Failure To Act...Is Also Failure
Here’s the thing. It’ Presidents’ Day, and I got to thinking: Is what a President could’ve done, and didn’t, as important – or more so – than what he or she is actually on record as accomplishing (or destroying)? The American voters were hammered for eight long years with the illegitimacy of W, and finally, the meme that he was “the worst President ever.” Call me lazy, but I don’t think any amount of research on my part would yield that conclusion. But he was fileted for what he did. After the attack on our country, he knew that it was no longer possible to ignore the folks who kept saying they were at war with us. Nor could he ignore Saddam’s pretense at having current atomic weapons capability.
Saddam says he was just trying to keep the Iranians and other potential (and historical) enemies at bay, but in the process he managed to fool the administration and an additional 535 elected officials who argued the matter, in public, at length. And, of course, we were only in a conditional ceasefire with Saddam, following the Gulf War. Yet, W was widely and incessantly excoriated by the Left propaganda machine for going to war “based on a lie”- an effort that ultimately paid off in their shabby little temporary return to power. (Sorry.)
IMHO, the noise from the left obviated a serious, nuanced discussion about the merits of the various actions and proposals undertaken during his two terms, to the detriment of the entire polity. A very mixed bag which will hopefully be worked out by non-revisionist historians. Point being that he was not generally criticized for what he didn’t do. And so we circulate back to my Presidents Day thought: Can History regard you as “the worst” – or one of the worst – for what you could have done, seemed to care about doing, had the power to achieve, but either failed in the attempt or blew off the opportunity all together?
I speak, of course, of President William Jefferson Clinton. And I’m reluctant, because in order to be ‘fair,’ I’d have to carry on for thousands of words with numerous citations. But this is a blog post and all we’re trying to do here is provoke a conversation, not prove an historical fact. So these are link-free, off-the-top thoughts that have lingered persistently with me since that era.
What was it with that guy? He would announce things that made complete sense, then do an about-face and proceed to do either nothing, or something that in the end that was almost completely symbolic. At the time, I wrote this off to the general trend to symbolism within the Democrat party and the postmodern international Left. The conspiracy-minded would probably ascribe his behavior (like Obama’s) to direction from someone outside of government, which we’ll probably never know.
Is this recitation really necessary? Not taking Al-Queda seriously; no intervention in Sarajevo until he thought the Jihadis (who were winning) would take over. Letting Les Aspin get our troops killed and dragged through the streets in Mogadishu. Not capturing OBL in Sudan. Or how about this: He probably could have pulled off legalizing marijuana, solving a serious social and racial problem in America. He didn’t think Rwanda was something we should get involved in. Gave the soviet-sponsored monster, Arafat, a big hug. Fled Haiti when a few armed thugs showed up on the dock. Never revisited Health Care Reform after Hill screwed it up. Etc.
In the Rwanda link in the last paragraph, the CS Monitor has a scathing indictment of Clinton’s inaction:
US support for a rapid-action force
Mr. Dagne, a Congressional aide at the time, says that if the Clinton administration had called for a rapid-action force to stop the killings in Rwanda, Congress would have supported him. Letters from bipartisan panels of Congress back this up.
Which brings us to:
Frequently Unasked Questions
- So, which is the “worst President ever?” The one who performs controversial deeds out of conviction? Or the one who does almost everything according to political calculation?
- Which causes more damage in the world – the necessary deed reluctantly performed; or the necessary deed shunned?
- How do we avoid electing feckless, political creatures to public office?