- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2000

This Election Day offers Americans something besides the chance to pick the next president of the United States. Because we have in Al Gore a vice president who seeks to succeed a two-term president, we're not only determining the nation's foreseeable future by choosing between Mr. Gore and George W. Bush, we're also getting a crack at shaping the place in history that Bill Clinton will hold.

No matter how many times Mr. Gore insists he is his "own man," and no matter how publicly he rebuffs Mr. Clinton's offers to campaign with him in these final days of the campaign, a victory for Al Gore is a victory for Clintonism.

By the way, does anyone actually believe that this supposed "rift" between the two men isn't orchestrated by political operatives hoping to bamboozle voters into believing there's a big difference between Philandering Bill and Faithful Al? Of course, a man doesn't have to be driven by a reckless deviance in order to display a flawed character. While the nation would more than likely be spared the sexual degradations of the Clinton years, a Gore administration would nonetheless validate and entrench the fundamentals of Clintonism. (Also important to consider is the fact that a Democratic majority in the Congress would similarly strengthen Clintonism by rewarding the unquestioning defenses of sundry Clinton-Gore lawlessness mounted by House and Senate Democrats.)

What is Clintonism? It is less a political philosophy than a power philosophy. Reduced to a bumper sticker, it reads, "The Ends Justify the Means." As a practical policy, it expresses itself in blatant lies and stonewalling, threats and character assassination, Internal Revenue Service audits of opponents and the menacing of inconvenient women. In its ill-concealed contempt for congressional subpoenas and court orders, it betrays a disturbing executive disregard for the legislative and judicial branches of government, whose powers, of course, are essential to our system of checks and balances. As a guiding national ethos, its corrosive impact on society hasn't yet been fully reckoned, but its success to date is what makes this election so crucial.

Is Clintonism America's future? Considering how comfortably well-off most Americans are, the question may fall on indifferent ears. Maybe the question should be: Can Clintonism hurt America? There are many ways to answer this affirmatively. We can look at the rise of cheating among school children who seem to have learned from Mr. Clinton and his loyal-to-a-fault vice president that crime does pay; or we can consider, painfully, the numbing sexual practices of teen-agers whom Mr. Clinton, through his grotesque indiscretions, has robbed of their innocence (not to mention the rest of us). But are there more palpable, perhaps more immediate threats to the nation that may also be put down to the amoral roots of Clintonism?

As the Middle East explodes, it's fitting to ponder the influence of Clintonism on American foreign policy. Under the Clinton-Gore administration, the United States has seen fit to boost terrorists and supporters of terrorism to the status of free and functioning democracies, conferring on them a legitimacy and stature that has not been earned in word or deed. As the grievously named "peace process" between Israelis and Palestinians degenerates into a war that may threaten Israel's existence, one has to consider not only the practical pitfalls of Clintonism, but also the moral outlook that drives it. Could not a chronic indifference to the dictates of right and wrong have something to do with the rigid "neutrality" of the "honest broker"? Could not a habitual disregard for the law make it possible to overlook Palestinian violations of peace accords? Does such a worldview explain why it is that supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah have been invited to the White House by Hillary Rodham Clinton, now desperately seeking to shore up her Jewish support in the New York Senate race?

A similar ethos seems to have informed Mr. Gore's secret 1995 agreement in violation of existing U.S. law with then-Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to allow Russia to continue selling advanced conventional and nuclear weaponry to such countries as Iran. In true Clintonian tradition, Mr. Gore even promised the Russian leader to keep Congress in the dark about the deal a promise that has been kept to this day. What about the law? What about checks and balances on the executive branch? What about the Constitution? These, alas, are just some of the casualties of Clintonism.

Next week, besides choosing between two competing visions of the future, Americans will be choosing how to view the past as a closed chapter, or as a work in progress; as an era that is thankfully over, or as one still coming into poisonous flower. About the only thing we can say for sure is that the outcome will say as much about ourselves as it will about the man chosen president.

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