Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hillary and Bill, Huma and Anthony

Can the past help make sense of the Clintons and Weiners today?

Breaking up is hard to do, sang Neil Sadaka half a century ago, but go back further to Karl Marx, “History repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce.”

Or as Hillary and Bill try to distance themselves, the more apt Marx may be Groucho: “I don’t want to belong to any club that takes people like me as members.”

True, as Maureen Dowd chirps, Weiner is off the charts: “Aside from being a gift to clowns, hacks, punsters, rivals and the writers of ‘The Good Wife,’ Carlos Danger is also a gift to political-scandal survivors. His behavior is so outlandish and contemptible--the sort of thing that used to require a trench coat and park--that it allows Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton to act huffy.”

Yet, if a politician’s sex life should be judged on how it affects his performance in office, the former Comeback Kid and now most popular ex-president on the planet has more to answer for than any of his fallen comrades.

In 1992, Clinton, with Hillary standing by her man, went on 60 Minutes to weather the story of a 12-year-affair with Gennifer Flowers (who had tapes of them together) with a slippery near-confession, “I have acknowledged causing pain in my marriage.”

After winning the White House, he got himself impeached over Monica Lewinsky and her semen-stained dress, but forgotten now about that nasty episode is how it may have contributed to a failure to take out Osama bin Laden before 9/11.

Back then, the New York Times has noted that "during one of President Bill Clinton’s major tests on terrorism, whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, Mrs. Clinton was barely speaking to her husband, let alone advising him, as the Lewinsky scandal sizzled."

In 2007, Clinton reacted with fury to a TV mini-series portraying him as so distracted then that he failed to focus on the emerging threat of bin Laden. Yet, the program's advisor was 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean, and there was evidence that Clinton might have done more about bin Laden if not for fear of public reaction that attacking him would be seen as a "wag the dog" diversion from impeachment.

In judging Weiner and lesser bozos of both parties, this kind of connection between public and private is as apt as seeing JFK’s sexual peccadillos as allowing J. Edgar Hoover to blackmail him and stay in office to hound Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

JFK and Bill Clinton are now rightly regarded as among the best of modern presidents, but their “private” sexual behavior was not the kind of joke that Weiner, Spitzer and their ilk are now.

Time to stop laughing and get back to serious issues.

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