- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 27, 2004

Not until now did I realize what an artist Bill Clinton is. As a historian, the former president makes a great cartoonist. In his horse-choker of a book — in which any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental — he depicts himself as a great champion of all that is good and right against the dark forces of evil, especially during his sordid little impeachment. In his rendering, that episode stands as a kind of climactic Goetterdaemmerung of a heroic life.

Slick Willie calls impeachment “my last great showdown with the forces I had opposed all my life — those who had defended the old order of racial discrimination and segregation in the South and played on the insecurities and fears of the white working class in which I grew up; who had opposed the women’s movement, the gay-rights movement, and other efforts to expand our national community as assaults on the natural order; who believed government should be run for the benefit of powerful and entrenched interests and favored tax cuts for the wealthy over health care and better education for children.”

As for those of us who supported the constitutional rights of our fellow citizens while this ersatz Huey Long was still embracing Orval Faubus (literally), and those of us who somehow managed to speak out for racial justice while he himself never got around to helping pass a state civil rights law, preferring to leave that risk to his successor as governor; and who see him once again playing on the resentments of the “working class” — another European concept he has absorbed — and generally sounding like the lip-service populist he has always been and continues to be in this book; and those of us who could never enlist him in the attempt to repeal this state’s insulting, unconstitutional and hypocritical anti-sodomy statute, even though he now prates about his support for homosexual rights; and who watched him sell out the state’s environment in his appointments to the Pollution and Control Commission to appease just those interests he now pretends to have opposed all his life; and those of us who kept pointing out that he was financing his various programs on the backs of the poor through a regressive sales tax, which in Arkansas is still imposed even on groceries — yes, on people’s bread and milk; and those of us who didn’t stand silent as he reduced his political principles to only one, namely his own re-election and self-promotion; and who couldn’t help but smile wryly at his talk, and only talk, about how much he respected the rights of women, while his personal life belied every word; and those of us who always wanted to raise the standards of education instead of just pouring more tax dollars into it; and, finally, those of us who, even as the exhausting Clinton presidency wore down, took the law seriously even when it involved “only” charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, and who still think of those offenses as high crimes and misdemeanors rather than as a minor indiscretion on the order of double parking. …

Well, none of us exist in Slick Willie’s political melodrama, in which William Jefferson Clinton always fought on the side of the angels and the rest of us were either in his supporting cast of loyal FOBs (Friends of Bill) or bloated plutocrats.

Ah, but what an artist the boy is. As with any work of art, to enter into “My Heroic Life” may require a willing suspension of disbelief. To get the whole effect, picture Buster Keaton in the Gary Cooper role in “High Noon.”

As a historian, Bill Clinton turns out to be a natural entertainer. And he is never funnier than when he doesn’t realize just how funny he is. And how sad.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of “No Surprises: Two Decades of Clinton-Watching.

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