This essay was published following the 1996 election victory of Bill Clinton (Conservative Consensus, Nov. 14, 1996). It was not particularly difficult to predict the consequences of Mr. Clinton’s re-election — most voters who cared to, could have done so. The problem is, they didn’t. As the Clinton chickens come home to roost, Democrats might well ask themselves just what they are defending.
It is more fun to win than to lose, but Bob Dole’s
defeat at the hands of the electorate is particularly painful for those of us who love America, and have poured our hearts and lives into her being.
It is not that Bob Dole was our first choice. He
was not. It is not that Bob Dole had a clear vision of America for the next century. He never did. And it is not that Bob Dole lived a flawless public life. He did not.
But for all his faults, what Bob Dole did offer
America was a clear choice. We find this most telling in three areas. Bob Dole offered his life for America during time of war; she nearly took it. Bill Clinton, the man America chose, evaded his call to service, and instead spent his time ridiculing the sacrifice of others who went in his stead, while collecting his stipend from an Ivy League university. Someone else lived Bill Clinton’s destiny in Vietnam. We will never know who.
Bob Dole offered America a clear record of
accountability and forthrightness in public policy over many years in the Senate. His word was indeed his bond, a fact members of neither political party cared to dispute. Bill Clinton, America’s choice, has dissembled and lied on so many occasions about so many things to so many Americans that even the press has grown weary of keeping track.
Finally, Bob Dole offered America a knowledge and
concern for American interests abroad, during a time when growing numbers of other nations and peoples hate us for our wealth and power, and the clumsy way we conduct ourselves in the world. Bill Clinton countered with photo-op diplomacy, while wedding campaign fund-raising to foreign policy favors. In this, he demonstrated to our friends and enemies alike that America’s favors are for sale — to increase the enrichment of the current occupant of the White House — and need not be all that costly. As Heraclitus wrote some 500 years before Christ, “character is destiny.”
It is bad enough to know that America is peopled
with individuals who could make such a choice. It is far worse to understand that the presidency is not an afternoon soap opera, cruise missiles are not video games but cost $1.1 million each and kill real people, and that the rest of the world has a very limited respect for Hollywood’s — and thus it would seem, America’s vision — of the way things ought to be. The World Trade Center bombing, Oklahoma City, and TWA Flight 800 were sent to deliver that message. Mr. Clinton’s reelection indicates the message has not yet been received or understood by the voting American public.
The world is real. It is filled with real people.
The things that happen in it are real. They inflict real and lasting wounds on people and nations. The world is not a Hollywood sitcom that can be rewritten with a better ending, once the current one flops. Japan, North and South Korea, China, India, Pakistan, and yes, Russia too, as well as the Mideast — these are just some of the countries and peoples that hate each other enough to go to war over issues that real US leadership could buffer, and in our better moments perhaps, with God’s grace, solve.
In the world of nation-to-nation communication,
messages are most often sent subtly, through events. America has just reelected a man whom his own brother has described on surveillance videotape as having a nose for cocaine “like a vacuum cleaner.” A man with a past so corrupt that it now occupies the working days of over 400 FBI agents and prosecuting attorneys under the direction of a special prosecutor, as he seeks to unravel the president and first lady’s nefarious business deals, their efforts to defraud the taxpayers, and their links to illegal campaign financing, drug smuggling and money-laundering in Arkansas. Americans reelected a man who, it is becoming clear, caused the US Commerce Department to raise funds for his reelection effort. Yes, America has just sent a very clear message indeed to the rest of the world. Don’t be surprised when
— not if — they act upon it.
Yes, it hurts to lose. It especially hurts to see
an honest man with all the trappings of human failure, but his public life an open book, lose to a corrupt, conniving, made-for- TV family. It hurts even more to see the cheering support of a majority of one’s own fellow citizens, who in their hearts knew the truth but voted for the big lie. But the final agony is the realization that such an event is only possible in an America that has sunk so deeply into the cesspool of its own vile imagination that its citizens are no longer even aware of their position. Most of all, it hurts to know the consequences that lie ahead.
And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. — Ezekiel 22:30