- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2001

Ever since our sense of national well-being imploded with the twin towers and burned with the Pentagon, our leaders have continually urged us to return to "normalcy." Even as the nation prepares militarily, civilians are urged to criss-cross the skies, take in a game, gather among family and friends. Do what we used to do and think about what we used to think about. God and country. Home and hearth. Bill Clinton's law license.

This is not a joke or, at least, not just a joke. The plain fact is, there was something positively comforting in the U.S. Supreme Court order this week that suspended former President Bill Clinton from the practice of law before the nation's highest court. There was even something a little nostalgic about David Kendall, Mr. Clinton's personal attorney, popping up all over again to contest the suspension, not to mention the thought of the 40 days the court has given Mr. Clinton to explain, in writing, why it should not deprive him of the honor it bestowed upon him in 1977, back when he attended a conference with Juanita Broaddrick er, rather, back when he became attorney general of Arkansas. It seems like old times, a return to the recent and more peaceful past.

Not that those were exactly halcyon days, what with the Independent Counsel investigations of the Clinton administration constantly being interrupted by endless political campaigns, an aspirin factory bombing, a Raj-like processional through India and even impeachment. Still, there is something to be said for an era in which the book in the news was "Leaves of Grass" not "Manual of Afghan Jihad" and for an administration that considered "bimbo eruptions" more lethal than suicide bombers.

Or is there? In the clear, cold light of the day that dawned after Sept. 11, the Clinton years look mighty petty indeed, marked by an obsessive self-concern that has proven to have been gravely damaging to the nation. And even now, in the aftermath of attack and massacre, it is that same self-concern that characterizes Citizen Clinton. The New York Times cites friends who describe the former president as wanting "a more public role" as the Bush administration prepares for action, and being a "frustrated spectator" frustrated for being "unable to guide the nation through a crisis that is far bigger than anything he confronted." Just like old times, indeed: Mr. Clinton's concern for the nation is still tied up in his concern for The Legacy. One close friend summed it up this way: "He has said there has to be a defining moment in a presidency that really makes a great presidency. He didn't have one."

Poor Bill. But, while deadly attacks on American soil may not have occurred during his watch, it's simply not the case that his presidency didn't have a defining moment. It had plenty of them, from "is, is" to impeachment. Now, thanks to the recent Supreme Court decision, Mr. Clinton continues to have his presidency defined, great or not.

This may be a good thing, particularly now as the future seems so uncertain. Just as this is a time when, for the good of the country, flags should keep on waving, newspapers should keep on hitting the doorstep and sluggers should keep on swinging for the fences, Bill Clinton, too, should keep right on being effectively disbarred. What better way to return to normalcy?

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