They’re back. I speak of the Episodic Apologists, who have been a phenomenon of the Clinton saga since its earliest days, back when the Clintons were flipping real estate and exchanging bad checks in Arkansas. The Episodic Apologists, like the legendary “court historians” of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s time, are an essential ingredient of the era in which they labor. The court historians gave us Roosevelt’s “100 days,” “He saved us from communism” and other legends of the 1930s - forget not “He ended the Great Depression.”
The Episodic Apologists admittedly are somewhat different. Drawn from the ranks of journalists, historians and politicians, they have contributed more actively to the soap opera of the Clinton saga than mere historians, for they are active participants in the drama. After every disappointment the Clintons perpetrate, these saps go into an emotional tailspin - with all their trembling alases, forsooths and oh-woe-is-mes. The Clintons reputedly were prodigies of public service before Bill got caught with the fat intern or the independent counsel implicated Hillary for lying to a grand jury or scores of other scandals: Travelgate, Filegate, Bill’s impeachment, the plundering of the White House and the presidential pardons. Then there was Mr. Clinton’s performance in the 2008 election.
After every major Clintonian scandal, the Episodic Apologists go through their sorry act. The boobs are crestfallen. They denounce the Clintons in the firmest possible terms - terms not easily erased from the public record. I have them all on file. Then slowly, steadily, hope springs anew. Bill is “President of the World,” according to MSNBC. Or Hillary’s 2010 was a “good year,” claims The Washington Post. Now along comes someone named Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post to note that all three Clintons have had their “best year” in 2011. “Mental note: Stop counting out the Clintons,” he writes.
Mr. Cillizza brings in the hapless Chelsea, who has just signed a contract with NBC and has been widely panned on her first interview. He praises a “fully rehabilitated” Bill Clinton for his new book, “Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy,” a repudiation of much of what Mr. Clinton did right in policy terms during his presidency, when the “boy president” said, “The era of big government is over.” Yet he saves his most sanctimonious adulation for Mrs. Clinton, who never lied to anyone, never obstructed justice and now, in 2011, “managed to stay gold” - yes, “gold,” not “golden.” Actually, in foreign policy, the problems are multiplying as she flies around the world - “some 60 trips abroad and nearly 600,000 miles” - in her ineffectual, bustling way. This secretary of state is no Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles or Henry Kissinger. She might not even be a Cyrus Vance. She is a frequent flier without a clue.
This week, a day after our last combat troops withdrew from Iraq, the fragile coalition there is falling apart as the Shiite-dominated government orders the arrest of its Sunni vice president. North Korea’s tyrannical Kim Jong-il assumes room temperature, making way for his 28-year-old son and, as John Bolton says, “in defiance of all logic and history,” the Obama administration continues to negotiate “food aide for more empty promises to denuclearize.” Mrs. Clinton has blundered in Egypt and Libya and, having prevailed on Morocco to liberalize, gives the king there no credit while waiting for the Muslim Brotherhood to warm up to us. The Arab Spring has come and gone, and winter is upon us, with fewer friends in the area than before.
Mrs. Clinton famously tried to “reset” policy with Russia and now has Vladimir Putin crudely badgering her for supposedly sending “a signal” to marshal his enemies. Moscow has grown increasingly authoritarian, has committed aggression against the pro-American state of Georgia and supported our enemies, such as Venezuela and Syria. In response, Washington has pulled the plug on American allies Poland and the Czech Republic for supporting U.S. missile defense on their soil.
Then there is Iran. It is fast approaching the status of a nuclear power. It is as intransigent as ever. It is aiding terrorists intent on killing Americans. Yet Mrs. Clinton steadfastly insists that “we want to see the Iranians engage. … We are not giving up.”
The Episodic Apologists were part of the Clintons’ supporting cast in the 1990s, and they inadvertently were a lot of fun. Now, when they encourage Secretary of State Hillary’s ineptitude in time of war, they are not so amusing
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His most recent book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).