As this column is published, on Christmas eve 1998, let me first wish each reader a holiday, whether it be Christmas or another holiday, full of peace, love, and happiness. This holiday season has been especially memorable with the Dec. 5 arrival of a third grandson and fourth grandchild, James Matthew Daugherty, who will spend his life in the next millennium.
At this time of year most columnists write an article on the events of the past 12 months. James Matthew’s arrival, has made me wonder what kind of a future he will face as a result of the events of 1998 — a very strange year.
James should be entering high school in the year 2014. How will his American history textbooks treat the historical events of 1998? As I think back to my own high school U.S. history course, I don’t remember anything very significant being said about the impeachment of President Johnson. It was a straightforward narrative; the House of Representatives impeached Johnson, and there were very few details recounted. It wasn’t until the present impeachment that I re-learned that it was only one vote in the U.S. Senate that kept Johnson from being stripped of his office.
I think James’ U.S. history books will treat the Clinton impeachment in a similar vein. He will learn that Clinton was the second president in the history of his country to have been impeached. He certainly will be spared the “partisan spin” put out by the Clinton mouthpieces — Geraldo Rivera, James Carville, and Maxine Waters. When he is assigned a research paper on the impeachment, he may choose the topic of whether the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton was conducted in a partisan manner. He will surf the web at the speed of light and find the following statistics concerning the vote on four counts of impeachment. He may be surprised to discover that 199 of the 206 Democrats (96.6 percent) voted straight ‘no’ on all four
articles of impeachment, with two Democrats not voting on any count. Of the remaining five Democrats, one did not cast a vote on the last two articles, while only four Democrats– GeneTaylor (MS), Ralph Hall (TX), Charles Stenholm (TX) and Virgil Goode (VA) voted “yes” on the first three articles of impeachment and “no” on the fourth article. He will find that there was one Independent who really voted with all the Democrats. He may wonder what that Independent label really meant. Finally, he will see that while the Republicans were in the majority, they appeared to vote in a
most non-partisan manner: 84 Republicans voted ‘no’ on one or more articles. If I were his history teacher, I could not fault his conclusion that the partisanship on the issue of impeachment belonged to the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, not Republicans.
With the benefit of hindsight, James will understand that despite the vote of
impeachment, the American people were more interested in preparations for the holidays and in their own economic future, than the future of a president, who everyone knew was completely incapable of telling the truth. James will also learn that Clinton was so obsessed with his impeachment trial, that our nation kept hurtling at an ever increasing speed towards a date with the new millennium, not only unprepared, but unwilling to face the reality of the vast Y2K problems.
His history book will recount that the efforts to mitigate Year 2000 disasters were too little, too late, and the blame will be placed on Bill Clinton for being too preoccupied with his personal defense in the congressional impeachment proceedings to pay the proper attention to the looming crisis. James may not read stories about tests that were run at airports during the last days of 1998. Tests that predicted disruptions and major delays at airports because many systems were being shown not to be Year 2000 compliant.
But the history books will indicate that media reports during most of 1998 were skeptical that the United States, let alone the rest of the world, would be completely ready to face the change from 1999 to 2000. For example, a USA Today headline on a story about a UN conference on Y2K issues read “U.N. confronts global shortfalls on Y2K.” The story concluded that “areas of greatest concern: (were) airline traffic control, telecommunications networks, the flow of energy products such as oil or natural gas, security of borders ,and shared financial data.”
James will learn that even the American Red Cross, an organization least prone to panic, gave specific directions for preparedness in case of any Y2K disasters. Their list included having extra cash on hand should ATM cards, credit cards, and other banking instruments become useless; and they suggest the use and maintenance of portable generators in case of power outages.
James’ history book will record William Jefferson Clinton’s eight-year presidency as one of the least successful in our nation’s history. He will be remembered as a mendacious president who affected his countrymen negatively. During his administration international good will was frittered away, American military power was decimated, and most importantly American prestige sank to an all time low because the Clinton administration failed to focus on the global Y2K disaster that they had the power to avert.