Clinton’s legacy emerges from the shadows

By Craige McMillan

There was visible angst during the final months of the Clinton administration over the lasting legacy the president would leave to the nation. Mr. Clinton, a man of immense gifting but flawed character, sought a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, designated a series of national monuments off-limits to all, and tightened environmental standards for air and water.

As time and distance begins to bring the Clinton presidency into focus, his legacy has begun to emerge. One can focus, of course, on the great issues, as the president tried to do. The fruit of those efforts is not encouraging: North Korea’s secret nuclear weapons program, swept under the Oval Office rug. The rise of militant Islam, emboldened by our failure to respond to early attacks on the World Trade Center, the USS Cole and our embassies overseas. The stock market meltdown, imploding because it was based on inflated profits, corrupt accounting, lax regulation and management schemes designed to defraud investors while lining the pockets of corrupt politicians. Finally, there was vote-buying for Mrs. Clinton via presidential pardon, and a loose immigration policy over eight years that flooded the nation with undocumented criminals and terrorists, eager to exploit the vulnerabilities of a free people, and take advantage of our resources by overrunning hospitals, schools and welfare agencies before turning on us and killing us. Such undocumented voters did, however, overwhelmingly support Democrats.

Sometimes, though, the more telling legacy we leave is the one we are least aware of. Like our fingerprints, it remains behind – a lasting reminder that we touched someone or something, however briefly, before moving on. It may be something we did or said that seemed insignificant to us, but which left another life forever transformed.

This week is National Character Counts! week in 36 states. Unfortunately, the results of a new study indicate that character no longer counts for much among our nation’s young people. The study – begun in 1992 by the Josephson Institute of Ethics – surveyed 12,000 students this year. The study found that during the past year, 74 percent had cheated on an examination, 38 percent had stolen from a store, 28 percent had stolen from their parents, 93 percent had lied to their parents and 83 percent had lied to their teachers. Some 46 percent said lying was OK to save money, while 37 percent would lie to get a good job. Finally, 95 percent thought they would get away with their dishonesty.

I wonder why?

“I did not have sex with that woman!” Lying under oath “does not rise to the level of impeachment,” even though impeachment is the only punishment that can be imposed upon a sitting president by the people. In the end, it all comes down to the question, “what is the meaning of ‘is’?”

For these young people surveyed, and all young people who the results represent by extrapolation, 1992-2000 was their only model for behavior in office by the president of the United States – the most powerful man in the world. The lesson was unambiguous: The occupant, who lied, cheated and stole his way through eight years of American history, left not in disgrace – but to the continued adulation of much of America. He became wealthy through advance payment for a book deal he has yet to deliver on, and business organizations pay handsomely to hear how he did it all.

Does it matter? You decide. By the time you retire, dear Baby Boomer, the generation that lies, cheats and steals without remorse will be running the nation’s hospitals, medical schools, financial institutions, government and probably euthanasia centers. The removal of the Ten Commandments from public life over the last few years was not symbolic of impending changes – it was the last step by a generation that wants to feel no remorse over its evil deeds. The Bible puts it succinctly: “Do not be surprised, God is not mocked. That which a man sows, he also reaps.” So too, a generation.