enforcing the laws we've already got. He wants more laws against hate, since he really, really hates hate (unless it's hate of whoever gets in his way), and of course he wants an expansion of his famous scheme to put 100,000 additional cops on the street because it's easier to prescribe more cops than to make good on the earlier scheme for more cops. He had intended to promise more chips in the chocolate-chip cookies and more beans in the chili, but he had to cut it somewhere. Shameless as usual, he invited the father of one of the slain Columbine kids to sit next to Hillary for a photo-op.

Someone once remarked that the promises in a State of the Union address, like the items in a president's budget, have the shelf life of a shrimp. The promises Bill Clinton so desperately makes in a vain attempt to obscure a felonious legacy will have the shelf life of a shrimp, too. The sum of his farewell State of the Union address is merely the reminder that a presidency is a terrible thing to waste something like wasting a duck, even a lame one, on mere soup.

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